Doing the same things to get different results
Change is often desirable and sometimes necessary, but it may still be resisted by those required to implement it. A common reason for this resistance is that people are uneasy when dealing with unfamiliar things and tend to view them as being unreasonably difficult. A way around this is to allow people to continue doing what they have been doing but have that generate different and more desirable results.
While insanity is sometimes defined as doing the same things over and over but expecting different results, it is possible to do the same things over and over and actually get different results. Projects can take advantage of this to deliver new things which seem familiar and easy-to-use. This is accomplished by replacing an established cause-and-effect relationship with a same-cause-but-different-effect relationship.
The following is a simple example. It was desired to increase air flow into a room when it was occupied. People already flicked a switch to turn a light on or off when they entered or exited that room. By placing a fan on the circuit controlled by that switch, flicking that switch now also turned that fan on and off. People keep doing what they had always done (flicking the switch), but that same action now delivered a different result.
Starting a new project can be an opportunity to work with a clean slate and create something new and exciting, but that may not be best for the customer. It is generally good to view a new product, service or organization from the perspective of those who are expected to use it. If it appears complicated or intimidating, it is likely to encounter resistance. This can sometimes be addressed by allowing people to keep doing what they already do – to keep that slate looking the same.
The following is a real life example. A suite of custom software applications was developed for use by a clerical staff. The staff had been using older software which was no longer supported and had limited functionality. The new software was designed to be more attractive, more intuitive, more functional, and with a modern interface. The functionality (output), reports generated, etc., were substantially enhanced with the new software.
The clerical staff liked the attractive layout, the built-in help, and the intuitive UI, but balked at having to learn new things in order to keep doing the same old job. The new interface was changed so the staff could continue to use the old work steps to access the new functionality. The new product was then embraced by the staff (partially because its concerns had been addressed) with the side benefits that training time and user errors were reduced because people continued doing what they knew how to do.
This “insane” approach prioritizes doing what is easiest for the customer over what is easiest for the project. It transfers some of the customer’s implementation costs to the project. Those designing the project must take the time to learn the customer’s wants and needs. This may require working with those who will actually use the project output and not just their managers or supervisors. This is a Value Engineering approach that considers total cost and an Agile approach focused on customer satisfaction.
The “insane” approach, doing the same things over and over to get different results, can reduce customer resistance and increase customer satisfaction. It is generally more difficult to design a new output around an existing interface than to design an interface specifically for that output. Fitting the output to an existing interface can increase development time and costs but reduce implementation, training and user error, time and costs. Its corollary, doing different things to get the same results, can reduce development time and costs.