A big part of change management in a project concerns overcoming resistance to the “new way of working.” Typically, change-management aware project teams take the following three-step approach:
- Talk to people. List and acknowledge concerns and reasons for push back.
- Go through the list and “shrink the change.” Highlight the positive impact on the people’s day to day, take away inconveniences, rethink certain choices…
- Work on it, communicate and repeat
You listen to people. So you know what to work on to get buy in, right? Or not?
A real-life example
In Binocs projects, we install a new way of planning resources (supported by the Binocs application, of course). Our belief is that resource planning is a collaborative process. This means that the planning mindset must be incorporated at different layers in the organization, from executioners to team leads to higher management. And in all projects, there’s always some form of resistance. If we would follow the above approach, we would talk to team leaders, managers, users, etc., and list their concerns or reasons for push back. Then variations on the following would come out:
- Planning is a waste of time and I’d rather be executing right now.
- Planning commits me to something that I must stick to at all times, even when the world around me has changed.
- Demand and capacity are evolving and the situation is changing daily.
- Our project is too large to plan and I don’t have a project planning tool.
- Our project is too small to plan.
- We are too deep firefighting that we have no time to plan at this point.
- Why plan things that are too simple? And as for things that are too complex, well, you can’t plan them anyway!
- This is just something simple we take in between our other work.
- Doing estimation won’t speed up the project—it will take the same time even without an estimation.
- A plan is not accurate anyway.
- Our work is different—planning will stifle the innovation and creativity.
At this point, you would start trying to find solutions. What actions can be done faster (to avoid losing time)? Do we add more constraints to make it more precise? Do we need extra reports? Do we add extra functionality? But even when you implement such solutions, there’s still push back. And the reason is this: There are good reasons and there’s a real reason.
The real reason
Although they give a number of “good” reasons (still debatable), we have seen, time and again, it’s not the real reason for people’s resistance. If there are two things that Binocs is good at, they are:
- Showing if capacity problems will arise (=not enough capacity for the workload that’s coming to us).
- Showing if there’s available capacity to take on new work.
Taking this into account, when you dig deeper, you can find the “real” reason of the resistance. It boils down to:
- Publishing the plan will expose buffers in the plan.
- My management will always under provision team resources.
The real reason—instead of the good reasons listed above—is the lack of trust between team leaders and management on how the results are used. Instead of focusing on improving the system, the focus of the change management changes drastically based on this insight. We must work on the trust between team leaders and the management.
We need to build trust between team leaders and management by setting up regular meetings on the different levels. In these meetings, the resource planning output is discussed and appropriate actions are taken or pushed to a higher level. It’s important that in each meeting actions are taken based on the output of the planning exercise. If there is excess capacity, let’s share with other teams. But if there are capacity issues, management also takes actions to solve them (share capacity from other teams, deprioritize or postpone certain work, hire extra people, etc.). By involving everyone and taking decisions in either case (undercapacity or overcapacity), trust grows and the new practice gets adopted much faster.
One simple idea
The next time you’re struggling with resistance, think about the quote: There are good reasons and there’s a real reason. Uncovering the real reason may change the way you need to approach the problem.
Since the start of Bluecrux, we have been investing in, shaping and tuning our business transformation and change methodology.
- Yeah, we’re proud of the supply chain award for the best project of 2016 that we won together with Bridgestone. Why did they choose us? Because of the unique blend of content and change management. Read more about it here
- Your checklist before you start your project journey
- Thinking about how each of your individual employee is going to see him/herself in the mirror in the morning, as soon as the organizational impact of your project will be disclosed.
- The usability of tools as an important factor to smoothen a business transformation. Too many enterprise applications are far below the mental usability level. We wrote about our vision here