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This is a really useful graphic which helps to explain the peaks and slumps of project management. It's not only worth looking at from a project management point of view, but also if you're:
- Volunteering for a charity
- Working with volunteers
- Starting a new job
- Working with a consultant
The emotional cycle of change has quite a profound effect whether we like it or not. Awareness is empowerment!
Change is Needed: You've recognised a need for change in the office. Perhaps you need more volunteer support because there's too much to do, or you need to call in a professional for technical advice. Maybe you need to start a new project to achieve the things that aren't being achieved. You know something needs improving, so you go looking for the solution.
Uninformed Optimism: We all have it, though we rarely admit to it. It's called Optimism Bias (very good TED talk here). Once you've found that manager/administrator/volunteer/consultant, there's a tendency to expect the unrealistic. You identified the problem, now here stands the solution, everything is going to be peachy from hereon in. It has to be, because that's how we're wired to think.
Informed Pessimism: Oh dear. Your new manager/ administrator/volunteer/consultant is not the Messiah, they're merely mortal. This is the point at which you realise that the fix you've found for your problem isn't able to wave a magic wand and instantly make everything better. They may need support, perhaps some extra training, maybe they've made a mistake or two themselves. Because of our tendency towards optimism, the sense of doubt we feel when we hit the first hurdle tends to make everything seem a hundred times worse than it actually is. One minute everything was peachy, so now everything is black. We skip the middle ground, especially in stressful situations. Just as we're hardwired to hope for the best, we're also hardwired to make poorer, or more risky, decisions when we think we're losing. A natural instinct when we feel disappointed is to try to cut our perceived losses. This is the point at which most projects fail, and most volunteers leave.
How you handle this period of doubt (or disappointment) sets the tone for the rest of the project.
Hopeful Realism: The best thing to do when you're feeling that sense of doubt is to put the overall end-goal to one side for a moment and assess the reality of the situation. What are people actually capable of, rather than what you wish them to be capable of? Often you'll find that your team, or colleagues, are capable of getting you where you want to go, but not always along the route you hoped to get there. Things may take a little longer, you may need some additional resources, you may even need to listen to (and accept) bad news before you can move beyond it towards a sustainable fix.
Informed Optimism: Once you've paused to take stock, and you've set people working on tasks they can realistically achieve, progress should start to become apparent. With each success, your confidence will grow, and setbacks will seem less world-ending than they did before, because you know you can handle them. This is the point at which informed optimism (knowing what people can do) overtakes uninformed optimism (presuming what people can do).
Rewarding Completion: From this point on, projects stand a greater chance of successful completion, employees and volunteers stick around longer because the work environment is more positive, and teams work better together because everyone knows what their role is.
The adage 'hope for the best, expect the worst,' is not a bad one to recite, though mostly things fall somewhere in the middle.