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Initiating Change Sucks

As a manager or an employee that cares, there are times when you feel like things aren’t going the way they should be going. Whether it’s something big or small things, you know that the only solution that there is, is to be proactive. But… There’s a but.

Let’s say you are a project manager. You feel like a lot of your energy is going on resolving conflicts that start from resource constraints.

You know that your office hours should be filled with more meaningful assignments than replying to emails and updating spreadsheets only to find out that the piece of equipment you booked for your project is stolen by another project manager. Or maybe you were the one that tried to steal it. At this point, you don’t even know.

What you do know, is that there are resource management tools out there that can solve this kind of problems. Resource management software that provides an overview of resource allocation across the project portfolio. You have looked around and singled out a few that would suit your organization. Multi-user access, cloud-based, live updates, and you can schedule different kinds of resources (the staff and the equipment). Now, it’s time for the next step.

You should take your proposal to implement a resource management platform to the upper management.

You are thinking things like ‘Why am I the person with this suggestions? Shouldn’t it be the upper management that suggesting and implementing tools that provide an overview of resource allocation?’ and ‘I don’t have time to deal with this. I have my own assignments.’ But also things like ‘If I don’t do this and I’m gonna have to keep on solving the same problems from week to week. I’m going crazy.’

You know that the software would make your job easier. You know it would also make other managers’ job easier. You know there would be fewer miscommunications.

You also know that since there are fifteen project managers, implementing resource planning software is definitely going to provoke a larger change. It could even call for creating a position for a project portfolio manager. There’s going to be a need to implement project portfolio management practices. The project managers are going to have to change the way they schedule resources. You already feel like you have a job that always makes you the bad guy. You don’t want another reason for a conflict.

Often, taking action to initiate change isn’t a part of your routine or even your job description or tasks. Initiating change includes noticing an issue. It includes setting goals and taking steps to achieve those goals.

It can be something small like making your colleagues understand that the coffee machine doesn’t clean itself or moving the usual start time of your weekly meetings from 10 AM to 10:07 AM to give people time to catch up. And it can be something huge like implementing a new tool and practices. Whatever it is, one thing is certain.

It’s gonna suck.

Why is it gonna suck?

There are things that are going to make it suck that depend on you, and there are things that are beyond you.

1. Time is a scarce resource

You have probably already figured out that you can’t pull 50h weeks and feel good about yourself. You also know that you have tasks that you need to complete regardless of the change you are trying to initiate. Which means you have a choice – you can either work faster and harder to make time for taking the necessary steps for the change or you can make time at the expense of your routine tasks.

The research shows time management is important. And that taking the first option and squeezing extra effort out of yourself will make you more feel more drained. You’ll be more tired than usual at the end of your workday, and – not surprisingly – you’ll also be more passive at home. You’ll be too tired to be anything more than a couch potato. And that sucks.

2. People don’t like change

There are many reasons why people don’t like change. It can be the feeling of loss of control, the concerns about competence or something as simple as fear of more work.

As we are feeling more and more pressed for time, no one is yearning for a tool to change things around and add to their task list. What’s even suckier, people can blame you since you were the one that initiated the change.

3. Your motivations are questionable

While many variables can make you think about initiating change, most of them will make you feel strained. According to research, everything from external pressures such as gaining rewards or avoiding punishment to internal pressures such as gaining approval and recognition or avoiding feeling guilt and shame are sucky kind of motivations for proactive actions.

All of those described earlier are controlled motivations and initiating change solely because of controlled motivations, will likely put you in the risk of job strain. While you can survive in the hopes of gaining a raise or a promotion for some time, it’s not a long-term solution.

4. It’s not you that’s winning

Proactive behavior has been linked to better job performance since it enhances innovation. That’s great, isn’t it? Well, it’d definitely great for the organization you are working for but it might not be great for you per se. Implementing resource management software can make resource planning more efficient and it can boost project progress. It can reduce email noise and thus increase productivity.

However, it can also make the upper management understand that not all of the fifteen project managers are needed in your organization. It can mean that since you came up with the outstanding idea to implement the tool, you should have more responsibility and more assignments. Maybe even assignments you don’t particularly like.

5. The worst part

The worst of it all is that you have to do it anyway because you know it has to be done. Being proactive and challenging the status quo instead of passively adapting to what’s going on around you is brave. And being brave is good. It sucks. But it’s good.

How to make it suck less?

Since you are going to initiate the change anyway, there are things you can do to make it suck less.

1. Embrace the suckiness

That’s my personal advice from me to you. Just embrace how much it sucks. Know that it’s gonna suck and embrace it. Think of it as birthing pains of something beautiful.

Embrace the fact that you are going to be a bit more exhausted after your work days. Let the people close to you know what you are up to. Let them know your concerns. Be proactive about the resistance from the team rather than just reacting to it. Be honest with yourself and get your motivations straight. Evaluate the risks that you need to take and make peace with it.

2. Get your stakeholders on your side

If you get all the stakeholders to your side and make them understand why the change you have suggested is important, you’ll increase your chances of succeeding. According to a change study, you are going to have to have the top management’s support in the earlier stages of the change and the teams support when the change is in works.

When implementing resource management software for your PMO, sell the idea to the upper management first. Make them understand your daily struggles and how it’s affecting the business. Open your mailbox and forward some of the endless planning-related threads to them. Pull up a study about poor resource planning is making projects fail.

After you have gotten the upper management on the same page as you are, make sure that steps are taken to make the team understand why the change is good for them and how it’s going to benefit them. It’s a particularly important aspect of implementing a new software.

3. Find the right kind of motivation

Remember how things like trying to get a promotion or just some recognition from your peer were not the best motivations for initiation change? Those motivations are actually just fine if they are accompanied by you getting yourself on board with what you are doing.

Namely, you are going to look inside you and think what’s the value of the change you are trying to initiate. Ask yourself why does it matter to you. Why does it matter to others? Why is it an improvement?

If you feel like you should still initiate the change after answering those questions, you’ll be more determined, self-endorsing and will less likely get stuck in the aspects about the change that sucks.

4. Communicate with your team

Change isn’t a quick process. Depending on how big of change it is, it can be a long, drawn-out event. Because of this you need to ensure that you communicate with your team along the way.

Miscommunication can completely undermine all the things you’re working for with your new initiative. If people are are unhappy, frustrated, and stressed, then your office productivity will go down, projects will fail, and people will leave.

Don’t let that happen!

Read up on some ways to solve dysfunctional communication and implement those practices into your work process. These can give you some insight on getting through difficult times in change management.

Also, schedule some 1-1 meetings. Short conversations let you into how your team members are feeling and where they are mentally. You can even use your new resource planning software to schedule these meetings. And if you want to make these a recurring thing on a bi-weekly or monthly basis, that’s super easy to do.

Embrace changes!

Even if change is hard, that doesn’t mean it’s not worth it. Just think about all the positives that will come after this (initial) sucky period. In the meantime, think positive thoughts. And don’t be afraid to ask for a little help. Look into different resource management solutions and other products which will aid your transition. You got this!

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