The first thing you need to do with your employees is you’ve got to be open,” says Heins [Thorsten, new ceo of RIM].” Tell them where we are. They’re thinking it themselves anyways. You cannot sit there and say, ‘Hooray, hooray, I’m rocking in the U.S.’ If you aren’t. So you have that realism there. … Smith [David, SVP RIM] realized that the project was foundering. There was no way they would be able to deliver a high-performing product on the schedule they had publicly committed to. … Heins encouraged Smith to be candid about the reasons behind the delay and go directly to RIM’s board with a revised plan. Denial was no longer a managerial option. “It was a bit scary,” says Smith. “But at the end of the day we executed on the plan. We delivered on what we said we should do.” … This time, reviews were largely positive though sales continued to be lackluster.” Bloomberg Businessweek April 9-15, 2012.
Yeah, it is not too bad now.
We’ll just hang on and keep saying we’ll be done on time.
Let’s wait until there is a clear problem — where things are really going bad — then we’ll do something radical.
Yeah, that is all we need to do. Make a real change only when it is clear that we are already … dead.
I lived through too many of these. The more humorous one was where we said we’ll be done “next week” every week for nine months.
At the Software Engineering Institute, while I was deep diving into change management case studies, all the great examples of change management techniques seem to come from … companies that ultimately failed. The stress of trying to prevent failure generated some great change management actions and results, but they were almost always … too late.
Too late. I watched as an Air Force Brigadier general tried to fire up his Colonels — most of whom were settled into waiting for retirement — by saying “we have to treat this like we are at war!” The general had the right idea. The only problem was the Colonels knew they were not at war and by the time any war happened it would no longer be on their watch.
If we wait until it is a crisis and it is obvious to everyone, then it is simply too late. The best we can do then is not to drown along with the rest of the organization as the project crashes on the rocks and sinks to the bottom.
To avoid this pitfall we often have to be brutally honest and disruptive now (see we need to disrupt the project to make the big improvements) and suffer the slings and errors of “Why are you doing that! Things are not that bad yet! Let’s wait and see a bit longer.” No, let’s not wait. We need to change now, before it is a true crisis.
Is your project really going to succeed or do you need to make that brutally honest disruptive change right now to ensure it succeeds?