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A technology case study: implementing what the customer wants

Submitted by on Friday, 24 June 2011

In order for any change to occur – whether it’s a decision to purchase a product, or an implementation to add new technology – whatever touches the ultimate solution must buy-in to the change.

Often our focus is on getting the end-result we think we want. We forget that without buy-in from the necessary  people and policies that maintain the status quo, we face the high cost of the resistance eminating from pushing change into a system that believes that it’s fine, thanks.

I’d like to share a story about how I helped my own tech guys shift their project work and our revenue as a result of having decision facilitation skills. At the end of the day, unless there is a decision – one person at a time – to adopt to, know how to, and be willing to change, there will be resistance and possibly failure.

FIRST SIGNS OF TROUBLE

I owned a body shop/recruitment company to support new technology. We had 43 tech folks going out to client sites as programmers, systems analysts/designers, project managers/leaders.

Within the first months, I began hearing murmurs of annoyance from the folks: “Stupid users.” “We have to spend twice as long redoing what they told us to do!” “Why don’t they get it right when we first talk to them?”

As a test to see what was going on that was creating so much failure and cost (time/money), I called in my head tech guy to design a requirement I’d been complaining about.

Julian’s first question was: “What do you want?” I didn’t know how to respond because 1. I wasn’t a techie and didn’t know how to explain to him in his language; 2. I didn’t have the right description, as it was mostly a picture in my mind. So I responded “I don’t know.” Julian smirked. “This is what I hear from clients. But I know what you want. I’ll take care of it and show you some screens next week.”  We were already in the middle of the problem.

What he created was from his own vantage point, using his own beliefs and limiting assumptions. “This is all wrong,” I said.

Julian’s eyes glazed over. In the UK you don’t tell the MD that she’s a Stupid User. I continued: “Imagine where we’d be now if you had started our conversation with ‘ What would you have if you had all of your wishes and dreams, and a computer could do everything that your brain would like to do?’ With that, I could have I would have ‘designed’ screens and offered colors and made up functionality. That would have been a far better start.

NEW SKILLS FOR INTERNAL CONSULTANTS

I realized that all of our tech guys needed decision facilitation skills to enable them to

  • recognize how to bring together the appropriate elements to be included in a way that would serve both the strategic AND tactical elements,
  • elicit the right data at the right time so the clients could get their projects completed efficiently,
  • eliminate resistance.

I taught the 43 tech guys my ‘Buying Facilitation® model (a decision facilitation model that is a change management model, independent of  buying or selling). The results were instant, and dramatic.

  • The systems designers were able to elicit the right data and develop the exact right design the first time with no redos.
  • The systems analysts not only understood the tech issues, but were able to understand and address all of the personal/human issues and manage the change and potential resistance issues upfront, before they became a problem.
  • The programmers got the proper information to code the first iteration, with a minimum of changes.
  • The client didn’t need the work to be redone.
  • The clients got to hear/see/feel their vision of success and agree to it before anyone moved ahead with technology.
  • The projects were completed well before time – sometimes 25% sooner – and since we were being paid on a project basis, we made more money and the team was freed up for the next project.
  • The clients trusted us so much that they handed over much of their own programmer’s work to us and were able to take on additional creative projects that they hadn’t planned.
  • With 26 competitors, we captured 11% of the market (even with prices well over 40% higher than everyone…. my nickname was Sharon Drew Blood), and my clients signed sole supplier contracts.
  • Everyone was happy, and I kept all of my employees for 4 years.

In fact, my competition tried to steal my employees; no one budged, regardless of the money that was thrown at them. I made sure they had plenty of personal time off, I took them for darts/beer at the local pub once a month, and I made sure they were happy. Plus I kept them doing what they loved, rather than having to deal with any ‘issues.’

I hired a ‘Make Nice Guy’ (who I also trained) to go make sure everything chugged happily along: if any sort of problem – client concern, project glitch, personality issue, tech malfunction – occured, it was his regardless of time of day. Or he could take the day off.

As a result, I had nothing to do but grow my company. And I was able to exit after under 4 years, with 3 branches in two countries (offices in London, Stuttgart, Hamburg), $5,000,000 revenue (remember this was a start up in 1983, in a huge depression) and a 43% net profit.

…. need decision facilitation skills and listening skills in addition to technology skills. Read my new book What? Did you really say what I think I heard? and call me to help your folks hear clients without bias or assumptions. www.didihearyou.com or contact me directly at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com

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  • http://slimviews.blogspot.com Slim Fairview

    Don’t feel bad, Sharon Drew.  Years back I had a problem with something as simple as my msn: a user designed version of msn.com.  I would click the link to reach the page with no problem. Then Microsoft decided to improve the “product”. 

    The next time I clicked the link, I could not get to my page.  I contacted tech support. [“I never want to hear anyone ask, “Did you try clearing your cache?” ever again.] 

    After several e-mail exchanges, I pointed out that I almost never had a user end problem. They were always supply side.  Can there be something wrong on your end?  I did not receive a reply. I had to troubleshoot the problem myself. 

    In the address window I saw, http://my.msn etc.  What I did was to key in the http://www.  The link started working again.  I tested the link several times.  Logging off and on. Shutting down the computer and restarting it.  The link worked.  I cleared my cache. The link stopped working. I re-entered the www. The link to My MSN began working again. 

    I e-mailed msn tech support the solution to the problem.  I did not hear back from them. It doesn’t matter. I solved the problem.

    Slim