I have the pleasure of working across many different industries. Each industry provides its own, unique set of challenges. Lately, though, I have been seeing more in common across the industries. The commonality is the challenge of change. While many organizations are focused on the changes within their own place, others are now understanding that THEY are actually the change for their customers. If, for example, anyone implementing a project is implementing a change for the customers of the project. This is especially true if your project has a technical component to it. Frequently, a technical change can be more of a challenge to implement on the human side, than on the actual technical side. And, it is a double-human implementation – first with your project team or hierarchy, and then extending to the customer.
In one of my recent projects I was supporting a team who was transitioning from using a basic critical path schedule for their project to using a probabilistic adjusted schedule. The technical side of the implementation included a software tool installation, training for the users, and discussion/training on how to interpret and use the results. Frankly, this was a walk in the park. The human side was much more challenging. We had to get people’s minds to shift away from thinking about just a critical path to thinking about the activities that contribute that drive the project – whether or not those activities connect into a path. We had to get people to shift from managing using backwards-looking metrics to using forward-looking metrics. In doing this change, the customer had to let go of some of what they had learned before and learn something new. It required an open mindset, a new set of skills, and new behaviors.
This is akin to having a hockey team, who has only ever played hockey, being asked to now play baseball. Skills changes, work process changes, behavior changes, AND a willingness to learn a new game are all required to be successful, or ‘to win’. Without all of these things in place, a team will take the field and get results — they just won’t be the desired results. Some of the team will have their gloves and bats and be ready to go. Others will be wearing skates and have their hockey sticks – determined to ‘win the game’ and play hockey on the baseball field. Others still will stand on the sidelines, waiting to see how baseball is played – what does ‘success’ mean? How do you score? What are the new rules? What is the new equipment? Which position might give the highest compensation/reward? And importantly – is the baseball team size smaller than the hockey team? This last question is especially important with technical projects. If the team size is decreasing, what is the motivation to play baseball efficiently and effectively? Gee – if the team plays, but poorly, we might even need a larger team!
So – how do you get the hockey team ready for Spring Training? It is essential to pay as much attention to the human side as the technical side of the change. Competency, in both areas, is required to have a successful, sustainable change that delivers the results you want. You also have to think about the human side in multiple parts – the hierarchy, the project team, and the users. All have different needs and different positions on the sports team. The frustration, project delivery delays, sabotage, and increased costs due to watching a team play hockey on a baseball diamond does not have to happen. It is worth doing the pre-work to get the humans ready for the change business. That pre-work includes skills, for the change leaders, change implementers, and customers about how people actually, and successfully, progress through a change. Each group must understand how humans behave during change so that their own responses and behaviors encourage and move the change forward.
It is an investment, for everyone involved, to become skilled at change. Done well, people become more willing, more flexible, and more committed to the change. Done poorly, or not at all, you’ll get a hockey team skating across home plate. The change business is a ‘pay me now or pay me later’ business. Invest upfront – get skilled in change now, so that when your team takes the field, they are playing the right game for the right results.
Let us know about your changes and how we can support you in thriving as you go through them.