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Believe in it

How to avoid being slowed down by resistance to change.

"She believed she could, so she did.” - R. S. Grey

Successfully bringing a project to fruition often means overcoming resistance and helping your team to see things in a different light. It means not giving up when facing doubt. Uncertainty is normal in a project and will help you pinpoint the challenges which you must rise above.

I sincerely believe that one success factor in project management is not being stopped in one’s tracks by remarks such as “Sounds nice in theory, but it won’t work in practice” or “I agree with the idea but it’s impracticable”.

If we listen to such opinions, our progress will either be minimal, or we will simply go nowhere.

If we believe, and if we try, the worst that can happen is that we come close to the goal, despite not actually reaching it. As Oscar Wilde rightly said, “Shoot for the Moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the Stars”.

Often, we meet people who have a binary thought pattern – either we do this, or we do that. Granted, some choices are black and white, but that is often not the case. By putting different solutions in place, we can make the shift from EITHER/OR to AND.

Here are two recent examples from my own life.

While working on a project, I expressed the desire that, ultimately, members of a development team should each be able to work on all parts of the system. Evidently, some will be more expert than others, but each person ought to have a basic knowledge of each area – leading to better overall results and increased flexibility in the allocation of tasks.

The team leader doesn’t believe me, retorting, “That sounds nice in theory but is not possible in practice – we’ll lose people”.

The second part of his answer is worth paying attention to as it raises an important issue, namely that people might be ‘lost’. The first part of the answer is a hindrance: if we're aiming for the moon, we shouldn’t be stopped in our tracks. Rather, we must work to identify the elements that prevent us from achieving the objective and find solutions. In this example, we can imagine several variants:

  • Leave it up to team members to decide

  • Give members of the development team the time to develop other skills – avoid being too aggressive in the time allotted to reach the target

The second example concerns the replacing of outgoing members sitting on a voluntary committee.

The current committee of this organization approached me with the offer of taking over the chairperson’s position. I didn’t really like the idea. To my mind, it would be better first if I were simply a member of this committee. Finally, they’re at a dead end as nobody wants the job. So, I accept the chairperson’s role, adding that we should implement a process preventing the same thing from happening in the future, so that candidates put themselves forward several months before the deadline.

It didn’t take long to hear the reaction: “That’s utopian! Very few people are prepared to invest the time and energy. We always struggle to find volunteers”. Though well aware of the hurdles, I still believe that if nothing changes, the problem will undoubtedly crop up again.

So my proposal is set up a focus group that will think about ways for improving the committee’s renewal process.

We will rarely attain our desired goal if we first don’t get out of our comfort zone.

What about you ? Do you have similar or different experiences? Let me know, I'll be happy to discuss it with you!

Artwork : Mélanie Bénard Tremblay, 2019, © Marakoudja.

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