Episode 5: That's Great. How Do I Do It Here?

I had a conversation with a friend this week who was brought into an organization to improve their execution and implement a methodology in a specific field that they are not good at today.  Not project management, but very similar.

We talked at length at her frustration with the pace of the change and how to best bring it about.  It led to a few observations that form the basis of this episode.

A lot of people who are smarter than I have noted this, but it's impossible to successfully parachute a tool or solution into an existing organization.  It must fit and weave into the culture and norms as they are today.  I've seen very capable PMs fail by trying to force their methodology in an organization where it doesn't fit.

To avoid this, change must come as intentional and incremental steps.  You have to find relevant places to introduce basic, foundational concepts to key supporters.  

You also have to celebrate the small successes along the way, even if only for your own sanity.  It's too easy to feel like you are accomplishing nothing of value if you don't.

Speaking of value:  how do you prove it while the progress seems so slow?  How can the company appreciate what you do if they don't yet fully understand it?  

Realize that the frustration is actually the opportunity.  Your knowledge and experience are needed to move the company to its desired state.  Each small step is an opportunity to stand out.  Embrace it.

Share information freely.  Do a lunch and learn or pull together a working group that meets regularly.  Do a "101" level presentation with plenty of time for Q&A.  Share articles and updates.

Listen.  Teaching isn't a one-way street.  The other side of every conversation about how you've seen something done is how the other person does it.  If you pay attention, you'll hear what's important to the organization.  It will help you shape the solution so that it fits.  Plus, there's this recent article from the Harvard Business Review.  Research shows that the best way to bring about change is to talk about what is staying the same.  

Finally, ask questions to understand the business and their process.  The less familiar you are with the business, the more you should ask.  Especially if it relates to a technical domain.  Almost every project touches IT in my experience.  Make an effort to understand the systems and programs beyond a normal user.  It'll likely pay off in your next project.

Bringing big change is never easy.  But, it's always possible.  

Music for this episode taken from "Heritage Place" by Josh Woodward.  Free download at JoshWoodward.com

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