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A Guide Through the Valley of Despair

While the construction industry is notoriously slow to adapt technology, the shift from paper and disparate systems to a program management information system (PMIS) is no longer a luxury. It is a necessity to keep projects on time and on budget.

This step forward is necessary to become nimble and efficient when managing a portfolio of capital programs.

Implementing a new system is never easy, and with so many moving parts of a capital program, the shift is even more challenging. The true value of a PMIS comes from the people who are using it; technology only adds to success, but the people using it hold the real power!

When adopting technology, people tend to travel through “the valley of despair.” Emotions range from optimism, fear, despair, determination and finally, success. Organizations implementing a new PMIS also navigate this tricky landscape. Luckily, there are some tips to help them strategically move through it.

Moving Successfully Through the Valley 

The “valley of despair” occurs in the workplace and in life when a change is occurring. Change is necessary but uncomfortable. People are naturally resistant to new things; they fear the unknown. When organizations introduce a new way of operating, team members may find themselves longing for the familiar and safe.

It is important to acknowledge and accept that these “valley of despair” emotions will happen. People enter the valley because of the uncertainty of learning something new. They are giving up something comfortable in exchange for something that promises to be better but is still unknown.

VISUAL: Optimism, Fear, Despair, Determination, Success

  • Optimism: In the first stage, people are excited for the promise of a new, efficient way to do things and the opportunity to collaborate.
  • Fear: People are starting to realize that this will change their workload and daily operations. They want to know exactly how they will get their work done. There is often resistance when people think their daily duties are under a microscope. They want to know if this technology means their jobs are in jeopardy.
  • Despair: At this point, they hit the bottom of the valley. They do not understand the process, and meetings become frustrating. If they are not involved in the feedback loop, it is unclear how changes relate to them.
  • Determination: This deeper look into their duties slowly starts to address root issues. They start having small wins. They begin to see how their processes will work in the system because they are able to use the new tools, and it is no longer an abstract concept. The morale of team members starts to climb as they become more invested in the work.
  • Success: Changes are slowly being adopted, and people are moving forward. Fewer people are resisting change, and the new way of doing things is slowly becoming routine!

Where the Journey Begins

To successfully move through the different states of “the valley of despair,” focus on these elements that assure success:

  • Buy-in from leadership: Management must be evangelists and agents of change.
  • Clear strategy: Define what success means to the organization and team members. They must know their goals, priorities and scope of the project to set clear expectations.
  • Concise and frequent communication: It is key to have open discussions through the entire process and have a continuous feedback forum.
  • Review points: It is important for the team to understand the process and progress. Do not forget to celebrate wins, big and small!

Guide the Team

All teams in the capital program lifecycle will be interacting with the system, so they must be considered in the communication and feedback loop. This includes groups both internal and external:

  • Capital planning
  • Project controls
  • Finance
  • Engineering
  • Materials
  • Design & Construction
  • Operations & maintenance

The organization must also define how each person contributes. Clearly defined roles help members of the team feel a part of the process.

Know who the team champions are and leverage them to help move those who hesitate forward through the valley. Peer support, along with executive support, is just as important.

Navigating Change

Change is scary, and each person will go through it differently. Only organizations who lead their teams through the valley of despair will be successful when adopting a new PMIS. With help, the team will progress from resistance to ownership. Once there is ownership, the team will start to create solutions, and the organization will truly see a return on investment.

About the Author

Alyce Menton is the Director of Marketing at Kahua, responsible for all strategy, content and go to market initiatives for targeted vertical market segments. Throughout her 25+ year career she has leveraged her extensive experience with marketing technologies to enable highly effective omni-channel connection and communication across a broad range of stakeholders and end users.

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