Big Changes, Big Projects, and Customer Service
“People are critical to the success of any ITSM transformation. Indeed, nearly anyone who has navigated an ITSM transformation will confirm that their greatest challenges came from the people involved.”
BMC Software, ITSM: A Practical Guide to Managing Growing Pains
As a young marketing project manager for a global outsourcer of customer service and technical support, the need to treat my colleagues as my customers and regard my interactions with them as customer experiences was drilled early and often. In part, the emphasis on building customer relationships was part of my manager’s work style; however, the expectation was also part of a broader company culture that called on each of us to understand and strive to deliver an exceptional customer experience.
Last week, I was reminded of this experience as I read through part of a BMC Software workbook entitled ITSM: A Practical Guide to Managing Growing Pains. It’s been a few years since I dug my hands into the kind of meaty, cross-functional projects described in the document, but I was quickly reminded of the least predictable and most fickle part of any project in any discipline. That’s right, the people.
On most weekdays, and a statistically overwhelming number of weekends, no one wants to cross paths with a person, place, or thing aptly described as unpredictable and fickle. These unwanted nouns are the detractors, the naysayers, the purpose-driven obstacles unwilling to be pleased. We’re talking about teenagers, the Department of Motor Vehicles, and special orders at your favorite drive-thru. You just never know what you’re gonna get.
Unfortunately, this paints a rather dour picture of all the great people you and I work with every day. I am, however, exaggerating for dramatic affect. Regardless, change can be a very scary proposition. Particularly when it comes to our day-to-day work and workplace. It requires a lot of effort from a lot of people, and reaching consensus on the right way to get things done is never easy.
We all rise up to meet challenges in our own way. But at our very core, we will always be human. We will always have emotions and comforts, rivalries and friendships, loyalties and grudges. We will also have families and children and social obligations and a finite number of hours each week.
These are not, however, the whims of an unpredictable and fickle hoard coming to sweep us away. No, these are merely some of the conditions we must consider from the very earliest stages of project planning. To this point, BMC’s workbook—while focused on big ol’ ITSM transformations—does a very nice job of outlining some strategies for helping people cope with change. And it’s important to note, these strategies, if not each specific measure, make sense for projects of nearly any scale.
Essentially, do what makes sense for you company and the specific project, but remember the following actions when it’s time to get your big ol’ project underway:
- Build consensus: Everyone needs to know why you’re making changes and how these changes will be accomplished. Get them ready for change. Show them why it’s necessary, illustrate the benefits for everyone, and make them believe in the project’s potential for success.
- Foster collaboration: People support what they help create. Plain and simple. Invite all team members to contribute to a shared view of success.
- Communicate thoroughly: A broad, well-defined communications plan must be in place from start-to-finish. In the absence of information, people make stuff up. Make sure people know what’s happening with the project, so they’re not collaboratively filling in the blanks on their smoke breaks.
- Educate everyone: Your project isn’t over until everyone knows what it is, why they need it, and how to use it. Don’t forget to tell them.
This topic is especially prescient for me today as PhaseWare is currently developing a Web site redesign strategy. It will be time-intensive, challenging, sometimes fun, and full of people with all their emotions and hunches and aversion to change. I pledge now to build consensus, foster collaboration, communicate thoroughly, and educate everyone. I will also do my very best to be neither fickle nor unpredictable.