Change Is the Solution, Not the Problem

Opinion: Continuous improvement demands keeping change under control.

Management guru Tom Peters is almost three times as well-known for his 1982 book (with Robert Waterman), In Search of Excellence, as he is for his 1987 work Thriving on Chaos. (I make that statement based on the number of Google hits for the combination of the authors name with each of those book titles.) Thats a troubling statistic because Peters himself acknowledged in the latter book that it comes close to being an apology for the errors of the former. "There are no excellent companies," Peters conceded as the first sentence of Chaos. Paradoxically, he said, "Excellent firms dont believe in excellence—only in constant improvement and constant change."

Tom Peters epiphany on the subject of change came to mind when I got a preview of this weeks announcement from Solidcore Systems regarding the companys launch of its real-time change management tool called S3 Control. The companys trying to move beyond the mere restriction or audit of change to provide much more of a policy-driven environment for change, one that recognizes the need for different participants to have different roles in varying situations.

This is something more than the sum of the parts of existing tools, asserted Solidcore VP Rix Kramlich when we spoke late last week. For example, he said, "access control is not change control because it only controls the who and the what: Its disconnected from the process." Systems managers need to know what has actually happened, he said, not what was supposed to happen. They need real-time knowledge, they need to be able to search and document change, they need accountability for who has done what, they need enforceability to assure that changes conform to policies. "Its who, what, when and how: whos authorized to make changes, what theyre authorized to change, when and under what controls theyre authorized to make those changes," he said.

Kramlich made the key point that "change is powerful," echoing Tom Peters 2-decade-old admonition in the preface to Thriving on Chaos that "the winners of tomorrow will deal proactively with chaos, will look at the chaos per se as the source of market advantage, not as a problem to be got around." (Emphasis in the original) Too often, it seems to me that IT managers are seeing the solution to their problems as chaos containment rather than chaos exploitation. Thats an understandable bias: Technical objectives are more often fostered by limiting change than by loving it.

As IT managers aspire to a seat at the head table, though, theyll do well to step up to the challenge of making IT as eager and able as any other part of the enterprise to exploit rapidly emerging opportunities—perhaps, even, to take the lead in identifying them as well.

Tell me what youre creating out of chaos at


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