People are the Problem

You know, if we could just DO STUFF, every project and 'improvement initiative' would be wildly successful. Wire up the bits, flip the switch, and away we would go to a better world.

Unfortunately, every project comes with some prone-to-failure parts that are constructed by largely unskilled labour. We call these parts 'employees' or 'staff' or 'personnel', or more generically 'people'. And people are the problem.

People ask questions. People want to know 'what's in it for me’?  People are anxious about the impact of your Marvelous New Widget on their lives. And unfortunately, you are depending on these people to make your MNW actually work.

I know, that sucks, right? What do we have to do to get these ‘people’ to straighten up and fly right and just DO IT, dammit!

Well, the answer comes in two parts: 1 - make the case for change; 2 - communicate the case for change.

Part 1 is a fairly well documented process. Most managers understand the need for a robust business case for change, identifying options, costs, benefits, timelines, budgets, resources etc. I've written about a good Change Management Approach before.

Ah, but Part Deux; in 20+ years of doing change in the Public Sector, I have never heard anyone complain of being consulted too much. I have never heard anyone say their boss gave them just too much information about the impacts, benefits and consequences of the new change initiative on their work and their lives. No one has ever said, 'no, really, just go ahead and make this WILDLY RADICAL CHANGE to my work, I don't want any input to the process'.

OK, you may be saying 'Hey, what's their problem? I handed out the PowerPoint deck with everything my people could possibly want to know about my pet project.  It even had animated slides and lots of arrow-pointy things, for goodness sakes! Isn't that enough'?

Umm, well, no that's not enough. You see, your people think you are a people too, and they want some real, people-to-people two-way communication. Your real job as the leader is to hold the vision of the desired end state of this change, and keep communicating that vision until they get it, too.

This doesn't happen by accident. It requires some focused thought and effort and a plan that identifies messages, mediums, and audiences, and that allows for meaningful feedback.

Here's the bottom line. I was trained as a computer programmer, so I used to believe in technology. Then I trained in Industrial Engineering, so I became a believer in methodology.

Then I had the real-world experience of working with real people over dozens of improvement initiatives, and came to realize that despite technology and methodology, people will make your project succeed (or fail) to the degree you get them on-board. This means real, structured, thoughtful, and consistent communication.

People: can't live without them, can't change the operating system.

If you want some help figuring out how to make your own particular Marvelous New Widget work in your organization with your people, drop me or Charlie Snelling a line  613 744-4084

best regards,

Scott Kelland, President
Performance Reporting Solutions
613 302-3924

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