I’ve recently started reading a preview copy of Seth Godin’s Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? I’m hoping to make a few updates between now and finishing it, but I wanted to just drop a quick post and let you know that this book is really resonating with me.
My wife’s new hairdo caused, for the first time in our marriage, and probably the first time in her life, a hair-related emotional breakdown. While getting ready to go out one day, this woman who had never given her hair more than a passing thought, had to rewash her hair 3 times and still didn’t get the ‘do’ correctly. She was running late. Our event was starting. My kid and I had had to leave without her, hoping she would eventually catch up. She didn’t. There were tears. And muttering under the breath. And possibly actual cursing, though she’s far too much of a lady to let me hear. And disbelief on her part that her hair could EVER cause such a strong emotion. We’ve also had a number of other, less extreme events, and stress over getting ready to leave the house on schedule has peaked a number of times.
The culmination of everything we’ve learned from my wife’s hairdo is this: Expect pain. No matter how well we prepare or train, prepare for things to go wrong from time to time, especially at the outset. Mistakes will be made by people who are still learning. Misunderstandings about how the new solution itself works or what it will do will occasionally cause issues and confusion. These will cost time and money. We must prepare ourselves for these small breakdowns, padding schedules a bit until things come under control. We must tell ourselves and our partners and employees that the occasional mistake is OK. Pick ourselves up, work through the pain and move on.
As many of us have experienced, making changes to our outward appearance will cause those who know us well to ponder the change, often causing talk, speculation, and the uttering of opinions. When my wife returned from the salon with her new hairdo, I honestly wasn’t sure what to think. I needed time to adjust to it, and even more time before I could decide if I actually liked it. My 8 year old daughter’s reaction however, was much stronger and more immediate; she didn’t like it. Louanna no longer looked like her mother and my daughter was a bit slower to warm up to her “new” mom. Eventually though, her mother’s love and personality won through and things went back to normal.
Visible changes to your image or changes to your processes, especially at the point where they interact with our client’s processes, can stumble client relations. At the best, these kinds of changes can create trepidation, discomfort and unease; at the worst, these changes may produce costs and upgrade pains for our customers. Remaining firm to our core values and products, and offering help with the transition should make it easier for our clients to stay with us and remain our clients.
In the beginning, my wife’s new hairdo wasn’t a perfect fit. As she was getting used to it, she identified trouble areas that she needed touched up so that it would work better for her needs. She went back to the salon once a week for the first 3 weeks until it worked for her. While it certainly seemed excessive to me (and to be honest, I warned her that her hairdresser might shave her just to keep her from coming back a 4th time) her willingness to keep at it until it was exactly what she wanted has saved her time in trying to make things work and retraining down the road since it eliminated incremental changes at every visit over the next 4 months.
Time and use will eventually expose problems in even the most customized solution, and certainly for stock out-of-the-box products. We may find that we need either custom work or additional parts/pieces/plugins to fully integrate a new solution to our business. Keeping our eyes open for early adjustments, and being ready to take the time to make the ones we deem necessary early on will help eliminated poor workflows and habits and reduce the pain of retraining. No one likes giving up one poor solution for another poor solution.
Often, growth and change requires training. Whether implementing new equipment, software, techniques or workflows, re-training is inevitable. When my wife got her new hairdo, she had to learn a new way of styling her hair. Mistakes cost her, and even at this personal level, these weren’t small costs. Especially at the outset, mistakes have led to hours of lost time from her life and wasted hair product, especially when she has to resort to re-washings and restarts. She has learned that, at least for now, she needs to give herself more time to prepare to go out.
Most of us who have implemented new solutions or upgraded to ‘new and improved’ have had to deal with this learning curve. Whether we choose to purchase training from an expert or do it on our own thru books, videos or other means, we realize that we WILL lose both time and money after implementing new solutions or upgrades to existing solutions. Also we realize that mistakes, sometimes many mistakes, will be made. Upgrading is almost assuredly a speed bump in our otherwise smooth workflow. Until we work out these kinks, we may need to pad our timelines a bit to keep from overworking ourselves or delivering sub-par work to our clients, and expect to lose a bit in revenue when time is lost to education and mistakes.
When we upgrade, we need to prepare ourselves and our businesses to deal with the costs of reeducation in both time and money.
Some solutions are implemented simply because they save money or time, decrease maintenance, or increase efficiencies. In the case of my wife’s new hairdo, the solution actually requires additional recurring costs in both time and money. This particular hairdo requires more frequent visits to the salon to keep the hair short, recurring costs in hair styling product (something she never had to worry about before), and also more attention at home. Her hair, which used to be wash-and-go, now has to be styled. It also has to be tended to more often. For instance, before, if Louanna got caught in a rain shower, she simply combed it out and kept going. Now, such a situation requires a full once-over. And actions such as changing a pullover hoodie or sweater, driving with the window down, or putting on a baseball cap now require touch ups.
While seemingly counter-intuitive, many solutions in business also require increased maintenance costs. For instance, social media marketing often requires hours of time for someone to implement and maintain, while old marketing efforts such as throwing an ad in a paper or magazine or on television were relatively quick in comparison. Or entire IT teams may be devoted to the constant upkeep of enterprise software solutions and to keep their servers, PCs and networks up-to-date. These efforts, while costly in money and time, are made because of the potentially high payoff.
For my wife, the hope is that the benefits she receives from the new hairstyle will be enough to outweigh the amount of time it takes her to maintain her hair, especially as she gets more proficient at making the hairdo work. For us, we need to make sure that solutions that will cost us more than we currently spend in time and money will pay off in other ways. Otherwise, rethink implementing them.
One of the first things we noticed with my wife’s new hairdo is that making it work costs money and time. My wife, who never used any type of ‘after shower’ hair products now has 3 new ‘goops’. She’s also purchased 2 new brushes (we started with only one, but we have an 9 year old daughter and items such as brushes tend to go missing on a regular basis). And she now regularly uses my hair dryer. No immediate out-of-pocket expense for that, since she was able to leverage resources already on hand, but seeing as how I generally have to buy a new one for myself every 18-24 months, I’m guessing this rate will increase.
This past month, my wife of 12 years got a new hairdo. With the exception of our wedding day when our friend, Nikki Zurell, worked her craft on my wife-to-be, this is the first time in the 20 years that I’ve known her that she’s changed it. In fact, according to her, its the first change she remembers in the 40 years that she’s been alive that she’s changed her hair. Still, change happens, and it was finally time for her feminine but also very utilitarian hair to go.
The aftermath of this new hairdo has left us with a fair amount of turmoil to contend with, and oddly enough, I realized today that what we’ve gone thru this past month follows the same pattern of growing pains that many companies, large and small, go through on a regular basis as they grow and upgrade.