Handling change from a management point of view.

If you run or are part of any modern business this days, you'll know that, in order to keep going, one must adapt to the market, to the new technologies and so on. Some times, even when there's no significant advantage for a given technology from a technical point of view, the client is significantly more receptive to buy from the so called "state of the art" new thingy.

That means that, one way or another you'll have to evolve in order to handle the market and develop into new technologies, new ways to do things. You might be forced to migrate from desktop to web, from central database to a more scalable distributed schema.

Now, when that happens, how do you manage that change within your team? How are they going to take it?

Of course, there will be people that handle the new situation without problems or even gladly but you're gonna find people resist to change strongly and you should know the reasons why people use to reject change in order to try to change it.

Firstly people in general is risk avoider (with some "early adopter" exceptions). That is, people avoid risk and any change is a risk.

Secondly, people tend to be afraid of WHERE the change will put them. Look at it like this: a developer on your team will be thinking "if we change to xxx technology, how will that affect my career? How will it affect my chances to get a promotion or even get fired? They don't know the new technology, they don't want to get outdated or lose their position as experts or whatever in the "old ways".

Finally everything new is hard to learn and understand, specially when you've been working in the old thing for a long time. It takes time and makes you feel as if you were an idiot. In oldest teams (and I mean literally in terms of people being older) it also increases the fear for being replaced for someone younger who already know the technology.

If you intend to overcome the resistance you'll need to address all those things.

Firstly the thing will have to be gradual. One step at a time, one product at a time. Don't try to change the full process for the entire company. Instead propose taking a lesser project and apply the new tech to it. Present is as an opportunity and a test. If it isn't useful then we won't use it anymore, but let's just try, then the risk will be minimal.

Then reassure people. Make sure everyone feels appreciated and that you or the company trust more on the long years of experience in the field that on any given technology used. Listen to the people, respect their opinions and make them feel you care what they think. Of course this shouldn't be an act, you should really feel that way. Great teams trust each other.

On the other hand, handle the change. Milestones need to be wider, you have to account for the change impact. You have to make the team feel you understand change is difficult and that is a long time process. That no one will be judged if the new thing takes more time than the older one and that failures are to be expected and no one will be fired because of it.

In the end, if you want change you have to reassure people and make them understand the change is just a test, if it works then great for everyone, if it doesn't then it OK. Of course the company needs to understand this as well. For managers this means presenting them with a clear risk vs benefit report, stating truth and telling them WHY the change must be done.

When speaking to management remember also to remember them that competition is always out there. You have to evolve or more correctly be always evolving. Even if the product is the same in terms of functionality and saddest as it may seem, from a marketing point of view, saying you use the latest xxx technology with the lates yyy development technique is a great hook. Clients are not stupid but they aren't computer literates either so they are easily impress with fuzz words so competition can steal them without really having a better product, just a "newer" one.

Just one more thing: Maybe you'll find useful to tell them about the "Who moved my cheese?" history which revolves about the change and how the market evolves around change.

Change is a fundamental thing in everyone life, both personal and professional and should be always took into account. Whenever someone says "change now is too risky" or "we can't afford change" you have to really think it trough... is the picture being seen in the long term or all we talking about a short term scenario? Because if it is the latter, then we'll be fine for know but screwed in the long term ... something like always giving a loan to everyone to buy a house because houses ALWAYS increase their value... or do they?...

As a final point, and though is not directly related to handling the change... Always consider if you should even be doing the change.

Changing to a new technology, work location, life cycle or whatever introduce a lot of hidden costs, starting with the conflicts you'll find among your own team, to unexpected consequences in the long term.

I'm not saying you shouldn't do it, but always balance the benefits against the costs. If the benefits clearly surpass the costs then do it but take into account all the costs involved, don't just assume an "income vs outcome" point of view. The better change handling is the one you don't have to make.

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