Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Change requires patience

All of us hate change.

Even those people who supposedly thrive on change hate change. If you don't believe me, go up to an early adopter, yank all of his/her technology away, and provide technology from a competing platform. If the early adopter is an Android fanatic, give him/her a Windows Mobile phone. If the early adopter has every Chrome tweak imaginable, provide Safari instead. Or better yet, replace their notebook with...a notebook - the pen and paper kind. You will hear howls that you didn't think were humanly possible.

Even when change is a win-win situation, we hate it. Change is disruptive; change temporarily makes it harder for us to do things; and, most importantly, change may result in a temporary or permanent loss of power.

That's the situation encountered by Application Advocate:

I started a new position at a media giant in New York City. I was given the responsibility to lead and manage the effort to replace a financial mainframe app, which had been around for 35 years. My only resources were the business users who used the app. There was one person who used to head that group who had resisted the creation of a new app that he'd never wanted.

The first time I met that guy, his first words were "There were many attempts in the past for this effort, and no one was successful. What makes you think you could do this now? I am always busy and will not be able to spend any time with you showing the app or the process here."

The story was related in a column by "Emily Postal," and the name was chosen carefully, because Application Advocate was in danger of "going postal" over the actions and inactions of this department head.

A.A. took many steps to bring this department head around. While patience was "the key factor in handling this person," other steps were needed.

No matter what his response was, I'd explain how a new application would make his life much easier and would make daily operations more efficient by reducing manual efforts. I presented a lot of prototype demos for him. Those things started making him enthusiastic about the new application. He began asking questions and requesting specifics. This initiated a better professional relationship between us.

Even after the successful rollout, this department head wasn't completely happy.

The unwilling head was still uncomfortable with the new system and its high amount of automation. He was a little upset that many things that he had kept locked in his mind were now in the system; he felt that he'd lost his key importance to the company.

But by that time, with a successful project, the department head's influence had waned:

But he couldn't really complain, because the system (and the financial investment) worked. He had no other option but to accept the new application....

[W]hat made me really happy were the success of the project and the satisfaction of upper management.

But upper management would never have gotten the chance to express their satisfaction if the department manager had continued to refuse to cooperate.
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