Adventures in product development: Managing through change

So I’m finding myself in a situation where there’s tons of change and ambiguity surrounding a large chunk of the work I do. There are lots of questions about the future, how resources will be deployed, and all the elephant in the room stuff you know about unless you live under a rock.
I’ve spent alot of the week walking around the floor talking with people and keeping them focused on stuff we have to do, and it occurred me that this was a great moment to share advice about managing through change and keeping people focused enough to at least get the critical things done.
So, for managers of teams and individuals contributors alike, here are some suggestions on ways to think about keeping on that have been top of mind for me this week:
1. It’s okay to acknowledge the situation truly sucks (or that aspects of it do.)
2. But it’s not 0kay to make that an excuse for not meeting our deliverables or staying focused–after all, we have stuff to ship/deadlines/a business to run and that doesn’t change, no matter what.
3. Keep everyone busy–hunkering down to the work is actually a great relief–getting PRDs and estimates and programming stints done on time are things we both need to do and can have some control over, unlike the elephant in the room stuff.
4. Times of change are a good moment to consider dialing down on PRDs and getting scrummier–you’ll empower the team and save DAYS/WEEKS in approvals and stakeholder reviews–always a great thing when the project work supports it.
5. Maintain your ties and support your team. In good times, the relationship with the manager is a staffer’s #1 determinant of job satisfaction. When there’s flux, ties between everyone–manager and staffers–really matter. This is a great time to lean on the commonality of what you share, draw closer, and try to support one another, both on getting work done and in managing stress.
6. Share what you can. Tell stories. It’s a manager’s job to protect and buffer her team, but it’s equally important to be a conduit for information from the bigger organization. Without breaking confidentiality or speculating in place of solid info. a good manager will pass along as much as possible of her perspective on what’s happening and encourage people to share their views and concerns (at least till folks hit the whining stage, at which point it’s game over.)
7. Don’t try to solve everything. When there’s large scale change, you can’t put a bandaid on it. So, why bother trying?
8. Stay open and open minded. Take it slow. Flexibility and multiple viewpoints are useful when there’s an elephant in the room and increasing ambiguity.
9. Don’t act–or react–based on conjecture and speculation. Be realistic with people about their need to feel in control and safeguarding some security, but discourage the leap before you’re pushed impulses–they don’t usually work that well.
10. Act with integrity, compassion and a focus on outcome/results–and remember, no one said it’s easy. It never is.

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  1. Betsy says:

    As one who’s been in a similar situation, I can attest that you’re offering some wise advice here. I hope you’re able to navigate the rapids while keeping your integrity and sanity both intact!

  2. Lisa Williams says:

    Take care of yourself, Susan; this stuff is hard.

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