Tech Manager—The Second Law of Tech Motion
Tech managers need to get things moving, keep things moving, and avoid negative motion. We talked last time about the First Law of Tech Motion. Go back and read that article if you missed it.
Now we turn to the second of Sir Isaac Newton’s Laws of Motion: "The rate of change of momentum of a body is directly proportional to the force applied, and this change in momentum takes place in the direction of the applied force.” By the way, the first Law is: "A body at rest will remain at rest, and a body in motion will remain in motion unless it is acted upon by an external force." And the third: "For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction."
Transmogrifying Newton’s Laws in the Tech Laws takes a little effort, but we can make the leap. Here we go.
The Second Law of Tech Motion
Spinning off of Newton’s Second Law I came up with two ways of saying it… “The more you push, the more things change. The bigger the change, the more pushing it will take. Things change in the direction you push.” Or maybe “Things change in the direction you push depending on the effort you put in and how big the change is. Things change faster if you push harder. Big things change slower and take more effort.”
The Force (Push)
Pushing technology advancement is your job. No one else is going to think about it more than you. You will have some “pull” from others who have great ideas about where to go and others who have some “crazy” ideas. Things need to change and you need to start the process. Start small by rocking the boat a little. Get some traction with some small items and then move to a large one.
You can push in several ways. Some not so good; others are better.
Power. You exert your power to make it happen. As tech manager, you have the power to do this (hopefully) by using your position. You can force others to use your standard or your method or to move to some new piece of software. This method may seem more like intimidation or brute force or more subtly as coercion or hostage taking (keeping something from the user). This is not the best, but sometimes is used.
Protest. You complain about the issues to the point where people do something because you are right or because they want to shut you up. Being cranky and critical may not make others your best friends but it does sometimes make people change things. This may look like being a tattletale or a whistleblower (in the negative sense), or just a complainer. The best way to do this is to ask questions… is this really working like we hoped? Is there a better way? And to move this from bad to good, you need to have a plan for making things better.
Praise. You could talk up the glories of another way of doing things. Waft the productivity enhancements that will come as a result of your ideas. Discuss the avoidance of troubles it will allow. Pay tribute to the grand new process that is going to energize every project. You need to do some of this, but this is not all you need to do.
Pronouncement. Kind of like Power and Praise, but this just makes statement, sends memos, and makes documents that set out the target for the change. Pronouncements initiate a process change by defining the end, but sometimes not the process of getting there. They can be ineffective in establishing real long-term change. To make this better, you need to map out the road ahead and how you can reach the goals.
Persuasion. The process of convincing someone that change is needed, cannot be avoided, and must happen to create a better environment. This is done by using conversation and connection to effect change. It is using argument (the positive kind) and reason to move someone along. This is the one you should be using. Telling people how the change will help and how they can participate.
Of all these—Power, Protest, Praise, Pronouncement, and Persuasion—the last one has the best chance of effecting change that will stick. I could have added others… more “P” words… Pouting or Prodding, for example. Persuasion impacts someone who does not care, cares little, or actually desires something different, and moves them to your position. Persuade someone to embrace a change and they will go with you, rather than fight against you.
After you have your strategic plan in place, you have a good idea on where the push needs to happen. (You have done your plan, right? If not, go back and read my prior articles.) Your push needs to be focused on the greatest impact improvements or correctives. The plan will uncover the direction you need to head. Develop the plan and then work the plan. If you notice that there needs to be some course correction along the way, then do that also.
If you have not defined the direction you are heading, you will not see much progress. Progress may happen, but it will be in random areas and not connected to the whole. This may mean that the progress flows at whatever rate or trajectory that might come up. Success will not be a product of planning, but a random act of luck.
Others may try to define direction for you. They will suggest tools and software that do not fit into your focus. Let them define things long enough and they will actually end up suggesting that you are just a maintainer and that you do not have a progressive embrace of technology.
Take charge of the future by defining it yourself. By doing this, you place yourself at the helm of the ship and can steer toward your goals.
The Momentum (Speed)
If you are changing something small or inconsequential, it can happen pretty fast. One company I worked for used to change people’s desk locations to increase the collaboration of the project team. As you were assigned to a new project, you moved. No one really settled into a location for extended periods of time. So when a change was needed, there was not that much that needed to be moved (since no one really unpacked everything). They just tossed things in a few boxes and moved to the next desk/floor/building and plopped into a new seat. Quick change.
Larger changes, like adopting new software, take much longer. You need to manage that change and plan for the long haul. Map out the steps it will take, establish a proof-of-concept effort, define the pilot projects, and plan the proliferation carefully. You will be working on it for a while. You will need to push the change on some and others might grab the wheel and spin it in another direction. Remember you can control speed and direction. To get a good feel for planning a large software migration, read my post (originally in AUGI HotNews) called Migration Madness. It is from the distant past, but the concepts might still be good.
Next time, the Third Law… Until then, start pushing. And say “Thank you” to someone today.