Subject to Change
There is only one thing that is certain in life – and that is change. It is all around me, personally, professionally, and it even presents itself when I least expect it. Professionally, as a consultant, I find myself helping my clients through change on a daily, if not hourly, basis. I find that change is one of the biggest challenges with which my clients deal on a consistent basis. Change in the form of deciding to bring in consultants, change in the form of a new strategy or direction, change in the form of starting, stopping or completing a project, and change in people, processes and technology. As I sit back and reflect on how we as a consulting company get our clients interested or comfortable with the prospect of change, I often times personalize these challenges by comparing them to events in my personal life.
Over the past 5 years, my career has gone through a major transformation. I went from the advertising industry, which I knew well, to the consulting world, where I was a bit of a novice in comparison to my peers. Not only did I find myself in a new work environment, but I also had new lingo to learn. Suddenly, the familiar phrase “I’m really busy” was replaced with “I have no bandwidth.” (“Who says that”, I thought? Everyone, it turns out). That is just a minor example, but because of my career change I was now able to relate to clients and the thought processes they go through with regards to change. In fact, when I stopped to think about it, as a consultant, I was doing a lot of the same activities as I did in advertising. We just did not attach “Software Development Life Cycle” terms to them or use words such as “project plan”. Once I started creating a framework and comparing my former advertising tasks to my new consulting tasks, my new career started to take shape.
Whether I am dealing with a client or embarking on a new frontier of my own, here are a few steps I take to help facilitate change:
Communication – Start your communication early and communicate often. Clients, your spouse and your kids will be more open-minded about change once they are prepared and understand when and from where it is coming. This gives them time to plan and understand the impacts and what they may need to do in order to prepare for that change.
Documentation – Documentation is critical when presenting changes to impacted parties. Documentation comes in many forms such as user guides, glossaries, job descriptions and mapping documents. It can be formal, on chalk boards, on the refrigerator or on a Post-it note. Either way, start working with those being impacted early to understand their processes and how they work. This will allow you to understand which type of documentation will be the most useful to them.
Presenting the Value – One of the biggest hurdles with change is that people often view it as additional work or a hardship. It goes a long way to explain the value of what you are doing and how it helps the company, peers and themselves. For example, changing the process, documentation and rigor in which you capture requirements may be more consuming up front but will ultimately decrease the number of defects and time spent on quality assurance. Regardless of the change, painting a picture of the positive future state is critical.
Training – Documentation and communication are often not enough. Hands-on training is often needed and should be given through the proper mediums. Again, understanding your audience and their processes will help you determine the best training plan; whether it is classroom, virtual or self-based.
Support – Make sure you leave time for support once the change is rolled out. Ensure those impacted by change know where to go with questions or issues they encounter and a process is in place to adjust to any additional changes that are needed.
Kenway has found that if approached in the right way, change can be invigorating and exciting rather then dreaded. Fortunately for myself, I joined a company who is well-versed in helping their clients adapt to change. This allowed me to come up to speed quickly in my career and in turn, allows me to help my new clients deal with change in their daily lives as well.