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Change Is Good. You Go First. January 23, 2009

Posted by Chuck Musciano in Leadership.
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Once again, a seemingly Minor Event in my life causes Great Consternation and, upon reflection, provides a Greater Lesson for us all.  In this case, the Minor Event was the arrival of a new cell phone.

Let’s be clear: I love cell phones, and PDAs, and any sort of handheld device that you carry about.  If it fits in your hand, needs to be charged, has a screen, and can be endlessly configured and customized, it is my kind of device.  In the spirit of clarity, I’ll also share that I am extremely picky about user interfaces and the user experience in general.  I will tinker endlessly to get the screen layout just right, or to optimize the sequence of clicks to perform some action.

Disclosures made, let’s move to the Minor Event. Last week, I upgraded from my wonderful Samsung Blackjack II cellphone to the Samsung Epix.  Both devices run Windows Mobile and sport dedicated keyboards.  The big difference: the Epix has a touchscreen and the Blackjack does not. I was excited to try out a touch interface, along with the Epix’s built-in WiFi.

I was astounded at how difficult it was to switch to the Epix.  I had been using the Blackjack for over a year, and my fingers had long ago learned the key patterns to accomplish everything I needed to do on the phone.  I had tweaked every nuance of the Blackjack, installed a ton of third-party tools, and had that phone perfectly configured.

After one day of the Epix, I was ready to give the it back.  I was absolutely inept with the thing.  The ringtones were wrong, the applications felt clunky, and my constant desire to click on a directional pad was thwarted by the fact the the Epix doesn’t have one.  The WiFi was indeed cool, and the virtual mouse touchpad was clever.  Even so, I felt clumsy and frustrated with every aspect of the phone.

Great Consternation had set in.  I took a deep breath, drew on my deep reserves of inner strength, and vowed to use the phone for another full day.  By then, things had gotten a little better: I found some decent software for the phone, reinstalled touchscreen versions of my favorite tools, and even found better versions of others.  I was acclimating to the phone.

After a week, I have come to really like this phone.  Some things still need some tweaking, but other features are too good to give up and go back.  So my beloved Blackjack II will be placed, gently, into my Drawer of Abandoned Devices, next to my RAZR, Palm LifeDrive, Palm Tx, and Casio Zoomer.  The Epix becomes my device of choice, at least until my contract expires.

Which brings us to the Greater Lesson: If this kind of minor, self-inflicted change is this distracting and painful, imagine how annoying the change that we inflict on others must be.  Those of us in IT like to see ourselves as agents of change, disrupting existing practices with new tools and processes for the greater good of all.  Let’s get real: we drive people nuts, making seemingly arbitrary decisions that turn their world upside down for no apparent reason.

We can’t ever, ever forget how painful change really is for our users.  Minor Events that we fully understand generate Great Consternation out in the real world.  Nonetheless, our job is to find and fix things.  As you go about doing that, don’t lose sight of how hard it is for people to put up with the changes we promote.  And if you do forget how hard that can be, I have an easy solution: go get a new phone.


1. Bill - January 23, 2009

Chuck, My Blackberry is so much a part of my being. I think Jamie gets jealous because I pay so much attention to it. I am conditioned to respond to its gentle vibrations. It makes me laugh, makes me cry, makes me mad and makes my wife ask why, Why, WHY! It is my connection to the world and you never know it may be a surprise from long ago or an opportunity for a place to go….So I love my little Blackberry.

2. Social Media Killed The Internet « The Effective CIO - February 11, 2009

[…] everything about a person, and much more difficult to learn about a single topic.  For example, my recent cell phone acquisition caused me to search the web for everything I could find about a Samsung Epix phone.  Long ago, […]

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