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Voice from the Trenches: Create Change By Admitting You Are the Problem

Voice from the Trenches is a monthly series written by Valerie Conyngham, CPSM. 

How do you ignite change in your organization? It’s a big question, with lots of answers. But, the first step is recognizing the problem.

You know there are problems. They might be small, medium or large. They’re there, looming over your head. You think about the problems and the potential solutions. You catch yourself saying “if only [fill in the blank], then I could fix the problem.” No matter how much thought you put into it, you’re still in the same place in three months, six months, even a year later. That’s because you haven’t developed the actions to start realizing the change.

It’s OK not to change. But if you choose not to change, you at least need to take ownership that you are the problem. Don’t take it personally! I don’t mean you as an individual, I mean you as a department or you as a firm.

Change is hard, no one really likes it, yet it’s integral to growth. In our industry, time is consumed producing billable work. Many firms have the mentality of billable before everything. That mentality makes it hard to embrace new technologies or processes, because the learning curve is certain to result in (albeit short-term) lower utilization rates. We get stuck in the now and forget the future. We know we would eventually save time/money/resources, but something holds us back.

What’s holding you back? Is it fear of failure? A perception that there are better things to do? Lack of a long range plan to look to for guidance? We all know that change is hard. But it’s not impossible. There are many things you can do to start implementing change. Think about this year’s stalled projects, and make 2015 the year you get those projects back on track.

Here are some tips to get you started.

1. Articulate the problem statement

First things first, you need to clearly articulate the problem you are trying to solve. Make sure you frame it in a way that people will care about. To do that, you need to show how this is a problem for them, not just you.

2. Find a champion and a supporter 

It’s important to get buy-in for your project. Start at the top and sell it to leadership. Get a firm principal to be the champion of your project and s/he can tell others how important it is to the firm. Then you can fill the role of supporter and get the project done.

3. Create a plan

Change often fails because there’s no plan on how to implement it. Put together a plan that thinks though all the steps and all the potential obstacles. The better prepared you are, the easier implementation will be.

4. Create small wins

When creating your plan, keep in mind the small wins. It’s easier to implement change if you can obtain a series of small wins. Celebrate them so that people feel their contributions are proving successful. This will give people encouragement to keep the project moving.

5. Change habits 

Most change is about changing or creating new habits. Think about what it is you’re trying to change or create, then think about people’s habits and the triggers. If you can identify a trigger and change or create a new habit for that trigger, then you’ve won.

Connect with Valerie through LinkedIn or on Twitter @valconyngham.


Valerie Puchades, CPSM served as SMPS Boston Chapter President for the 2018/2019 program year and is Director of Marketing at GUND Partnership.

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