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Pawel Brodzinski on Software Project Management

Why Big Changes Are Difficult


If you follow discussions in project management community you should be familiar with term kaizen, which is usually used to name small evolutionary changes. Fewer people are familiar with term kaikaku, which represents radical changes.

This is pretty characteristic, as I believe we generally prefer small changes over big ones. We keep talking about continuous improvement (isn’t it prescribed by pretty much any agile method?) and there is no similarly popular term to label big changes.

And then you see opinions that organizations aren’t ready for radical change. Well, it isn’t without reason that the word “reorganization” usually stands next to the word “dreaded.”

Of course companies, and when I say companies I think management, are partially responsible for the situation. Frequent reorganizations with no sensible reason seen by people aren’t something very uncommon in big firms. But then I’ve seen a number of big changes which have made a lot of sense but have got very little support from people all around.

This is another part of the same story – people hate big changes. It moves them outside their comfort zones. The funny thing is you can hear a lot of complaining from people who should support the change as you’re doing something to improve their situation. “Nothing will change, anyway. It never changes. And by the way, we’re so unhappy, make something about that.”

No surprise kaikaku doesn’t get much positive buzz. People just don’t like it.

What’s the conclusion? While of course you should get as much buy-in from people affected by the change as possible you should also consider making the change smaller. Don’t try to do everything on the day 1. It makes sense to wait with some decisions even if you’re totally convinced they’re good. After all it’s not about you and your beliefs. It is about people who will be affected by the change. If you go way too fast no one will follow you.

Don’t make change even more radical as the only thing you will get this way is more resistance. Up to the point where no change can be done at all.

in: software business, team management

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