Innovation is about making changes — doing things differently, thinking differently. What’s helpful to know is the changes you make don’t have to be huge and dramatic. Incremental changes like putting one foot into the gym to launch a long-term exercise routine will eventually get you where you want to be.
As project managers, Leslie’s and my biggest challenge isn’t managing projects…it’s managing change. Some people say the change process is similar to the grieving process. It involves many stages including anger, denial, and bargaining and it finally culminates in acceptance. When you lead a team through a project you can expect to encounter each of these reactions (and that’s a good thing because it means the team and stakeholders are taking the change seriously). Your best tool for managing change is preparation.
4 Tips on Managing Change
1. Break the change into stages for a smoother transition.
2. Anticipate the likely responses to change at each stage from your team, stakeholders, end-users, and anyone else involved. Be prepared to address their complaints, questions, and concerns. Keep in mind, you are looking for a reaction to indicate the change is being taken seriously. No reaction could mean the team is in denial or is simply not comprehending your message. Getting little or no reaction puts you at risk of being disrupted later in the process when the change finally does sink in.
3. Explain the proposed change in different ways so everyone understands. Use examples familiar to each audience.
4. Use visuals (charts, diagrams or even drawing on a white board) to illustrate what’s changing and the step-by-step process involved (useful for complex scenarios.)
Innovation is an opportunity to do something more effectively, efficiently, or elegantly. It’s about solving problems creatively.
Start with a Simple Innovation
A big complaint for project managers is that we are expected to run a meeting, take notes, send them out afterward, and then follow up to make sure people know what they are committed to doing. I’ve found a simple innovation that my teams really like.
I project our team wiki onto a large screen and type in brief meeting notes as we talk. Why is this good?
- It focuses everyone on the agenda item at hand.
- You get immediate validation (revisions and clarifications) from participants. Participants find this assuring.
- It saves time. (Avoids circulating drafts back and forth.)
- It engages remote participants. (Share your desktop via web conferencing.)
A bonus is that your notes are available immediately for access by other stakeholders or team members unable to attend the meeting. Most importantly, project team members liked this new technique and readily embraced it.
Move on to Bigger Innovation
What can we do as individual professionals? You might complain that your own organization doesn’t foster change, and there is nothing you can do to change it. Don’t give up! A large component of innovation is inspiration. Leslie and I check out these blogs regularly for inspiration and ideas.
Take a moment and look at our favorites:
“Some people change their ways when they see the light; others when they feel the heat” — Caroline Schoeder
Now it’s Your Turn
- Pick one blog and follow it. Read the comments and follow the links wherever they take you. Get inspired!
- Pick something you want to change. Think about the core problem you’re solving. Can you envision an innovative solution? Something that saves time, makes it easier to do? Next, break it into steps. How will you get started? What’s your first step?