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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > 14-Nov-05


Monday 14-Nov-05

Change projects and people

I work in change and Change Management and have done so in various forms for twenty years. Change means doing things differently. It means tomorrow's job will not be the same as today's job. This is pretty much a key thing for modern organizations, including those in public service (where I now work).

The penny dropped for me in the mid-eighties, when I was a software quality engineer. I was setting up coding standards and had, I believed, come up with a pretty good set. Not too heavy. Well-researched. I'd even talked to some other engineers. And so I presented it to the assembled hackers at the monthly lab meeting. Great, they said. Like what you've done. Not bad standards. But not for me.

I was flabbergasted, they agreed the standards were good, but each said 'That's not the way I do it.' The penny landed like a blacksmith's anvil on my head. The quality stuff was relatively easy -- it was the people stuff that made the job so difficult. And I knew very little about the subject. I'd done a master's degree in business and had been a school teacher, yet I felt woefully inadequate in a job where success meant persuading people to change.

And so I set out on a journey that brought me to today. I like a good challenge, and learning to influence and create lasting change in other people was most certainly that. I've ploughed furrows through negotiation, sales, counseling, marketing, psychology and much more. I'm still learning, but I hope I'm better than I was.

It always amazes me how often we have to relearn the lesson 'It's all about people'. Ignore the people and the change project fails. Listen and communicate and the project succeeds. It's a simple formula but in the hurry to get the job done, we ignore the people stuff time after time. Then in the 'lessons learned' wash-up post-mortem meeting afterwards, we note with surprise how problems were caused because people did not communicate often or well enough.

Change projects start with understanding stakeholders. Just like product sales start with understanding customers. This is also a great time to start building relationships and to engage them throughout the project, because when you start to deploy the change, if they are not on board, you will have a wonderful case of resistance to change to handle. You might do anyway, but much can be done to smooth the way forward.

If you're running a change project where you want to change minds, do remember that other people's minds are not the same as yours. They change differently. They do not see the same things as you or see things in the same way.

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