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No Coffee, Please December 7, 2009

Posted by Chuck Musciano in Random Musings.
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At a recent industry event, I settled in for the luncheon keynote speaker.  As you would expect, they came around and poured coffee.  I dutifully added cream and sugar and took a few sips. Perfect!

When I was half-finished with my coffee, the waiter came around and refilled it.  Aaagh!  This completely upset the careful balance of cream, sugar, and coffee.  Now I was stuck: put up with too-bitter coffee, or try to make corrections with partial portions of cream and sugar.  Either way, my coffee experience has been disturbed, if not ruined.

As I gave up on my coffee and decided to just eat the mints from the bowl on the table, it occurred to me that many of us in IT run around with coffee pots.  With the best of intentions (always have a full cup!) we disrupt the carefully crafted experiences of our users.

We talk a lot about change management and preparing users for the impact of system modifications.  Change is inevitable, and there is no way that we’ll be able to preserve everything a user likes about a system as we add new capabilities.  Even little changes in menu ordering or form layout can cause great consternation among people who have grown used to a system.

It is one thing when we recognize an impending change and work to avoid end user difficulties.  Big system rollouts usually have lots of formal change management to make life easier during transition. But how often do we send out little changes and ruin our users’ coffee, so to speak?  It doesn’t have to be a system change; a change in process can be disruptive, too.  Vendor changes to support or licensing terms are hard to deal with, even when they work in our favor.  Even changing a phone number or replacing an old piece of equipment with a new one can inject an unwelcome change into someone’s life.

Change is hard, whether it is big or small.  And the size of the change is in the eyes of the changee, not in the changer.  As we constantly improve and upgrade our world, let’s be careful when and where we decide to pour coffee.  Hopefully, we’ll have fewer users left with a bitter taste in their mouth.

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1. brewerma - December 8, 2009

I would also add that ALL of us should be more open to change and we should be including that as a theme in a lot of our communications, even when change is not involved. Change is everywhere and all the time and we should be open to it ourselves when other organizations do it and we should be always preparing those around us and those we support for changes. It is just a way of life…

2. Robert Martin - December 17, 2009

That is a perfect analogy. Well said.

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