One of the topics I had planned to spend more time discussing in 2010 is change management. I found this quote today that I think offers a nice perspective on one element of change management
”It’s called the culture buffer because you have to put effort in to get past it and break through. It’s a buffer because it is highly resistant, not because the old is bad and the new is good or that the old is good and the new is bad, but because it’s what we have got used to. Good or bad doesn’t come in to it.”
I think we often under estimate what Martin Fenwick calls the “culture buffer” and what I call the “unfamiliarity factor”. It’s actually quite simple — difference requires attention and attention requires energy. As a normal over committed and over stressed human being I will always want to minimize anything that I consider low value that requires my attention and hence consumes energy. In New Zealand it’s resistance to a new formulation of crème eggs for Easter, for me it’s been diet drinks with the splenda rather than aspartame. When I grab a diet drink I want it to taste like I expect it to taste so there’s no thought involved (the focus is on quenching my thirst). If my first sip says “this tastes different” then I have to decide if I like that taste or not and if I don’t whether or not I’m going to continue to consume the product. If my answer is no, then I need to go in search of something else to quench my thirst and the whole thing has turned into a production.
Software Projects that make small but annoying changes to user interfaces are an area we need to focus on more consciously when we’re making decisions about what’s included in our projects. Some organizations respond by changing the new user interface back to the old to make users happy, BUT that might be a very costly and unnecessary fix. The right answer is simply to be conscious about it and actually make a decision as to the cost/value of the change.
By the way the best discussion on “value” in this context that I’ve read recently is Stand Back and Deliver.