Project Practitioners > A Lesson from a Pill

A Lesson from a Pill

By Margaret de Haan



For me it has finally hit, an onslaught of physical things that make you realize that you are aging.  Reading glasses, wrinkles, and a load of other things that make you truly understand that there is no going back to being 20.  So, in response to some of these discomforts, I have added medications to my daily regimen, to try to assuage the inevitable, and make the transition into "old age" more comfortable.  I don’t know if any of you have had the same experience, but finding just the “right drug fit” for some of these conditions can be a matter of trial and error with all of the new pharmaceuticals that are being developed.  So, for one paticular physical annoyance, I went through over a year of trying out medications that didn’t have unmanageable side effects – like making me brain dead through half the day, or being unable to sleep – before finally finding one that took me back to feeling 30+ again.  Of course, after nine months of happily feeling good, the drug company decided to stop producing the drug, and how was I notified?  By receiving a substitute drug from the pharmacist who had taken the liberty of phoning my physician and filling the script with the replacement medication.  I was told that it was “the same, don’t worry”, but I can tell you it is not, and I am back in side effect hell!  To make matters even worse, there is only one drug that has the same basic formulation, so I sit and wait and pray that another drug company decides produce a “new and improved” version of what I had.  As a customer, I feel slighted, abused, and ignored.

So that got me to thinking, what do we as Project Managers, do to diminish the discomfort of those in the corporation that may not WANT a new system or process?  I know that I could have benefitted from some education as to why my medication change happened, what advantages/disadvantages were expected because of the change, and what alternatives, if any, there were to the “old”.  This sounds like nothing more than implementing an effective corporate wide communication and education plan to me, but I still think that we could be missing some pieces to this puzzle that will add to our Project success.  I know in our communications plans we arrange to keep the “Stakeholders” in the loop, but in all cases does it include those in the trenches?  Who further down the line from those in management that we get our Business Requirements from need to be given information and could add to our understanding?  Let’s face it, if we are implementing a new process along with our system, and there are workers that are to perform the work after the new system is implemented and they have problems with it as they feel as though they were not included in the decision making, they have the ability to derail implementation and create failure for the Project as a whole.  The old adage of “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink” comes to mind.  Now I am not suggesting that we can make everyone happy as some people are always opposed to any change as it offers them a threat of failure, but I do believe that we can do better, and proactively plug possible holes.

So what tactics can we use to smooth over the possible implementation bumps?  To name a few ideas; we have the opportunity when gathering any information in the Scope and Business Requirements phases of the Project to dig past the layer of Management and allow for input on problems with the existing system and improvements from the trenches.  We can make sure that the ACTUAL USERS are involved in UAT (and not “designates”), and we can create some two way line of open communication directly to the trenches throughout the Project process.  And, most importantly, we can listen to what we hear, and plan on selling the new system to everyone involved in a way that shows them the benefits DIRECTLY TO THEM.  Show them how that after the initial learning curve is completed that their lives are easier, and how they are benefitting the bottom line of the corporation.  Remember, EVERYONE who touches any piece of your Project has the ability to add to its success, or in the case of someone who has been ignored (as I was) can attribute to a failure.  Trust me, there is nothing worse than having someone make decisions FOR you without being able to throw in your two cents.  I know I am missing a ton of great tactics, so please feel free to add to the list.  After all, we are no longer children, but a team of professionals working toward a common goal.  Success and long term stability.


Margaret de Haan

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