If it's broke, why not fix it?

Everyone has heard the old adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.

I happen to like that saying. It’s simple, it makes sense, and you can apply it to all aspects of life. But what do you do when it is broke(n)? The logical answer would be fix it. But for whatever reason I encounter customer after customer that knows some part of the organization is broken and yet they won’t fix it.

Why is that?

There are several schools of thought on this phenomenon – if I had all the answers I’d be a very rich man. Unfortunately all I have is theories developed over years of working with organizations struggling to create and implement positive change.

Escalation of commitment

The escalation of commitment is a known bias and one that applies across life not just business. The result is that once an individual or team makes a decision it’s difficult to change course. People tend to continue down a bad path even though they know it’s not working. It’s a psychological effect where the brain naturally avoids dissonance. This escalation of commitment is what causes people to “double-down” on lousy stock picks; in the technology world this is continuing to invest in failing, over budget projects and systems because it would be too hard or too expensive to start anew. The escalation of commitment is consistently seen in new technology projects where organizations want to “save” their investment rather than starting over with a better plan.

The workaround effect

Ok, I made this term up but it doesn’t make it any less true. I’ve seen dysfunctional processes inside organizations that they were petrified to change because even though everyone knew it was broken as-is, there was some reassurance that at least they knew how to get things done with workarounds. I could probably call this the “devil that you know” syndrome.

How do you overcome this in the technology world? Why are people so afraid to make improvements?

First, there is still a huge divide between business and IT. This comes from a variety of sources: organizational culture, past failures, lack of confidence in IT, and fear of the unknown. How do you tell an organization that’s lived through failure after failure that this time it’s going to be different? How do you tell a potential customer that you are different from the previous consultancies that tried and failed?

As a boutique consulting company with a focus on BPM Software and Dynamic Case Management, srcLogic supports customers across the full transformation spectrum. Whether your organization is facing internal resistance to change or is committed to staying at the forefront of technological advancements, we commit to deliver the necessary expertise and guidance to ensure that solutions are delivered into production, on time, and without excuses.

There are numerous schools of thought and theories on change management. Each with its own set of principles and philosophies. From my hands-on experience every organization is different and what works well in one setting may not work in another. Based on this experience I’ve compiled 3 common sense tips to get buy-in to fix what is obviously broken:

3 steps to overcoming barriers

#1 – listen. You can’t listen while speaking so stop selling and start listening. That is the single most important piece of advice I can give anyone. You need to listen to what people are saying to understand the source of the concern and frustration. Listening will help uncover what the true obstacles are – are they political? Are they financial? Are they personnel related or ego driven? Only when you fully understand the playing field can you put a game plan together that focuses on the real problems.

#2 – create a team. People are more resistant to change when they are on the outside looking in – i.e. change is forced on them. Effective change requires that the stakeholders buy-in. What better way to get the buy-in than to create a team. One of the most successful BPM Software implementation projects I’ve ever worked on had a true cross-functional team. We had everyone from engine mechanics to supply officers to Navy SEALs represented on the team and they were all in it for the same common goal. We even had T-shirts and mousepads made to signify membership and help solidify the team culture. A team wins and loses together and creating the right environment is key to getting everyone on board.

#3 - make it easy and become inevitable. This one is probably the hardest of the bunch. Change is hard, big change is even harder. People in general are resistant to change. To be successful we need to make the change incrementally (easy) and at some point the big change becomes inevitable. People in general will push back against and fight change until you reach inevitability. Inevitability is the point of a project where the stakeholders actually see the finish line and it becomes a reality in their mind. This can happen at any point along the journey but it needs to happen to be successful. Once success becomes inevitable the project itself gains momentum like a boulder rolling downhill. The key is having the strength to get the boulder to the precipice (steps 1+2 and a lot of perseverance).

I don’t pretend to have all of the answers on why organizations won’t change. I see it every day. Failing projects, failing contractors, and failing processes. I do know that overcoming change is possible and applying a little common sense goes a long way towards making big improvements.

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