A common mistake in change management: “We need more gold!”

A common mistake in change management: "We need more gold!"

That’s something I regularly encounter when a manager needs to improve a process, fix something that doesn’t work and so on. A number of times it starts with “first we need to” and follows by anything that means obtaining additional resources: hiring a new team, ordering the services of a consultant, buying an expensive training course, renting a new office, subscribing to a new software etc. Of course, at some level, these options are excellent, although they are hardly the best place to start.

Why do managers, and especially beginners, tend to opt for these additional resources from the very beginning in a change management process? Because it seems easier than working with existing resources. Sometimes it is easier in fact and sometimes not, but almost always more expensive in the short run.   

You may think “Why does it seem easier?” if we are talking about more people or new software or something else that will require additional efforts to work with. The reason lies in the land of procrastination. It may be on a subconscious level. If you are going to wait for additional resources you-today do not need to do anything and all the work will be done by someone else or by you-next-week, who is a completely different person. And another reason is that you don’t  have to think a lot to find a complex solution that doesn’t necessarily lie on the surface and involves utilizing and possibly reorganizing what you already have. Well that’s a lot of work! 

Let’s break it down with an example. Your team creates mini games and every two weeks they release an update on production. And your statistics reports show that the number of bugs slightly goes up every release. You need to do something with the quality. You go to your QA engineers and they say that there is no way to test more and release every two weeks, and they fairly spend all their time testing. And on the surface you now have two obvious options: either release games longer or hire more QA engineers. Former doesn’t look great at all, latter may seem reasonable. So hire more QAs, simple, right? No, at least not now, let’s look deeper. And there are so many possible reasons under the hood, you just need to look for them. Lack of unit tests and endless manual regression tests, slow test machines, suboptimal test cases, incorrect test environment and so on. Millions of reasons and possibilities open up. Pick up a couple and improve them with your current team. Then check. Improve again and check and so on. It is more challenging but gives a lot more as a result than simply increasing resources in the first place.      

Always start with analyzing what you already have. That is especially important if you are a startup and count cash. As a benefit this approach gives you a chance to find a unique solution in your situation that works the best for you, for the team and for the business. Because when you run out of resources, you switch to Creative mode.      

Another thing to consider about extra people, extra investment, is that when you scale up something that doesn’t work well, you scale up problems. And it can turn into an endless cycle until you completely run out of finances. 

So what do you do next time you want to improve a process in your team? 

Don’t wait and start with what personally YOU can do, together with your team and your colleagues. At some point, you will be able to switch to the option to add additional resources, but only when you are sure that this is what’s left and you have a plan.