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Client Change vs. the Boston Marathon

Does it often appear far easier and certainly less frustrating, to run in the Boston Marathon than to successfully implement some change in a client organization? After failing again and again to install changes that “everyone” agreed were needed, it is easy to understand one’s tendency to stop recommending anything (of course, unless one is just plain masochistic).

Here are a few thoughts and considerations that might help the next time you venture to attempt change in a client organization. (For advice on preparation for the Boston Marathon, buy some good running shoes and give a recent winner a call.)

Lower Your Aim. Don’t shoot too high. Select a small and simple project, one that:

  • Responds to a current need in your client’s organization;
  • Requires only currently available client resources to implement;
  • Has the enthusiastic support of people in your client’s organization (a project that benefits all and threatens no one);
  • Can be accomplished in a short period of time to provide some positive feedback to the people working on the project.

Assume the Worst and Prepare Accordingly. Remember Murphy’s Law, “if anything can go wrong, it will – and at the worst possible moment.” Thus by assuming the worst, go for an overkill (advise your client to assign the project much greater importance and resources than, on the surface, it deserves) and have him hunt that rabbit with several machine guns and a grenade. Increase your client’s chances for a success!

Blow Success All Out of Proportion. When (let’s be positive) your client successfully implements its small and simple project, shout it to the world. Remember, it is a big deal if you have experienced so much trouble in the past. Be lavish in your praise of all client participants connected with the project.

Establish a Climate for Change. Remember, the establishment of a changed climate (via the successful small project) in your client’s organization is more important than the initial project itself. Your big achievement has been getting client personnel to begin to work together in accomplishing group tasks. When people win once, it is far easier to get up for the next game.

On to Bigger and Better Things. Bust loose! After the initial success, gradually assist your client in the selection of bigger and bigger projects, always remembering the need for early successes on which to build the future. (Success breeds success.)