As a consultant focused on optimization and automation, I’m often met with resistance from individuals at my clients. These individuals are afraid I’ve been sent there to replace them with a PowerShell script, leaving them without a job. Here are some of the things I do, and you can too, if you ever need to convince someone you’re not there to automate them out of a job.
Don’t be there to automate them out of a job
No, seriously. Always be clear, both in your mind and with your client, what your job is. You’re there to bring the client success on a project with a clearly defined scope. Everything else is secondary, including who keeps their job at the end of the day. Communicating this is important to keep people from feeling like you’re actively trying to undermine them. At worst, you’re indifferent.
Now, that may not sound too encouraging, but we’re just getting started.
Listen and understand
Every person you work with at the client has knowledge that needs to be applied in the solution you’re building. Folks will guard that knowledge, angrily at times, if they feel it’s the only value they bring to the table. That’s why you need to go deeper.
When you’re working with the client to learn about their current processes and solutions, look beyond the knowledge itself to understand the strengths of the people that built and manage them. Here, you can do two things:
- Compliment and draw attention to people’s intrinsic strengths, and
- Start thinking about how people can leverage their strengths in the new solution you’re building.
What you’re doing here is shifting the perceived value from the knowledge to the individual. The old knowledge will become obsolete, but talented individuals can apply their skills towards any solution.
Provide a path forward
As you design your solution, remember what you’ve learned about your peers at the client. Actively look for appropriate places to involve them. Engage them on calls and ask their opinions.
You’ll be showing them unfamiliar things. But, if you choose things that fit their strengths, you’re giving them a study guide on how to remain valuable to their company.
Accept that you can’t control others
You’ve actively engaged with the client. You’ve done your best to provide a place for everyone moving forward. That’s great! But, never forget that your primary focus is the project. Everyone else must choose individually whether they want to put forth the effort to grow or get left behind.
There may be folks that choose to remain stationary. You have to accept their decision and continue to focus on the project’s success. If you try to push people down a path they have no interest in following, they’ll only respond with greater resistance.
Does all this require extra effort on your part? Absolutely. But, it’s worth it. A large part of a project’s success is derived from the perception of success from those involved. That’s why it’s crucial to have as many allies as possible on the client side of the project team.
Obviously I can’t promise this approach will work every time. But, if you apply these steps with transparency and honesty, you’ll greatly ease the tension surrounding the people whose jobs are the most impacted by your project.