It has been a hard week last week. Being involved in a large process change process for a software organization, I have been foreseeing a great deal of problems that are now materializing in reality. We are on the go for several months now, preparing new process definitions, changing software architecture, changing software archive structure, changing build processes, changing supportive tools and scripts, training people, etcetera.
One of the issues I have expected is that the people are just continuing their old habits, their old ways of working, in the new environment. But the new environment has far more flexibility on one side, and more control mechanisms on the other side. So what happens is that the new flexibility is not used, or it is used in an inefficient way and the new control mechanisms are more and more getting in the way. The result is that process are becoming less efficient and less effective, even though the objective was (and is) to gain development speed, to gain management ability to steer in the right direction and to gain visibility of the process.
Now I am wondering: Should I have taken action earlier? In fact I did, but nobody listened. Why did nobody listen? Because they did not have a problem yet. One of the hardest things for a (change) consultant is to change something that is not a problem for those who have to change. They simply are not open for change, even though they may want to. Resistence is not a matter of attitude (although it often is), but it is a natural byproduct of being inexperienced in changing. Even worse, many of the quality programs aim for reproducibility, predictability and repeatability, not for change in spite of the term Process Improvement”.
But now they know! Now they are confronted with many different things that do actually go wrong, and that have to be corrected immediately because the project is suffering delays. Of course they blame the new process! And they know it should be address right now, a solution must be ready by yesterday. In other words, time is right for change now, although we do not really have enough time and opportunity to make the change because the project is delaying by every day. And in the past, when we had the opportunity to change things, it was simply impossible to do so.
For many, many years I have fought against these windmills, trying to change people, processes and the organization to prevent them from running into problems, before the time was right. It was a hard and endless struggle and in many occasions my evaluation and my carreer suffered from it. Now I have learned that knowing the best solution is a handicap sometimes, since it is not always the best solution at the time. I have learned not to try to convince people too hard to do something about it, but just to prepare them that it will go wrong. And then, I have learned to be patient until time is right. Act too early, and you will spoil the opportunity to make the difference.