That’s not how they did it back at my old job…

How many have heard folks in teams make that statement, “…when I was in XYZ organization, we preferred to do this process 1, 3, 5 not 1, 2, 3…”? Now, how many of you resented that input from your team member and virtually immediately shut your mental door to the potential merits of their approach?

What I would like to discuss is why did you do that, and why did they do that?

First, why did they do that? Chances are the correct answer is the most simple one: they are searching for areas of familiarity and comfort in a new team. Your process, the new organization they are in, and this new team are just that; new – and therefore uncomfortable. Not necessarily wrong, or bad, just new and different. They would prefer a familiar process for sheer comfort. Human nature and not a bad thing within teams, you just have to recognize it and manage it when you see it.

Why did you do that? Same root cause. Chances are that your process is one that the rest of the team members are familiar with and so are conversely uncomfortable with the suggested revision. Simple as that. Change is uncomfortable and if presented incorrectly, it will be exiled immediately.

So at its core, you have a team member recommending a change and another team member objecting to the change on contact. This can put you as a PM in a unique position to re-frame the proposed change as a consideration from yourself rather than one that has perceptions of bias or superiority. Your team members all want to have the best project possible and it’s not like they haven’t had to deal with a change before. All you have to do to salvage this potentially great piece nugget of improvement is to repackage it as your team’s idea. Not “how it was done in XYZ”, but “what if we did 1, 3, 5.

It’s all in the presentation. Put yourself in a position to deliver and your team in a position to receive…then watch the success grow!


2 responses to “That’s not how they did it back at my old job…

  1. When someone tells me “That’s not how we did it in my previous job” or “that’s not how we did this under the previous manager” I immediately label him or her as a passive resource who will soon leave the team, and I prepare for contingency.

    When someone says this, it makes me question whether he thinks he’s too good for the job.

    On a related note, you might find this old post on the programmer’s ego refreshing:

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