Consulting and “hoof in mouth” disease

Sad yellow emoji holding an OOPS! sign“This will be so much simpler than what you’re doing now – there will be so much less to do!”

That was me, many years ago in my early days of tech project management, cheerfully extolling the benefits of the new software I was at the client’s to install.

Whoops. Open mouth, insert foot. The client project manager’s eyes got big. The end-user team I was talking with started whispering with each other.

Enthusiastic statements like the one I’d just made immediately create anxiety about job security. Which is not conducive to full engagement with the inevitable changes that come with new technology.

Tech consultants tend to be upbeat about the ways in which the work they’re doing will create improvements. And tech consultants are primarily focused on the tech, not the people. The technology is their expertise, it’s their goal, it’s their job.

Typically, responsibility for managing client end-user expectations and experience belongs to the client. The tech project manager’s job – full-time and then some – is to focus on a successful implementation. But unless the client project owner is skilled in change leadership – which most aren’t, and no blame to them; it’s a specialized skill – then the end users’ concerns, doubts, and anxieties can be overlooked.

Which means that those concerns, doubts, and anxieties, left unanswered, tend to create slowdowns, misunderstandings, and pushback, which can lead to schedule disruptions and even cost overruns.

Fortunately, with the help of the client project owner, I was able to reassure the client team that no job reassignments or layoffs were planned. Instead, the efficiencies gained would allow the team to be more effective and do better work. (Yes, I hyperventilated for a bit there, but all was well.)

Tech-oriented project managers need to stay tech-oriented. It’s not their job to support client end-user teams in adapting to the new processes and ways of working imposed by the new technology.

But when technology vendors understand that their clients will inevitably have to manage disruption and uncertainty, they can provide specialized support to help the client’s end-user teams understand what’s happening – and willingly engage in the process.

I’ve come a long way since that “hoof in mouth” misstep – and now I have a lot of experience working with small/medium technology companies to help them support their clients through the changes caused by the technology they provide. Want to learn more? Contact me and we’ll set a time to talk.