Selling Change to the Team

Isn’t it amazing how we can use a simple phrase that would actually lead to our undoing – making it difficult, if not impossible, to actually achieve what we intend.

If your approach is to “sell” the idea of change to the team they will see right through you. The change becomes more about what you want; change is being imposed; those whose co-operation you seek will react with the smile that says “yes boss, no chance”. And that’s the best you can hope for – the more recalcitrant ones will actively work against you.
Change needs to be managed, people need to be understood and involved.

I well remember a reorganisation at Woolworth’s when a manager, I regarded as a fool, was appointed as my boss. He took the trouble to have a face to face chat with me. He allowed me to express my fears and concerns. He listened to me and sought to find ways in which we could work together. It worked. Not only did we develop a fruitful, purposeful relationship – we became firm friends and still are – some 30 years later. He even acted on some of my advice to downplay some of his traits that led people like me to dismiss him as fool!

If you think a change is needed quickly, take time out to assess whether the drivers are really that urgent. We can be so go-minded that we can overlook this simple check. Consider would a more relaxed time-frame still achieve your objectives? Would taking a little more time to consult and truly involve those affected make your decision more acceptable? Would the ideas and discussions allow you to improve the quality of the change?

As a senior manager you probably relish change and thrive on it. Be aware that the chief insecurity of most staff is change itself. Their first reaction will be to feel threatened.

Remember, like grief, there is a series of stages that people go through before they become accepting of change. From suspicion, through curiosity, to visualisation, acceptance and finally commitment, your team members need to be allowed the time, and your time, to explore, understand and respond.

Stuart Sawle    

Managing the Motivation of an IT Team

Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity. General George S. Patton

IT staff are valuable company resources because of their unique specialist skills, knowledge and experience.

They are a challenge to lead because: they are very intelligent and highly individual; and also because they are often involved in complex projects where they may have to work in isolation using considerable delegated discretion.

Most IT specialists will tell you that they prefer to be left alone to get on with the job. Nevertheless, like everyone else they do need to be given feedback, told when they’re doing a good job, corrected when they’re not. Providing feedback is particularly difficult when a goodly proportion of their time is spent working at home – out of the normal cycle of intra-office communication and observation.

Maintaining IT staff motivation is a crucial element in the success of a project. Knowing when to delegate and how to review is a key factor in achieving motivation.

If you are to do this well, and it does need doing well, you need to very aware of your own skills and abilities. You need to identify your management style and understand:

• The theory of motivation.
• How to delegate successfully.
• How to understand yourself and others – what drives you, what drives them?
• Why values are important and how to use them.
• How to communicate effectively with your team.
• How to build on-going fruitful relationships.

I’ve blogged before about the lack of management training that we IT professionals undertake. Here is a starting point – an opportunity to develop and deploy a very valuable set of skills that will help you, your organisation and your team members.

Stuart Sawle



Project Management – Speaking Truth to Power

Many years ago, in a heated discussion about missed project deadline, a colleague rather sneeringly said to me: “It’s alright for you Stuart, you always allow yourself enough time to complete your projects!”

This remark hurt at the time and that’s probably why I remember it so vividly. But shouldn’t I have taken it as a compliment? After all the essence of sound project management is to plan for and demand sufficient resource to meet the project criteria.

Some years later, I was engaged on an assignment to deliver a project that had a deadline that just could not be moved (the clue is: it was the 5th April).  Given that end date is fixed, the only other variable is the level of manpower available – more bodies for a shorter time or, in our case, more hours in longer days.

That’s when I fully understood the perspective of my colleague.  He was Applications Development Manager driven very much by business imperatives, I was Technical Manager – relatively free to set and manage my own deadlines.

Nevertheless, of course, project management is just that – the sound management of a project. There is no merit in taking on a project that has either unrealistic timescales or inadequate resources to enable it to be delivered to the required quality.

That’s why in our PRINCE2 ® training courses we take a very practical and pragmatic approach to the real-life challenges that face project managers. Our course takes a workshop approach based on the principles of accelerated and practical learning. We know that people learn more effectively where learning events are activity-centred and that they can better relate the theory to the real world. Sadly, the dynamics of modern business do not always fit the theoretical model.

Project managers need to be flexible and prepared to stand up for their project. If the planning reveals that there is insufficient time, budget or resource to deliver reliably – the project manager has not only a right but a duty to escalate to the project board. Senior management need to know and acknowledge risk. The ability to speak truth to power is an essential quality that project managers must have – backed by sound planning and an international accepted framework – the true value of PRINCE2 ®.