4

Why is it difficult for people to accept the right solution coming from a person who is new to the organization? Like if you see a place where some changes can lead to greater improvement and your team lead is busy surfing internet rather than trying to improve process, you suggest a small change and all hell cut loose on you. Get resentment feelings from team lead because the suggestion didn't come from him/her, project manager gets red eye on you because team lead represents the idea in such a way that it looks like deviating from the current process and will create risk, other peers start laughing just because they don't get it.

What does it take to improve your chances to do the right thing without making people feel that you are trying to get upper hand on them?.

Replica of the situation:

You have 20 cows. Farmer goes to the stable to milk cows in the morning. Each cow has a bucket assigned to it. Each bucket is numbered 1,2,3...20.

  • Problem: How do you know which cow's milk is in which bucket. Just because cows are put up in a queue, doesn't mean that first cow's milk in the bucket 1 and second cows milk is in bucket 2.

  • Current Solution: Well, that is how it has been for 20 years and they know it by heart.

  • Proposed Solution: Number the cows also so that you can tie a cow to a bucket and you don't have spend time thinking which cow's milk is in which bucket or even if you hire a new person, you don;t have spend time on training the person on which cow's milk goes to which bucket. Better maintainability and easy and simple way to improve the situation on hand.

P.S.: i am not sure if this is the right place to ask this question.

  • Wouldn't this question fall into meta.pm.stackexchange.com/q/233/430? – Tiago Cardoso Feb 17 '12 at 15:56
  • @Tiago - I don't think there was ever agreement on what the boundaries are. However, the takeaway for me from that meta question is to try to edit the question to make it be more on-topic. If you can think of a way to edit it without losing the op's message, I encourage you to try it :) Otherwise, the community of 500+ rep users should use their close votes and/or bring up the question in meta. :) Thank you for participating in driving the site's direction! – jmort253 Feb 17 '12 at 23:09
  • @Asdfg How do you know that it is the right solution? Could it be that the members that have been on the team for much longer know a few things that you don't (yet)? Talk to them. Share the facts and your reasoning. Try to convince other team members. Market and sell your idea. It's not easy but if you have the right solution it should almost be a "home run", right? – Manfred Feb 18 '12 at 0:14
  • @Asdfg - Can you clarify - are you an employee/team member, or an outside consultant (hired to solve a particular problem)? I think is a very importnat distinction to understand, and the advice and answers given will be different based on that each role. – Trevor K. Nelson Feb 23 '12 at 15:27
  • @TrevorK.Nelson : I am hired as a consultant to work at the client location. – Asdfg Feb 23 '12 at 16:46
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This may not be a popular answer, but I think you answered your own question just in the way you presented it. You basically said "Why is it is so hard for people to just make the changes I tell them to?" It's a sort of arrogance that says "I know better", and it automatically puts people on the defensive. Even in your comment to David you dismissed their resistance as their failing and reluctance "to be challenged or come out of their comfort zone" (their problem, not yours).

It's never a good idea to walk into an organization and assume you know better than those already there (unless, see last paragraph). Sure, sometimes the new guy brings a certain level of clarity that those more entrenched may not have (being more removed from the history), but it's in how you present your ideas that determines whether or not you'll even be heard.

Project management is people management, so knowing how to interact and influence them is critical.

Not sure where you fall as far as your role in this - your question suggests you're a team member, but your comments suggest you're a consultant. This as well makes a difference. As a team member you need to learn to work with the team. As a consultant you're asked for advice, but it's up the client whether they decide to implement that advice. Either way you get your fee, so if you're certain you're right and they still choose not to accept it, that's their problem.

  • 1
    +1 Good point. No one wants to be told what to do. Unless you're digging ditches, that management theory is just plain not going to work. – jmort253 Feb 17 '12 at 23:21
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    +1 I definately agree and had the same impression. Thanks for your courage to such an answer. – Piotr Leszczyński Feb 19 '12 at 19:24
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It sounds like you may need to spend some time learning the corporate culture. No one, even consultants, can simply rush into an organization and start making major changes. In order to be effective, you'll first need to figure out how the team will react to change. You'll also need to spend some time prioritizing.

You aren't going to win every single battle. Therefore, you'll need to decide what's most important to you, and start there.

If you try to change everything all at once, encounter resistance, and continue to push, you'll be looked at as that annoying guy/gal who is always trying to "shake things up", and as a project manager, I would view someone like that as someone who I, or my team, might have trouble trusting and working with.

2

It falls into one of the most common answers we have here in PMSE:

Communication.

Define 'right solution'. What's correct from one perspective may not be from another. Besides, usually upper level management have a more wide vision of the environment, so maybe it's a matter of not having all info needed.

Still, if you do believe you're trying to do things right while the current process is wrong, get prepared to be resilient and tireless... or look for another job.

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    +1 on define "right." I have yet to come across a solution that is right where all others are wrong. I think this question exposes more of a personality issue than it does an issue with the organization. I would bet he experiences this "all the time." – David Espina Feb 17 '12 at 16:17
  • @DavidEspina : the problem is people dont like to be challenged or come out of their comfort zone. I do experience this many times but as a "consultant", you hire people to bring new ideas and gain their consulting knowledge. If you just want people to follow what is there from 20 years, you dont really need "consultants", you need monkeys. – Asdfg Feb 17 '12 at 22:26
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    New ideas to challenge thinking and having the assumption that YOUR new idea is right are two very different things. Challenge their thinking, sell your case, but leave your pedestal at home. – David Espina Feb 18 '12 at 3:19
2

The core of the issue is that you are new and not yet part of the team. You need to first earn the teams' TRUST (and respect), then start to suggest serious changes.

Until the team trusts that your motives are in the best interest of the team and not yourself, every idea you suggest will be taken as if you are only looking out for yourself.

This is what is going on in the minds of the team: Who the $@# is this guy? (I should have got that job!) He just got here what does he know about our process? What is he up to?

One of the biggest mistakes you can do as a PM is come in on day one and expect to make major changes.

  • This could be the reason but i firmly believe i am hired bcz i was expected to do the better job. Preparing lots of documents to support my change. Its a very small change but worth discussing to prove the point. – Asdfg Feb 17 '12 at 22:30
  • @Asdfg I don't get it? Are you trying to improve your team or to prove some point? Is it about the team or about you (as Trevor suggested in his answer) – Piotr Leszczyński Feb 19 '12 at 19:23
  • surely it is about the team. I am trying to get them see outside the wall that they have created around them. – Asdfg Feb 19 '12 at 23:42
2

How do you know your solution is the right solution? Based on what data or reasoning is your solution the right solution?

As a newbie to a team it is never easy to blend in and at the same time start making your mark. When things appear to be obvious I understand that you are keen to promote your idea. However, could it be that there is a chance that those who have been on the team for longer have learned a few things along the way and therefore don't consider your idea as the "right" idea?

What is it that makes an idea "right"? That it solves a problem? Maybe it does solve the main problem that you can see. But maybe there are other problems that are more pressing. Or maybe your solution would have a number of very nasty side effects that you are not aware of (yet) since you have joined the team only shortly.

My recommendation would be to start communicating. Don't start selling your idea just yet even if - from your perspective - everything points towards your idea being the "right" solution. Instead try to understand where people are coming from. Try to understand their views, perspectives and experience. Just understanding does not mean that you have to agree to all of that. But it will give you more insight into how other team members think and what the team dynamics are. You can incorporate your conclusions into how you present your idea. Maybe you adapt your idea? Maybe you take a different approach to "rolling it out"?

In my experience I have found that the innovator's ideas are not always welcome (if understood in the first place!). The more advanced/radical/innovative ideas are the more likely they are rejected. Inertia or complacency might be at work as well. In those cases it pays off to scale back and look for the pain points as described by other members of the team. Then offer a solution that addresses just that pain point. Your suggestion should be palatable but don't lose sight of your ultimate goal. As your ideas start to work their magic your influence on the team increases. Then you can work towards to ultimate goal.

I have seen this technique work both for my own ideas but also for ideas of my team members. For my team members I serve as the mentor to help them make their ideas (or "right solution" as you called them) a reality. It's a learning process for all involved and some will need more time than others to change.

Good luck!

1

Regarding your edit and example of the problem: A lot of us have a tendency of using extreme and / or rare examples to prove a belief or argument. The analogy you provided represents both a simple problem and simple solution, where any reasonable person would nod his head in agreement with you, which discounts all of the 'what do you mean by right' counter-arguments on this thread.

If the problem you had that triggered this question was this simple, then my follow-up question would be: why do you care they rejected your simple solution? If your job is to deal with these types of things, then you are not of the rank to question decisions.

Simple problems in business are rare or benign because 1) they are cured quickly or 2) there is little impact on the business and no one cares. Mostly, we experience complex problems where root cause(s) are unclear or there are a ton of variables that are out of our control, and we experience complex solutions that live in uncertainty, in that solution 1 has a 30% chance of success, solution 2 has a 45% chance of success and costs twice as much, or the problem has 5 alternative solutions and the team--staffed with very smart, respected individuals--is divided on which way to go.

The comments here are very consistent. Build trust; communicate your case with benefits, cost, and risks instead of how "right" you are; and accept the fact they may have information you do not that makes your approach less desireable.

0

Being in a new work environment, there is always a psychological factor that must not be underestimated. When you have a new job, some psychological theories say that you have to be accepted first by the group and only after that you can bring your new ideas. It is true. But, what I just said is not as important as the law of gravity! I mean that the way you adapt to a new work environment depends on the mission your compagny has or in what kind of market it is doing business. I consulted Mister Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, a few times in the past 2 months. Facebook is part of the social medias world on the Web. It has a very competitive external environment. Mark confirmed to me that he wants his team to bring constantly new ideas to develop quickly innovating projects, even if you make some mistakes along the way. His team, acting that way, made Facebook the most innovating place on the planet (and I easily agreed). That is, of course, included in global strategy or Strategic plannification process. But the slogan at Facecook is "innovate or die" (in my own words). Mark confirmed to me that innovation and creativity are the most important values in his compagny. So with this ensight from Mister Zuckerberg, who became as my own brother along the way, I understood better that the spectrum of possibilities is going from a very bureaucratic environment (where you can't change almost anything without being marginalised - I have no precise compagny in mind) or a very creative environment (where you will be challenge a lot to reach your highest potential as quickly as possible). Between those tow ends, that spectrum is in fact divided in many different shades of possibilities. I have to admit I was greatly inspired by the great American entrepreneur spirit of my new friend. He should write a book or something. So this is my answer, but inspired by some one who has a great an valuable experience of starting his own business.

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People won't listen to you just because you are "right." They'll listen because they trust you or you have the answer to a problem they're having.

Learn your way around. Learn what problem's people have that need solving. Learn how to present ideas in that team and work your way from there.

0

Indeed bringing change to an organisation is not easy.
There is often a kind of resistance.
It is now well-known and called "Change Management" : link to wikipedia among tons of other references.


By the way, the exemple in your question is really interesting :
Are you sure the current solution is not the best one ?
What is at stake ? are their some repeated example of bucket errors ? Is there a real need to add some extra process to this organisation ? Are you sure you can't rely on people and their knowledge ?

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