Tuesday, September 23, 2014


"Metathesiophobia" is defined as the persistent, abnormal, and unwarranted fear of change. Over the years of my work experience, I have seen such fear among users while implementing systems.

Years ago a very funny incidence took place while implementing a project for one of the clients. 

The objective of the project was to implement an integrated system across 50+ departments of the organization and thereby eliminate sporadically spread systems that were generating islands of information isolated from each other. 

One of the managers of a department called me over the telephone and sounded quite disturbed. When I met him he explained that one of his Senior Staff was quite upset because he could not find "his" screen for entering invoices. Assuming that the Manager was not fully aware of the new system, I explained that earlier, there were individual software for stores, purchase and finance, hence some data was being entered in all these old systems. With the new integrated system, there was no need for his Senior Staff to enter the invoices because it would be entered by the stores staff when goods are received from suppliers.

The Manager nodded indicating he was aware of that but he said "Please do something. This man has been with us for a long time. His friends are telling me that he has started drinking heavily every day. I am afraid he may end up doing something desperate. Please let him enter the invoices". I refused accede to his request because if I did what he was asking me to do, I would be violating my contractual obligation by not delivering an integrated system. He seemed to understood my stand and the meeting ended at that.

The concern of the Manager was quite understandable, he might have feared that his Senior Staff might end up doing something stupid, not knowing how to cope with change.

I remember one incidence narrated to me some years ago about a man who was working for an oil company. He had been in the job for over 20 years with a good salary and other facilities. On a fateful day he received a letter from personnel department informing him that his services were not required anymore. The man was devastated. He did not talk to anybody and went totally silent. That evening, his friends went to his room to console him but the room was closed but they could hear the air conditioner running. They knocked the door for a long time, and finally when the door was force-opened, they found the man sitting in a chair with the termination letter in his hand, tears still fresh in his eyes, dead! Perhaps he could not handle the shock of losing his job, the shock of his life getting uprooted from his comfort zone!

Telling somebody that they are sacked must be one of the most difficult things to do. This was very nicely portrayed in the movie “Up In The Air”. Wonderful performance by George Clooney as the guy who has to pass on the pink slip with the “bad news” to the guys being sacked.

It is very common that job insecurity starts kicking in with some employees when a new system is implemented. There is a general assumption that whenever a new software application is implemented, some employees would lose their jobs. Such users pose a big threat to the success of the project especially if they are placed in critical positions, working with important information of the organization. But as the training starts they begin to get assurance that their job was safe, that the new system provided new opportunities for doing work in a better way. But there are some users who do not even want to look at the new system. They blindly assume that they are going to lose their jobs!

Most of the time, it is to do with being in a comfort zone after holding the same job and same function for years. When their position gets threatened they become quite disturbed and desperate, not knowing how to handle the change, just like Hem & Haw of Dr. Spencer Johnson’s "Who Moved My Cheese?".  Sometimes some end up doing desperate things.

I ran into the Senior Staff few times after the meeting with his Manager. He would give me such a deadly glare as if he was going to kill me. But in the end, he had reconciled himself to the change and accepted the new system. Good for him!

I am sure many organizations experience such situations. A lot of money is spent in acquiring ERPs and such high-tech systems but some departments succeed in retaining their own systems, with or without the knowledge of the top management! A total waste of investment!

No comments:

Post a Comment