As David Bowie knows, change can be difficult.
“Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes (Turn and face the strain)…”, etc. (feel free to sing along…)
I was talking to a friend recently who is in the middle of moving. She was very stressed out. Granted, changing houses is a huge change. But I like moving and the possibilities it can bring. I also like – and even get excited by – change in general.
“Time may change me
But I can’t trace time...”
So let’s face it. We’re all different.
Some people embrace change and some people run away screaming, or at least grit their teeth and forge on. When I’m doing projects, for example a corporate intranet that affects every staff member, the change feels big for them. From my point of view, I see huge improvements and possibilities for increased efficiency. I get excited about how life can get better for these people. Not everyone sees it my way.
Good people change management and good communication must prevail. I am not going to get into those details here, but focus on the human factor of change.
We’re all different and as managers or developers we have to respect the challenges that different people face with the new system, boss, job, or house. I don’t know what you’re thinking or what you’re feeling, and sometimes you don’t even know why you feel what you do. (I know I don’t understand where a lot of my feelings come from).
So I try and gently bring people along to the place of comfort with the new system. Whenever possible, I get them involved early in helping to design the solution. My friend Peter McCoppin says that people embrace what they help create. I think that makes a lot of sense, and I’ve seen it work. (If you watch the (rather long) video in my 0 to 365 blog post, you’ll see a bunch of the techniques that I use to get people involved and engaged from the very beginning of the project.)
Let me tell a story to illustrate how different points of view and different ways of thinking can be challenging, and helpful.
My stepmother was a schoolteacher, and she told some background on the two math teachers at my school. We’ll call them Mr. A and Mr. B.
Mr. A was brilliant; math always came easy to him.
Mr. B was different. He struggled with math throughout school and really had to work at it.
Who do you think was the better math teacher in grade 10?
Mr. A saw every may problem with crystal clarity. To him the solution was obvious. He would lose patience quickly if we students didn’t understand the problem, and he didn’t always have the best way of explaining.
Mr. B, however, had struggled with math, and figured out ways of figuring it out. He had to explain it to himself and somehow make sense. As a result, he had two great things going for him: 1. He had a bag of tricks of different ways to teach math – analogies, metaphors, shortcuts and long cuts; and 2. (most importantly) he had compassion for his students, because he knew what it was like to “not get it”.
Most of the students preferred Mr. B to Mr. A, and learned more, even though Mr. A was smarter.
As a somewhat technical person, it can be hard for me to understand when people aren’t “getting it”. As a consultant and project manager I always try to be more like Mr. B: patient, compassionate, and if someone doesn’t understand, I look for another way to explain it. They’re not stupid, we just haven’t found what clicks yet. This can actually be kind of fun. Especially when the lights come on in somebody eyes and you see that they really got it and they relax and start to accept the change as being good.
Let’s try to keep the human difference in mind as we drive forward to the results of a successful system, a project completed on time, or a passing grade. Not only will it be more enjoyable for you and your team, you will get better results in the end.