Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 1, Issue 40;   October 3, 2001: Don't Worry, Anticipate!

Don't Worry, Anticipate!

by

Dramatic changes in policy or procedure are often challenging, especially when they have some boneheaded components. But by accepting them, by anticipating what you can, and by applying Pareto's principle, you can usually find a safe path that suits you.

Cheryl couldn't believe what she was hearing. As Regional Director of IT Services, she would be implementing the new procedures for requisitioning desktop and laptop equipment, and she could see chaos looming. She felt that familiar knot forming in the back of her neck as she envisioned hoards of frustrated project managers screaming for her head.

Maybe it was time to retire and open that florist shop — but she couldn't really afford that. She would have to find a way to make this work, or find another job someplace.

If only I were a florist?Before the changes, IT Service Representatives received requisitions for new equipment, and checked them for correctness and compliance with standards. If there were any mistakes, the Service Rep would contact the requisitioner. Under the new scheme, the Service Reps would simply bounce the form back to the originator. They would no longer assist requisitioners in fixing defective requisitions. According to headquarters, this would reduce costs: "It's time they grew up and learned how to complete a simple form."

The form was simple, but the equipment being specified wasn't. And since the list of approved configurations was changing constantly, lots of requisitions would bounce. Some projects would be delayed, and Cheryl could see how her department would be caught in the middle.

Next morning, she had a brilliant idea. Instead of worrying, she would anticipate. Here's what she realized:

Use Pareto's Principle
(the 80/20 rule) to
focus your attention.
By addressing 20%
of the problems, you can
eliminate 80% of your load.
Accept what is
True, this was a problem Cheryl never should have had. She would much rather have led of a customer-centered approach, without the cavalier bouncing back of out-of-band requisitions, but that issue was above her pay grade. Stewing about it just made her angry. So she accepted it, and that enabled her to anticipate the consequences.
Use Pareto's Principle to focus your anticipation
Cheryl recognized that Pareto's Principle (the 80/20 rule) meant that 80% of the difficulty came from 20% of the cases. For IT Services, most of the problems came from only 5 of the 22 site administrators responsible for requisitions. Cheryl decided that she would deal with the "Fabulous Five" specially — perhaps a personal visit from a Service Rep to explain what would happen to their requisitions under the new procedure.
Prevent problems rather than repair them
By coordinating with Training and the managers of site administrators, she would make sure that requisitioners had all they needed to get it right. Cheryl reframed the problem from one of making massive repairs to one of reducing the error rate.

When change comes, we can worry about what the future holds, or we can anticipate what might happen, and deal with it. Is a change coming for you? Are you worrying or anticipating? Go to top Top  Next issue: The Mind Reading Trap  Next Issue

101 Tips for Managing ChangeIs your organization embroiled in Change? Are you managing a change effort that faces rampant cynicism, passive non-cooperation, or maybe even outright revolt? Read 101 Tips for Managing Change to learn how to survive, how to plan and how to execute change efforts to inspire real, passionate support. Order Now!

There is much information on the Web and elsewhere about Pareto's Principle. For example, visit CDS Solutions, or J. A. Schumpeter, 'Vilfredo Pareto', in Ten Great Economists from Marx to Keynes. New York: Oxford University Press, 1965. Order from Amazon.com

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We sometimes "downscope" projects to bring them back on budget and schedule when they're headed for overruns. Downscoping doesn't always work. Cognitive biases like the sunk cost effect and confirmation bias can distort decisions about how to downscope. Available here and by RSS on October 12.

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