Lasting Impressions

Kevin Slater | CEO

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2019 has been full of big projects at work and at home; from software conversions to role restructuring, a kitchen remodel, and a never-ending deck project. I have learned that great project management includes all of the usual steps: define your outcome, carefully analyze, schedule, budget, manage priorities, et cetera. And it includes trying to manage the stress put on those affected by the project.

Change creates stress: new work, more work, uncertainty, living without something we depend on, unanticipated impacts, being forced to change habits, and the list goes on. It doesn’t matter if a project leads to fabulous improvements; the process of getting there is usually stressful. In fact, it can be easy to lose the joy of what you accomplish in the strain of the journey. And strong feelings created during the process can last long after the project is done.

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I am discovering how much influence I have on other people’s stress during times of change—for better or for worse. I have given up on the idea of trying to create stress-free changes—that is unrealistic. However, there are things I can do (or not do) to make it less stressful.

I can help prepare people by acknowledging the certain ups and downs that lie ahead. I can actively encourage people along the way. I can celebrate key accomplishments. I can remind them of how important their role is in the outcome. I can join them in learning from mistakes. And we can choose to have fun in the midst of the mayhem.

Our family has a new tradition with home projects. We pause during the project to create something in a place or manner that we might not otherwise experience. For example, writing notes on the wall joists before the sheetrock goes on; or etching in the wet concrete of new deck footings. Everyone has fun despite the stress we are enduring.

Creating fun applies at work too. As we have prepared our database for conversion, we granted key team members “Data Hygienist” designations. Before we launched our fall projects, we took the entire staff out for an abstract painting party.

Have I made anyone’s stress disappear? No. But I hope we have helped reduce their misery and created some positive lasting memories. Maybe they will be able to enjoy both the fruit of their work and the process in getting there.