Grandma’s iPhone: An Exercise in Managing Change

My wife and I are in Seattle for a few days, visiting our son and his family and celebrating Abby’s first birthday.  So Wayne and Nancy decided this was the perfect time to implement a change they had been advocating for over a year: replacing Grandma’s old cell phone with a new iPhone 4S.  Naturally, they enlisted my support and counsel before proceeding.  But first, let’s talk about our user community – my wife.

Lien isn’t a Luddite.  She actually gets a kick out of Skype, using her Netbook, my iPad, and various other gadgets.  She’s sophisticated about Email, texting, and apps, and she takes pictures with her old phone.  But she’s never wanted a smart phone.  She just wants to make phone calls, and she’s got her cost containment strategies down pat.  From international calling cards to night-time rates, she’s never once gone over on our monthly minutes.  So she sees a data plan as a frivolous waste of money, and dinking around with phone apps as silly and childish.  No matter what I’ve told her, she’s resisted smart phones for over three years.  But now her old phone battery simply won’t hold a charge for as long as it used to.  And Nancy has been enticing her with Facetime, the ability to check out the baby monitor from her phone, and using the GPS capability to find the nearest [insert specialty store name here].

Still, she’s resisted changing phones, and she’s starting to resent the gentle pressure.  So I suggested they focus on her interest in recycling.  Note that this is the woman who saves the water she washes her fruits and vegetables in, so she can water her garden.  She shreds junk mail for mulch, mends all tears in clothing, and re-uses every glass jar, from salsa to spaghetti sauce.  I told them to find the details of the available phone recycling programs, so she could feel like she wasn’t just adding to the land fill.  They also brought her to the AT&T sales office, so the staff there could automatically transfer her phone numbers and photos to the new phone.  And Wayne used his Best Buy bonus points to reduce the final cost of the phone.

As I write this, they are upstairs, configuring her account, exploring all of the camera features, introducing her to Siri, and admiring some of her old photos that are now easier to browse.  She’s bonding with her new phone, in a high-touch but necessary process.  And I’m patiently waiting for them to finish, so I can ask her to show it all to me.

Change management isn’t just a matter of taking away the old thing, handing someone a new thing, and saying it’s an improvement.  It’s about understanding the real concerns of the users, and addressing them in a way that is meaningful to them.  Because it’s only an improvement if the users use the new thing to do new things.  Or at least do the same old things better, faster, cheaper, or more reliably.  And that only happens if they accept the new thing, and act on those new capabilities.  Any other outcome really is a waste of scarce resources.

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About Dave Gordon

Dave Gordon is a project manager with over twenty five years of experience in implementing human capital management and payroll systems, including SaaS solutions like Workday and premises-based ERP solutions like PeopleSoft and ADP Enterprise. He has an MS in IT with a concentration in project management, and a BS in Business. In addition to his articles and blog posts, he curates a weekly roundup of articles on project management, and he has authored or contributed to several books on project management.

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