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Project Management Connection: Sample of PM601


Excerpt from

PM601: How to make change happen successfuly

Change: How to make it so


In this course, you’ll discover some insights into how you can make change happen in any organization—without costing you your position in the organization. This is an extremely difficult task, and one that brutally punishes those who attempt it and fail. In many organizations, especially non-profit or volunteer ones, it even punishes those who attempt it and succeed.

Successful change implementation is also potentially rewarding, which is why so many people attempt it. We’ll reveal the methodology for effective change to you, and illustrate many key points with case histories. Let’s begin.

As Stephen R. Covey says, begin with the end in mind. Change for the sake of change isn’t always good, but change itself always carries a cost. Be sure you can justify tht cost before you start incurring it. Before embarking on a crusade to change something, ask yourself what you hope to accomplish. What do you envision as the end result, and is that something you will be happy with? More importantly, is that result valuable to the organization and to those whose help you need to make the change happen? Once you have answered that question, you can begin building the framework for the engine of change. Let’s look at how to do that.


Introduction: Building the framework

Step 1

Before you can chart a course to a destination, you must know where you are. Assess the present situation. What is it costing the organization? What are the potential liabilities? What are the missed opportunities? What are the benefits? Who are the constituents? What do they lack, that a potential change will provide? What are all the good things about the status quo? What are the things people are most likely not want to let go of, and why?

Step 2

Before you can chart a course to a destination, you must know where you are going. This step is similar to the previous one, and just as important. Assess the desired situation—what will occur with the elements of the proposed change in place. What will it cost the organization to maintain? What are the potential liabilities? What are the missed opportunities? What are the benefits? Who will the new constituents be? What will be lacking in the new situation that you have now, and what will the new situation provide that is lacking now? What are people most likely to embrace, and why?

Step 3

To get from beginning to end, you must chart a course. Whether you take a direct route or an indirect route, whether you pilot, co-pilot, or navigate will depend on many factors. This third step is much more detailed than the other two. You can’t ask just a few questions and then be merrily along your way. But, just to set up the framework, you need to estimate what steps you need, how much implementation should cost, who the main supporters are likely to be, and who the main detractors will be. Finally, identify those people whose expertise and connections can best help you form a solid plan of implementation. These people should serve as a sort of "Board of Directors" for you. If you are a user trying to get your company to change its e-mail program, then you need to recruit the person who works with the present system—otherwise, you automatically set yourself up as opposed to this person and you are in for a struggle. We’ll look at recruiting next. It’s a very touchy issue.


Part One: Recruiting people

Once you have completed the steps we outlined in the introduction, it’s time to recruit some help. Look at the list of people you have identified as possible "Board" members. Carefully think through what is important to each of these people, then modify your implementation plan if it needs to be more palatable to them. At least consider their needs and priorities before approaching them. If you don’t know what those needs and priorities are, then you’ll need to do one of two things. Either ask each individual directly, or convene a meeting to discuss things as a group. This can be tricky, because you may want to reject a potential board member and doing so can send the wrong signals. The worst thing you can do is broadcast a need for board members. Make the recruiting personal, and do it in a planned fashion.

Recruiting people

The order in which you approach these people can be, and usually is, important. This is partially due to the "bandwagon effect," (people see a winning team and want to join) but other factors come into play also. Start with a technical person, first. Technical people aren’t usually as sensitive to political concerns, and can help you ensure your plan is workable when you approach people who are weaker technically but stronger politically. As you move up the food chain, you’ll want your "ducks" increasingly in order. So, it is usually best to start with those who can help you make a solid plan. And then move on to those who bring other things to the table. Let’s look at an example.

Get a technical person

Bill’s company was using an old e-mail system that was just terrible. Everyone hated the system. Bill put in a formal request for an upgrade to Microsoft Outlook, but noted "Lotus Notes might be just as good." He sent it to his management, where it soon found its way into the trash.

After a couple of months, Bill figured his proposal died. So, he decided to build a stronger case. He contacted friends at other companies, and talked about e-mail systems. One friend, Barbara, put him in touch with the technical person, Ted, who oversaw the conversion to Outlook at Barbara’s company. Bill called Ted and invited him to lunch. Ted said he was too busy for lunch, but could take a couple of minutes to answer some questions. Bill honed in on the difference in user satisfaction and cost to the company since the conversion. Ted said the difference was like night and day. "Ted, I really appreciate your time. In my company, we are really having a struggle with this. I would like to ask you if you would accept a 5-minute phone call from our CIO if he decides to call you for some quick advice or just your impression of things."

Notice how Bill set up a follow-up phone call. He was very quick with his call to Ted, which leaves Ted feeling such calls are not a problem. And he got permission for another person to call Ted, by appealing to Ted’s innate desire to give advice or opinion. This is a desire you can nearly always play on, because people—especially technical people—love to give advice and opinions.

The next thing Bill did was e-mail the CIO with this message:

Subject: Getting you an attaboy


I found something I think will help you get a major feather in your cap, as well as make a lot of people happy here at Interspect. You have no doubt been pondering this awful e-mail situation. Well, I know a fellow—Ted Mailer over at Cerncom—who went through exactly the same thing last year. They are now using Microsoft Outlook, and the users are extremely happy. Ted is too—I think this was a major factor in his last review. Anyway, his number is 555-1234 and he’d be happy to let you know what they had to do to get such great results."

Next thing you know, Bill gets a call from someone in IT. "Did you hear the news? Sam’s trying to hire an Outlook upgrade consultant. We may finally get rid of SmokeSignals 5.0 for Windows."

In this case, Bill enlisted an outside technical person and an inside technocrat. There’s probably not much else he has to do, but he proceeds with more effort. His next step is to get some high-powered clout. He realizes the CEO stops at the 2nd floor coffee machine at about 9AM each day. So, Bill conveniently arranges to be there. He gives the CEO a hearty hello, and gets one in return. The CEO says, "How are you?" (Everyone says that.). Bill says, very directly, "I’d be much better if I didn’t lose so much productivity to SmokeSignals 5.0 for Windows. I sure hope we update to a better e-mail program soon—this one must be costing the company a fortune. Say, did you see where the Dow ended yesterday? I didn’t get my copy of the Journal today."

Bill does three things, here. First, he drops the bomb about the e-mail, as though that is the one thing the CEO should be concerned with. Then, he quickly changes the subject so the CEO doesn’t need to give some kind of excuse in response—he takes him off the hook. And he ends by putting himself on the same footing as the CEO: concerned about money and profits. You can bet the CEO is going to think about that e-mail problem on the way back to his office. The first time that program crashes or displays some other unacceptable behavior, he’s very likely going to call his Chief Information Officer (Sam) and ask, "When are we going to get rid of this SmokeSignals 5.0 for Windows? The thing just crashed on me. No wonder people are complaining about it. If we don’t get this fixed, the IRS is going to say we aren’t really out to make a profit and they’ll declare us a hobby instead of a business. So, what are you doing about it?"

Now Bill has recruited his CEO, CIO, and a technical person. The CIO, now under pressure, remembers Bill’s helpful e-mail and calls Ted over at Cerncom. Ted, who is working 70-hour weeks, figures Sam just wants some affirmation that the move to Outlook will be good. Ted wants to do two things. One, he wants to keep from admitting he screwed up by going to Outlook—whether this was a screw-up or not, so he’ll say all good things. Two, he wants to get off the phone, so he tells Sam what he thinks Sam wants to hear.

Sam, armed with Ted’s honest appraisal, now knows what course he must chart. Thank God for that e-mail from Bill. Over the next 3 months, Sam tracks the number of service calls due to problems with SmokeSignal 5.0 for Windows. Bill, anticipating this was going to be the next step, casually drops hints to everyone about a potential change.

Bill, in the restroom: "I heard through the grapevine the company is going to change our e-mail program if they get enough complaints about it."

Rick: "’zat so?"

Bill, "That’s what I’m hearing. You know how that crappy program crashes every time you’re in the middle of something."

Rick: "That’s the truth! So, you mean if we let them know about the crashes, they’ll finally give us something decent to work with?"

Bill: "Yeah. I think we should both spread the word. If enough people complain and we get a decent program, we won’t have to work as many hours."

At the end of the three months, Sam has enough ammo to put SmokeSignals 5.0 for Windows out of its misery. And so, Interspect goes online with Outlook. Bill got his change made.

In this case, the change was not really that major nor that political. Bill got it done with some benevolent tools of interpersonal manipulation—and not much else. So, this was an easy score. It could have gone completely wrong, though. For example, if Bill came across as unduly negative, "This company is screwed up…." Or if he appointed himself as "the expert"—thus insinuating he thinks the very people in a position to help him have their heads up their butts—he would have gotten nowhere. A change agent who steps on the wrong toes this way gets either booted out of the organization or consigned to its backwaters.

A little more challenging

The larger the change, the more types of people you are going to need to recruit. Bill’s recruiting of three major players and subtle recruiting of his coworkers was for a change Bill would not be personally administering. Let’s look at a more complicated example, and see how additional recruiting comes into play.

Linda is a manager in the accounting department. She heads up accounts payable. Her payables on expense reimbursements are flow in a "lumpy" fashion. As a result, her staff twiddles their thumbs most of the month and then must work like fiends to get through an avalanche of incoming work. Also, in some months the expenses run way over budget—some months, way under. Linda’s first temptation is to fire off a memo to the CFO, insisting that Jeff’s expense reimbursement group get their act together, work overtime, or do whatever they have to do to even out both the work flow and the cash flow. "Whatever they have to do?" Linda doesn’t know what that might be. She heads over to talk with Jeff. Upon hearing Linda’s gripe, Jeff explains what his people must deal with.

"We get these expense reports a month late, and usually in bunches. They’re hand-written. The sales guys fill them out whenever they take a day at the office to do so. These all wind up on a sales director’s desk, where they get a cursory examination and then a signature. These sales directors must synchronize their watches, because they send this stuff in all at the same time. Most of the math is wrong, and we can hardly read these forms. So, we send a lot of stuff back, which causes further delays."


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