High Five Your Neighbor……It’s Time for a New Bus

by Onyeka Nchege on August 23, 2016

Friends on the bus ride to travel. give five,A bus armed with explosives and passengers is traveling down a busy city street. The bus cannot be slowed down or accelerated or the bomb will detonate. The only way to save the passengers is to pull up a new bus alongside the old bus and transfer passengers one by one.”

Most people will recognize this description as the movie “Speed.” What most people will not recognize is that this is also the strategy of IT professionals who are tasked with keeping the company running on an old IT platform while transferring employees to a new system one by one.

In today’s world of talented, well-educated IT professionals, leaders are constantly having to seek out new and innovative solutions to keep our team members growing and motivated, while also adhering to our primary objective of keeping the business progressive and competitive. In doing so, we must continue to actively pursue a plan for the “new bus” while avoiding disaster. In an IT organization, the “old bus” to “new bus” transfer takes the form of modernizing our outdated systems while standardizing on industry specific platforms. In addition to transferring our systems to the “new bus”, we must also transition our team members to building and supporting our “new bus” systems and upgrade our stakeholders from our current systems on the “old bus” to our more extensible and scalable solutions on the “new bus”.

Leaders are expected to drive change within an organization; for lack of a better term, they’re change agents. Yet, as technology continues to evolve and work styles continue to diversify, more and more leaders in the IT space are looked upon by their stakeholders to first, keep things running, and second drive change. This pattern of behavior is driven by the “keeping the lights on” mentality, meaning our organizations need the business to keep running as is, while innovative solutions are explored and implemented.

Currently at Interstate Batteries, the leadership team and I are working to transfer our team members from our “old bus” of current systems to a “new bus” of updated, scalable platforms. We understand the criticality of sustaining our business by keeping our old systems running and working well, while slowly integrating everyone on board the new system. This means not just training employees, but establishing and investing in the necessary infrastructure, working to develop and implement long-term solutions instead of relying on quick fixes that just prolong inefficiencies. It’s a system, and the system needs to be trusted. But how do we keep our teams motivated to do the slow transition from old to new.

There are three ways we can help our team stay motivated while moving from the “old bus” to the “new bus”:

    Communicate with Consistency – Whenever you are undergoing change, it’s imperative that you communicate with your team at regular intervals. However you decide to do that, do it consistently.

    Create Space for Conversation – Create opportunities and the forum for team members to ask questions and allow them to ask the hard questions. Don’t be afraid to say you don’t know the answer, but allow for transparency.

    Back Your Words with Action – Being able to follow through by doing what it is you say you are going to do will go a long way in creating trust. If your message is to tell your team that everyone is vital to the success, show them they matter.

As IT leaders, we understand that everyone wants off the “old bus,” but also that the overall will fail without both the old and new running in parallel. Together, we’re better, and trust me, in the end, there’s enough room on the “new bus” for those willing to make the transition.

Take Action: Ask yourself, how are you contributing to the delicate balance of keeping your organization’s “old bus” running while transitioning to the “new bus”?

Leadership on the GO…..It’s ON!

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A recent finalist for the 2017 ORBIE CIO of the Year award, Onyeka brings more than 20 years of experience leading teams, developing strategies and building technology solutions. He has also led the creation and integration of technology solutions for a network of retail store franchises and distributors across North and Central America. Onyeka contributes to CIO Review magazine and shares his insights and experience with peers and colleagues via his own blog, onyekanchege.com Before joining Interstate Batteries in 2015, Onyeka led teams at Coca-Cola Bottling Company Consolidated, where he modernized technology practices and powered business processes for daily, on-the-street use. He is a graduate of the J. Mack Robinson College of Business at Georgia State University and currently serves on the EVANTA Dallas CIO Governing Body. If Onyeka were not at Interstate, he’d find another way to combine his three biggest passions: his faith, helping others, and, of course, information technology. Because ultimately, as he puts it, “we can’t help everyone, but everyone can always help someone.”

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Tanaisha Dunbarger August 24, 2016 at 10:46 am

While communicating with consistency is needed, backing those words with action is a must. As a team member, it is really difficult when you are in the middle of that “old bus” to “new bus” transition. There is some uncertainty and sometimes feeling overwhelmed. It is great to be “in the know” with all that’s happening throughout the transition period. It helps to keep things in perspective when there are clear actions on what has been communicated. This also drives a feeling of accomplishment. Great blog! Thanks for sharing your truths.


avatar Onyeka Nchege August 24, 2016 at 12:17 pm

Thanks for sharing Tanaisha. Totally agree action is absolutely a must. That action has to be in the form of increased communication backed with realized benefits. We will hold each other accountable to insure we are doing just that. Thanks again.


avatar Bart Kohnhorst August 24, 2016 at 12:56 pm

I really like the comparison here to the movie Speed for the IT context. We live increasingly in a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) business climate/world. One of the hardest things is to create cultures that allow employees to move from the “old” bus to the “new” bus. In addition, it is often even harder because ecosystem partners and eventually customers need to change buses too. You just don’t want it to be to the competitor’s bus!
Reference on VUCA: http://www.thunderbird.edu/article/living-and-leading-vuca-world


avatar Onyeka Nchege August 24, 2016 at 2:30 pm

Well said Bart!! Yes ecosystem partners and customers do have to change buses as well. The charge for us as a business is know when we change lanes on the bus to stay with our customers.

Thanks for sharing!!


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