When providing transformational leadership for technology implementations, anticipating, and planning for the inevitable breakdowns will empower people to succeed.


“Technology fails. It always has and it always will.”

Robert Wiseman, former CTO of Angie’s list. (Insigniam Quarterly, 2015)


As human beings we often tend to face change by underestimating its impact and then being upset when things we did not anticipate happen.

Remember the last time you moved your place of residence and how much more there was to handle than you anticipated? Remember the surprise breakdowns?

Implementation of new technology is a huge change. Open communication about the changes and issues empowers the entire process and minimizes the negative impact.

Despite resistance to change and a tendency to avoid confronting the inevitable breakdowns, being pro-active in planning for how to address them is one of the most potent factors that will make your implementation go smoothly.

Transformational leadership can provide an empowering context for anticipating and avoiding breakdowns and handling them more effectively when they do occur.

One perspective that allows you to respond rather than react to challenges inherent in change is to frame the issue as a breakdown.

A breakdown is simply something that happens which interrupts a commitment. Seeing it this way allows the team to respond rather than react as if there is something inherently wrong with them, others or “it.”

As a leader, utilizing this context let’s you respond more effectively and act from your commitments for the implementation. You and your colleagues will then be freed up to find solutions more quickly, and productively when meeting challenges.

Here are a few things Wiseman says that will allow you to work from what he calls a “build-for failure” approach to minimizing the impact of breakdowns:


“Build your system right—organic, self-healing, highly redundant, distributed computing, designed for the inevitability of constant failure that is obvious to IT operations and transparent to end users—and this (the inevitability of failures) should not be a problem.”


Two other tips for building your safety net are:

  1. Plan ahead for complexity and tackle the more difficult issues first.
  1. Build your safety net by asking IT directly “what happens when this fails?” Then you can build a solid plan for what to do.

The implementation can be used to reinforce the vision, heart and values of your company in action—and the process can build morale and inspire people along the way, thus becoming a positive force for culture change.

By being aware that the people you work with simply want to do a good job, they will feel valued and appreciated when you give them new tools, get their input in planning and map a pathway to implementation that includes a safety net for breakdowns.

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