Monday, March 12, 2007

Week 27 - Change

This week I inherited the responsibility of rolling up all of the IT status reports into IT release level reports – which then in turn go into the Program level report (along with the Business status). Now, I have been doing the program level reports, and not sure how I got the IT ones – probably no one else wanted these – I think that I got them because (as any consultant will know) consultants are the “catch all” when a real employee doesn’t want to do something.

Anyway, the reports were a mess. I am getting 23 separate weekly reports in about 10 different formats. Some in word, some in excel. My job then is to cut and paste these babies into 4 different release level reports. Sound like fun???

Being the lazy, avoid-work-at-all-costs type of person that I am, I tried to find a better/easier way (after shamelessly trying to beg out). Well obviously, this would be a lot easier if everyone used the same format right? Well, why weren’t we doing that in the first place? Here is where it gets interesting – the answer I got when I posed that question to my predecessor was that they had tried to get everyone to use the same format, but they wouldn’t. AH HA – change resistance.

I have to admit a bit of disappointment that the only method attempted was to give the team leaders a template and ask them to use it. The follow up was to ask them several more times. When I asked what else, I was told that my predecessor did not have the authority to get them to change. Hence nothing was done. Another AH HA – responsibility without authority !

Given that I was in the same boat, needing people to change, but not having any authority to change them I had an idea. What was it that people didn’t want to change? Not the process, they were handing in weekly reports on schedule. So it was actually the format of the report – that seems like a small item, so why resist. Then it hit me – because it meant a good bit of upfront work, and these guys have “better things to do.”

So these busy people did not want to change because they were busy, and frankly the format of a report is not that big a deal – unless you are dealing with 23 of them a week. So – in essence, the problem and pain was mine, not theirs. Since I could not force them to make the change, I took a different route. I eliminated the work.

I simply took each of the 23 status reports and copied all the information into 23 new status reports under the new and consistent format. I then mailed these out asking that they start with these as the base. So far, everyone has been either accepting or thankful. I’ve gotten no resistance or complaints.

My lesson learned here is that by doing the initial change and creating a situation that is no more difficult for the person, we can speed change. Most of the time the hard part of changing is just that the change itself, after that we develop new routines that are usually less work than the original ones – that’s one reason for change – less work.

I learned a long time ago (the hard way) that there is only one thing any of us has the power to change – ourselves. By reframing my view (changing from the view of my predecessor) I changed and made it easier for others to do so. I think that whenever we find ourselves involved in helping someone else change, the first question should be “what can I do differently to make it easier for them to change?”

Often the answer will be that we have to do a little work that “is not our job” or falls outside of the box, but if PMOs are to be centers of change, shouldn’t we lead the way by changing ourselves rather than expecting it of others?


Anonymous said...

Derry , its nice post.. How do you expect every PM to provide same format of reports when they are practicing different methods .. Lets say one has a burn down chart and another has a traditional status report.. So you mean to say you are passing your work to them... :-) The poor guy who has the burn down charts should do the report again to meet your format every week :-))))

BTW I have a lot more serious issue to ask your opinion.. When you are a flat organization and when you got to deal with a very hierarchical customer organization with lots of beurocracy..How do you manage the communication channels as a PM of such projects? ( I mena in your company you are reporting to your CEO and all the operational level details are transparent to him. Your CEO talks direct with the customers CEO who doesn’t get any operational details.. There is a major chaos situation here..

Derry Simmel said...

Thushara, fortunately it is not quite that bad, all of the PMs were using similar reporting methods and forms, they were just all a little different - one would split programming into unit testing and development, another would have 10 steps while one had 5, that kind of thing. So I created a template and then created a report for each of them based on their reports from the previous week so all they had to do was use the new report as a starting point, much easier ( I hope)