Pilots are our friend

Resistance to change at every level of an organization can always be present and a challenge to navigate.

One of my favorite approaches when facing resistance to change is to propose a pilot project.

The structure of the pilot is very similar to that of a project.

Defining the problem or opportunity.

Setting the goals and/or objectives.

Identifying the scope.

Determine the participants.

Prepare a communication.

Have a kick-off meeting.

And so on.

The key element is the timeline.

The timeline needs to be as short as possible and, in my experience, not exceeding 3-months depending on the scope of the project.

In other words, we need to see results in a very timely manner.

Given this, even those that might be opposed show less resistance knowing the pilot will be a short one and if it does not work, we will go back to the way things were.

In order to achieve this, I usually pull from my research methods training and I start with a hypothesis to test.

I don’t always share this hypothesis in writing as this type of statistical analysis does not always resonate with everyone.

I sometimes have more than one hypothesis I want to test.

The hypothesis comes from a substantial amount of observation and direct feedback from those doing the work.

It can even be influenced by what has been tried in the past that I know of and what has not ever been tried.

I gain this understanding by asking questions, especially by asking those with organizational knowledge.

I factor tests in the pilot with the notion that my hypothesis will be validated or otherwise.

To achieve this, I ask the participants to keep a running list of changes made and the result.

The results can take the form of reduced steps, reduced time, better quality, dollar cost savings, better ergonomics, more satisfied customers based on feedback etc.

I use the phrase, “Key Project Indicators” instead of performance indicators as not every work environment is aligned with classic performance measures.

If the pilot is measured to be a success, we can continue on this path.

If the pilot is not deemed a success, be prepared to own it, and not pursue the path.

This is a mistake I have seen many make.

People are so strongly connected to their idea and hypothesis that they can’t admit even when they face failure.

In several instances, I have witnessed failed pilots be manipulated to look like success, the path was continued only to result in a larger failure down the road.

At that point, more damage was done, and reality had to be faced.

This level of risk was never factored not agreed to and it was an unknown.

The benefit of a pilot with a short timeline is that the failure can be contained and known in advance.

You will only risk what you want to risk.

Needless to say, communication is key from start to finish.

With a successful pilot, at the end, it is vital to relay the before and after and capture testimonials along the way.

I always take the approach that if I had to or wanted to, I could share my final closure document or results with anyone that asked to see them.

At the end of the day, pilots are our friend.