23 de junio de 2013

Managing Change Expectations

Quite often, projects are performed to set up change in organizations. When implementing a product, service or any other final result into the performing organization, chances are we are introducing big changes in the daily work of much people, whose natural fear to change can be a serious threat to project goals. 

Effective Project Managers should foresee how the transformation components of a project will affect these people —and also the subsequent changes in operation phases after the project. Changes should not be “sold” to people who are going to change on the merits of the new status quo. People don’t leave easily their comfort zone. They act more emotional than rational (see the post: everybody hates change).

Better than praising the advantages in the new future scenario after the project, it is much more effective if you focus on how bad is the situation now, to get people aware of the inconveniences of keeping the same. Can we afford not doing the project? This rationale serves to get the project buy in, and anyone involved have to be aware of it. Then you have to sell not the long term advantages of the new scenario, but the short term convenience of the project you are executing right now. In this stage, it is not important for them to visualize that long term future (although it is useful for you).

When starting changes during the project, you have to expect people to be uneasy with this phase of “chaos” —they feel insecure because you are forcing them back to the uncomfortable position of novice in some part of their work. 

If then you explain and try to sell the merits of the new scenario, they simply won’t listen. You should offer them something they understand as a quick remedy to the chaotic situation. Your project scope should include some element to provide some order (transforming idea). In your plan this could be just the first step of a series. You don’t need to communicate everything. Just stuck to what they need to know now.

To give an example, think of the physicians’ opposition that could threat a project named “Paperless Hospital”:
  • Imagine they are already in “chaos mode” because they know that at the end of the project they will not be allowed to keep the paper medical files. 
  • Could it be effective to anticipate the system functionality making them start prescribing by computer? 
  • Incidentally, they will start watching screens and menu options, entering data for prescriptions… In short, they get familiar with the new system. 
  • This could be much more effective than convincing them on the great advancements of electronic medical records, backup systems, enterprise master patient indexes, HL7 protocol for information change system to system, etc. To all of these they will simply not listen.

Click here to read the Spanish version of this article
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