Catalyst for Change

There’s turmoil in the financial markets and lots of uncertainty in the world right now.  The world economy is in a major recession. The media is full of dire news.  As a result, our customers are spending less.

I don’t know where this is all going or where things will end up, but I do know at least one thing for certain:  We are not in a “business as usual” situation.

So you can react in any of several ways:

A. Ignore what is going on and hope that things will just stay the same, because there’s nothing you can do about it anyway.

B. Panic.  Brace for the worst.  Be depressed.

C. See the changing circumstances as a catalyst for change, and as an opportunity.

Which category are you in?

I suspect most people are in category A, while some are in B.   I wonder if anyone is in C?  I am.

I love old sayings because they are a distillation of hundreds of years of human experience – the “wisdom of the ages,” so to speak.  So here is one that might make you think that C is the right place to be:  “Necessity is the mother of invention.”

If things are going along well enough, there is little motivation for change.  Change is always difficult.  It’s much easier to come into work again today and do what you have always done.  But sometimes it takes external force to cause change.  If gas prices remain relatively cheap, there will never be enough motivation to ever get away from the internal combustion engine.  None of us like to pay more for gas, but unless circumstances cause the price to go up, nothing will change.

And so it is with the economic circumstances.  It’s less obvious what needs to change, but we should look upon the current situation in the world as a catalyst for change.  Here some:

  • Find more efficient ways to do what we still need to do. Adopting Agile development methodology comes immediately to mind.
  • Do things in completely new ways or with a different approach. One example: for our product documentation, instead of having technical writers creating every word, they become organizers and editors of what others produce.  Both employees and customers know a lot about our products.  Another is to start offering more of our products as a service, with a monthly subscription fee instead of a high up-front capital cost.
  • Stop doing stuff that really isn’t needed. Do we really need to put ALL those little enhancements into our existing products?  Oh yes, customers have asked us to do this stuff, but how much of what we are doing will result in any new sales or will be the make-or-break factor in retaining existing customers?   Do you really think that someday you will be working on Release 27.0 of the same product you are working on now?
  • Do what’s REALLY important. Instead of doing a lot of little things, we should concentrate our resources on a few projects or activities that truly WILL make a difference.  Like something new that we can sell, something that dramatically increases the synergy between our products, something that many customers will REALLY notice.

The current economic circumstances are painful but will cause change.  Those changes can be either good or bad.  The most successful people and organizations will not just react to them, but will find ways to turn them to their advantage.

About John

John Peterson has been creating and managing the creation of software for his entire professional life. During that time, he's been through many projects large and small, worked with a wide variety of people on a wide variety of technologies, made a lot of mistakes, and learned a lot in the process. The intention of this blog is to pass along the wisdom he has accumulated in the creation of software to those who may be earlier in their path of experience.
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