March  01,  2015

Someone broke into my house, repainted the walls and rearranged the furniture. That’s how a friend described his response to the new iPhone OS. As a number of my friends compared notes, we decided we didn’t like moving from our familiar OS to a new one. But we don’t discard our phones. We deal with it, and even learn to appreciate new features. And then we complain about the next iteration.

A common refrain: once you get used to it, it’s fine.

People are remarkably adaptive. We adapt to altitude within four days and extreme altitude within 46 days. It takes four weeks to adjust to an artificial knee. It can take six months to adjust to a new job, four months to a year for a new culture – and of course, there’s adapting to returning home, which experts claim can take just as long.
Yet, despite our remarkable ability to adapt, we tend to resist. We have not evolved to embrace the very adaptation that promotes our survival.

Implications? Don’t mind the whine. Focus instead on getting the change to work. If you’ve done your work and your solution is a benefit to the organization, people will come around.

I met with the founder and president of a multi-billion company who had installed an ERP system, with disastrous results. As a conglomerate, the company had up to seven sales people calling upon a single customer; they hoped the new system would allow one salesperson to meet a customer’s needs. But due to a rough implementation, they can’t fulfill orders. The founder asked whether they should yank out the system and start over. My advice was this: you’ve already got employees hating you, so don’t cross that bridge twice. They don’t like what’s happening, and that’s valid. But you’re still in charge of finding the right solution. Don’t start over — focus now on fixing the system as a quickly as possible.

President Obama is facing this very issue with the healthcare exchanges. What’s interesting is that this is presumably something millions of people want. People voted for the legislators who passed it, they re-elected the President who authored it, and they are trying to get into the system. Here again, the best course is focus – focus on fixing, and focus on the right voices. The loudest voices are currently not those of users – they are the voices of those who derive power from the drama.

Don’t let the noise distract you. It’s not the initial chatter but the results that matter.