Want your project management software to work? Don’t skip this 1 thing.


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I put a dollar in one of those change machines.  Nothing changed.
~George Carlin

I am always amazed by how undervalued culture change management is within corporate America.

To illustrate this point here is a true story…

Not too long ago we were invited to setup a booth at an internal company trade show.  We were excited for the opportunity to meet with our many end users and the Project Management Office (PMO) director was our host and our sponsor.  I brought my fancy digital camera so I could take a lot of pictures and maybe even capture some video footage of the “man on the street” and how end users love our project management software.

Here is us showing up at their wonderful campus.  It was a beautiful day, birds were singing, and a perfect getaway to press palms with our happy end users.

 

We checked in, received our badges and were escorted to through the atrium where our meeting room was awaiting us.  We set out some nice pens, business cards, and I double checked to make sure my camera was charged and ready to go.

 

Here we are waiting for the crush of happy WorkOtter users who would extol how the product has allowed them to reach their full potential.  Did I bring enough pens?  Do I have enough memory in my camera?  Is security available to keep the screaming throngs of WorkOtter fans back?

Well we probably did need security to watch our backs, but not in the way we expected.  When the people stopped by they were initially curious and courteous.  They would ask, “now who are you all again and what do you do?”  They were not looking at us but instead were looking at the nice pens and table goodies.  The small talk is the “payment” for taking the stuff.  It is kind of like saying “trick or treat” before you get the candy (or before the eggs start flying).

Anyway, I would start out “My name is Nick Matteucci and we are here representing the WorkOtter Project and Resource Management solution  you have been using for the last 6 months.”  At this point the “nice ones” would just walk away (often releasing their vendor booty and moving on).  The not-so-nice ones with seniority and a 3 martini lunch burning a hole in their stomach would say things like:

  • “Oh – I hate you guys”
  •  “Your application is a piece of @!$#% and nobody knows what it is used for”
  • “Why do I have to manage my projects in your system when insert Microsoft Office product here works just as well right on my desktop
  • “I could have turned my FrontPage or other Lameware Intranet site into a better project management application in 3 weeks and you all have been doing this for how many years”
  • “My supervisor told us we didn’t have to use your tool since we were not consulted”
  • “Thanks for nothing – because of you it takes me a LOT longer to do my job”

It was a humbling experience to say the least.

What happened?   Why did they hate us so?

Just as we had suffered enough abuse and were ready to pack it in, one last person came up greet us.  I braced myself for one last kidney shot before heading out the door.  The woman approached us and asked who we were and I told her we were the project management software vendor which she would translate into: “we are Satan’s spawn born to make their lives a fiery hell”

I braced for the worst when she said, “Cool.  I just hired on here and it is a lot better then the system we had at my last company.  I wish we had a system like this back then.  Well – good luck!”

I was so stunned and happy at the same time.  I started pouring pens and chachkas into her bag as fast as I could shovel.  I might have scared her a little bit with my enthusiasm as she sprinted away and lost a shoe.

Ironically the people who had experienced the change without any explanation hated us but the new people who were already experiencing complete work change embraced it as a best practice.   Why didn’t the company invest in project management training?  Why didn’t they setup a simple communication plan letting people know what they were doing, why they were doing it, and what the benefits to the company would be?

Because there is no hard a fast ROI for culture change.  Management tends to believe if you supply the tools and a swift boot in the pants you can “convince” people to change their work habits.  These are the same people that won’t move from their homes in the direct patch of a hurricane because they aren’t sure what it will be like to go somewhere else.

So unless you like being hated and seeing all your hard work go for nothing, please do us all a favor and invest equally in your people (through training and education) as you do in your tools.

Or at least don’t invite us to your company showcase without an armed guard!