Scary times

When we are involved in producing a piece of software, it’s easy to forget that we are not simply building a product: we are implementing a change in the way a company operates.

Change is unnerving. We all know that. I know it particularly because I started losing my hair when I was eighteen. Changes in our working practises can be terrifying.

Picture John – a seasoned professional in his field. He has years of experience with his company and he knows its processes and rules inside and out. People look to him because of that experience.

thescreamNow John’s company has been acquired. The parent company is imposing its processes and rules on him. Suddenly, his position is less stable. He is unsure how the changes will affect his job security. He knows no more about the new processes than a trainee. What’s more, John is only human and he is comfortable with the way things are done now. The existing processes helped him get his job done and he does not see the need for change. Overall, it is a stressful time for John.

You might come across John during your involvement in the project. Perhaps he attends workshops or you may be required to train him in using the new system. John is affected by the work you are doing, which makes him a stakeholder. You are there for the duration of the project. John has to live with what you produce for quite some time.

So it’s important to remember that a software project more than that. It is a key element in a change initiative that is going to deeply affect real people. Of course, the change is meant to improve things, but John might not see it that way, especially if has fears about job security.

In 1969 Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross proposed the five stages of grief:

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

There are further stages in the case of a business change in which the worker goes beyond simple acceptance and explores the new ways of doing things and even comes to be an expert.

When you are dealing with John, you have to bear in mind that change is difficult for him and although your job description might not say “Change Manager”, it is still up to you to understand how the change affects him and help him take the change on board.

Kind regards,

Declan Chellar

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