Ask most people if they like it when things change, and the answer is going to be no. It is human nature – we like the status quo. And that goes for project managers too. We might be a group that manages change professionally, but that doesn’t mean we have to like it.
We Mostly Do Change
The issue is that we mostly do change to other people. Our actual working environment doesn’t change much. In fact, the practice of project management hasn’t changed much over the last 30 years, so however much work experience you have in a practical environment, you are probably using similar techniques to those you learned when you started your first project management job.
Yes, the technology has changed, and we now have computers capable of calculating the critical path and PERT diagrams for us. Enterprise project management tools mean that we don’t have to schedule resources using coloured paper slips on huge wall charts. But fundamentally, what we do hasn’t changed much, even if we go out and change other people’s working lives dramatically through our projects.
If You Snooze, You Lose
While that’s a comfortable place to be, it is not a healthy one. As individuals and as companies we should learn to embrace change more thoroughly. Change is essential to stay competitive, and if you reject the opportunity to evolve working practices and business models you won’t be in business very long.
Take Clinton Cards in the UK as an example. A stationery shop, it was where love-struck teenagers bought stuffed hearts and desk-sized cards every Valentine’s Day. It had a greetings card for every occasion, and some you hadn’t even heard of. It had gaudy wrapping paper and gift bags, balloons in the shape of numbers and it was stacked high with birthday mugs printed with comedy phrases.
Note the ‘was’.
Clinton Cards in that incarnation is no more. It failed to appreciate how consumer needs had changed. New, trendy companies like Moonpig offer a more tailored, personal service, available from your desk. Buying gifts online and having them wrapped and delivered by that company means fewer people need gift bags. Even bricks and mortar company Paperchase, which also sells stationery, has more modern card designs and an extended range of gifts that are more relevant to today’s shopper. Clintons went into administration and was bought out by the Schurman Retail Group. A radical makeover is planned, with new modern branding and more premium products. Change is not a nice to have. Being open to change keeps you in a job.
Challenge Yourself To Accept Change
You probably know people who have been with your company for decades and who have reinvented themselves at every step of the way as the company has evolved. And you probably have come across a couple of people who haven’t. They have carved out a niche for themselves that makes managers too cautious to force change upon them or force them out. You don’t want to be one of them.
Challenge yourself to accept change and to lead by example. It’s easier to do this than you think. An easy starting point is to set the vision for your project. Make your vision statement memorable, exciting and clear. Use it to show where the project is taking the company and the people who are working on it. Don’t forget that you and the project team are all stakeholders and should also get something out of the project personally and in terms of your career.
Make sure that your project team know that not going forward with this change is not an option. Establish ground rules with the team that deliver a sense of urgency and direction. If you are struggling to set the direction yourself, use your project sponsor to help spread the word about the project’s vision – in fact, he or she should be doing this anyway, although they may not direct their communication at the team if they are spending a lot of time lobbying for the project with other managers.
Ensure the team has clarity. If people know why they are working on something they are more inclined to do a good job – people like to be part of something bigger than themselves so it helps to know how each individual is contributing to the overall change.
Then deliver to your change plan, leaving behind anything you don’t need any more. This can be the hardest part of change. You could be leaving behind beliefs or attitudes, or even people who are not prepared to come with you on the change journey. Overcoming this stumbling block is often the most difficult step to adopting something new, but once you are over it emotionally and practically, you can move forward.
Whether you are implementing a new enterprise project management tool, a new set of PMO processes, or something that will help your company compete more effectively in the marketplace, do the best you can to embrace the challenge of change and set a great example for your team.