Remember in the late 90s when everyone was reading Who Moved My Cheese? For those of you who don’t remember it (or were too young to have read it then at least), it is a simple story about change – willingness and outcomes.
In Project Management Utopia, project plans are created and executed as defined. Tasks are completed in order and on time. Deliverables are flawless, happily accepted by clients who would never consider changing anything about the design of the product – much less the scope of the project overall.
Some days I long to live in Project Management Utopia….
But I don’t. I live and work in Reality. Reality is a very different place than Project Management Utopia. In Reality, change is a constant factor of life. And fighting against it is an exercise in futility. But it doesn’t stop us from fighting it. It’s in our nature.
Choose the Impact
Change is inevitable – and project managers don’t have the corner on dealing with it. Great leaders have been discussing change for centuries. And people have been denying or avoiding it just as long – or longer.
But there’s cost to resisting change. The cost may be extinction, as was pointed out in the book. Sometimes even just being slow to embrace change may mean you limit opportunities for yourself or your company – or you lose out all together.
Not all change is bad either. You may have a plan for an evening of Netflix when a friend shows up with free front row tickets to Springsteen. This is a very good change, don’t you think?
Obviously not all good change offers a Springsteen-level moment, but there’s a lot of room between that result and actual extinction of your organization that outright denial of change can bring.
Embrace the Possibilities
I’ve been thinking about change a lot lately. It’s become kind of an annual tradition for me around this time of year. At the beginning of the holidays, I make sure that I have a plan for what remains to be done through the end of the year – I am a project manager after all. Like clockwork, shortly after I have everything laid out, family, weather or whatever virus that’s floating around arrives and my plans change.
My sanity has been questioned since this cycle happens every year – and I still make the plans. But the process not only gives me time to review what needs to be done – it also offers me an opportunity to look at what worked/didn’t work in the past and adjust. It’s my own micro-acceptance of change.
Change can force innovation. It can offer an unconsidered outcome. It can (and will) push you into uncomfortable territory that typically indicates growth. While Y2K pushed many systems and administrators to the brink of what felt like insanity – it also forced the review of outdated solutions and made the way for a lot of improvement. Those results would have been slow to occur – if they did at all – without being forced to change.
Currently, many of our customers are grappling with the end of Win Mobile for their handheld solutions. There has been that lead of panic. But they quickly realize that there are options for how to move through the situation – and that their systems will be better on the other side of this situation.
Our country was built on change. The evolution of how we live now has been born out of constant innovation and adjustment. Blacksmiths who didn’t alter their businesses watched them go under. But others like Rockefeller, Carnegie, Ford and Gates embraced changes and ran with them.
It’s unlikely that we’ll ever get to the point that when any change arises, we’ll excitedly embrace it. Even good changes can still elicit that stressful-inhale-chest tightening-brace yourself reaction on some level (or maybe that’s just me).
But whether you’re facing a forced change or considering a pre-emptive strike – know that some of the best of yourself or your organization may reside on the other side. I think we owe it to ourselves, our teams and our customers to keep looking for the new source of cheese, so to speak.
And let’s be honest – there’s no surviving the holidays – or other stressful situations like technology issues – unless you have some flexibility to embrace change.
Anne Hale is the Director of Client Services at HL Group, Inc., a premier provider of mobile inventory management, RFID and supply chain solutions. She manages our client engagements, helps with sales and marketing and is adjusting her holiday plan…again.