Want Change? Make “your” way the easiest way

If you want to establish new ways to do things (i.e. processes), make sure that this new way is the easiest route for people to reach their goal. If the old way is easier, the new one won’t ever be adopted.

There is a new way to handle support, designed to let the developers work in peace: The supporters place tickets up a wall that the teams pull and solve within 24 hours. Dean, a developer is upset because Stan, a supporter, ignores the new process. Stan approaches Dean directly – ruining his flow – to push him support tickets. Just as he did before the change.

I’m Dean’s scrum master and Dean’s venting his anger about Stan’s frequent interruptions. Dean wants me to do something about it. The catch is that when Stan approaches Dean directly, Dean actually solves the support ticket directly. Not only does Stan’s shortcut work, it works faster = better, than the official way! Sure, it’s harmful to Dean’s work, but that is a pain Stan doesn’t feel.

In this situation I have had about a snowball’s chance in hell to get Stan to adopt the new way. He wants to help our customers as fast as possible and it would take saint-like restraint not to go the direct route as long as it works. So actually the person in charge here is the raging Dean. He has to stop fulfilling Stan’s offside requests and thus make the official way the fastest and easiest one for Stan to reach his goal.

This is a real life example and Stan indeed started to use the official channel when Dean stopped solving direct requests.

So announce the new way and then stick it out. Don’t help people when they take harmful shortcuts. Also expect to repeat yourself a lot – to explain the new process and the reasoning behind it – to all those trying the olden ways. (Do it good-naturedly. They are not trying to make it hard for you. Information just gets lost in a large group of people. Deal with it.)

It helps immensely if the new process is actually

  • simple
    (putting a piece of paper to a wall vs. filling out 2 forms and obtaining a signature from your boss)
  • and delivers results in a reasonable timeframe
    (24h for a support ticket – i.e. an interaction with an unsatisfied customer – vs. a week)

What do you do to ease along the adoption of new routines in a larger group?