Learn to Expect and Embrace Change
On any given day, I could be working for six different clients somewhere along the 12 Step structure of a project. That means, at any time, I could be in one of 72 cells on the big project management board – writing a screener for one client at 9 am, analyzing results for another client at 11 am and talking to a facility about a difficult recruit at noon.
There is no place in that kind of work flow to have the luxury of anger at the changes a client might request. The RIVA team always has a project manager that is different than the moderator so that one part of the team is focusing on process and logistics and one part of the team is working on content and analysis. One of the ways I would start each day as the team reviewed the workload and deliverables for the day would be to ask this simple question:
My project manager might say “I received an e-mail from the client on the soap study that they don’t want any more than 3 women in the groups who use coupons to buy detergents so I’ll be calling the facilities in the four cities for this study and making that adjustment to the screener….some of them may have to drop some folks they already recruited.” We would talk about the ramifications of that change and determine if there was a cost implication and the project manager would relay that fact to the client.
We would then discuss other projects for example: the email from the dog food client that had changes to the third edition of the moderator’s guide where they deleted the section that asked questions about competitive products and added more questions on ad awareness of dry dog food products.
Sometimes clients would make changes right before starting a group in a series making statements like – “Instead of having you show three different prototypes, we are only going to have you show one because legal didn’t approve the other two.” Or a client might say, right before starting the groups for that evening, “The Brand VP has decided to come to the groups and he wants you to ask an additional set of questions on a different topic so he can get ready for the upcoming board meeting.”
A good moderator does not want to be upset that what he/she planned to do in the groups has changed. A good moderator says to the client in the first case, “So, I’ll be showing just the one prototype and they will not be picking a favorite of three since there is only one – what else would you like for me to explore in the extra time we now have?” If the client has not thought about the time impact, the moderator is ready with some suggestions such as – “Now we have time to explore more about how they arrived at your brand and what keeps them loyal so that research time is well used.”
In the case of the arrival of the Brand VP, the question I ask is simple: “What would you like for me to remove from the current guide so there is time for new questions from the Brand VP?” If the client does not have a ready answer, I’m ready with suggestions on which sections are low priority and can be deleted. If the client says “We can’t delete anything,” then I say “OK, I’ll work in his questions,” knowing I’ll have to make trim-tabbing adjustments all along the timeline to be very efficient at collecting the original data and get the new request in as well.
Wasting energy being angry will eat up my time and creative resources so I have learned to say “Oh well – it is what it is,” and then make the best of the situation. I have the Dali Lama to thank for the “It Is What It Is” mantra and I have the reminder that I wanted a career that was different every day. Between these two poles of thought, I have learned to expect and embrace change.