I am a huge—and somewhat proficient, depending on who you ask—DIYer. I love the challenge of solving a puzzle, learning a new skill, and potentially acquiring a new tool from one of the orange, blue, or red branded DIY stores. My utility closet gives me a great sense of pride, and it is organized by purpose and use, though always at the ready to accommodate a new item. I say “hello” and borrow from its stock at least every other day. With a never-ending list of home improvement projects (some authentically needed, others fueled by Pinterest), I feel confident enough to do most things myself, the criteria being “am I willing to live with and walk past a potential ‘oops’ every day?”
One of the other reasons I tackle so many projects is that it allows me to control the result. I know how I want things done, I can customize it, I respect the nuances or potential obstacles, and I am willing to problem-solve and come out with an even better end product and a sense of pride.
Even though things are constantly in flux and sometimes chaotic, there is momentum and continued improvement. As life has become more hectic and time is even more precious, I’ve started to ‘outsource’ some things that I’ve either done in the past or would have had the mindset to learn. There are constantly mini-projects happening like a couple of new collages for the hallway, but the more intricate tasks on my plate currently are the laundry room counter & storage and tree removal & trimming. Each has a sense of urgency and priority, and I’m in the process of deciding how much I want to hand over to someone else.
The most obvious: tree removal. Outside of the fact that there is no way I am climbing up 30’ and dismantling a tree, I’ve talked to a variety of arborists about the different types of trees we have, precautionary signs to look for, and best practices. Having also gone through similar conversations and quoting process before (on a different property), I now consider myself knowledgeable, though definitely not an expert. With this project, there are also different goals I want to achieve, each with various options. Armed with this experience, I feel that I can make more educated decisions, but once again…not going to climb those trees. Further, since someone else is going to execute, my standards are much higher because not only will I be predominately hands-off, they are the experts—and I’m paying them for this expertise.
You might have already realized the theme here. Many times, when it comes to change, people recognize the importance of managing and addressing it, but often their experience is only a small percentage of what is needed to be successful. Can we just figure it out? Yes, though thinking back to the first piece of ‘some assembly required’ furniture I put together, my time commitment (and frustration level) has significantly decreased through experience. Our different experiences also affect our confidence level and can lead to varying results—think sitcom husband who finds himself over his head with a DIY plumbing project.
Thinking about how I approach change projects, both personal and professional, paying attention to the following elements is crucial to long-term success:
Plan & Prep Each project is different and requires analyzing. When I have to assemble something, I always read the directions first, confirm all the pieces and parts, and gather the appropriate tools. I could probably ‘jump in’ and be OK because most of them are so similar, but I’ve learned the hard way there is always something unique that has to be performed in a certain order. Many times, assembling furnishings or hanging a piece has a slight déjà vu feeling, but sometimes you discover a new and improved way—like using painter’s tape to mark the distance and position of frame hooks on the wall; this has changed my life.
Things tend to go so much better when I have a clear view of all parts of a project and know exactly where shelf G is versus shelf H, and though they look almost exactly the same, one has a predrilled hole that will cause great misery—and rework—if switched. And if (when) this happens, I can quickly pinpoint my mistake and correct.
For people projects, planning and preparing means assembling the right team and resources, deciding upon strategy, and creating budgets and plans. This is the project management foundation, and because it happens at the onset, we typically have to time to assess before jumping into too deep—and can build in flexibility for the enviable impediments.
Engage Stakeholders Managing change and taking people through the process is not easy. Many times, I can see the vision very, very clearly and have to communicate (convince) this vision to my husband—with the help of many Pinterest boards and other visual references. However, while I consider us a team and we have equal say on larger home projects, for this analogy to work, we are going to say he is middle-management, our son a frontline associate / end-users, and I of course: the executive sponsor.
To be successful, I (executive sponsor) must remain visible and vigilant throughout, clearly and continuously communicating the benefits and expectations to my husband. I typically have a lot of details in my head and we have to work closely to maintain momentum and ensure the execution aligns with the overall vision and goals, while also considering that he might also have a unique perspective and insights. Though sometimes challenging, it is okay to let go and have the trust that others will get it done, even if they take a different path. Collaborating eases possible tensions due to timeline adjustments or overall direction changes. Additionally, this united front gives end-users (our son) the needed assurance and calmness to get through the change, understand how he is impacted, and drive desired behaviors.
Be Open… …to learn and adjust. The tools I use most often—manual flathead and Phillips-head screwdrivers—are typically at arm’s reach. But sometimes I discover upon closer inspection that I actually need a pozidriv, hex, square, or another tool that resides deeper in the closet. I cannot expect to use the same two tools for everything, yet many times we see the same approaches and perspectives, without any adjustments, being applied toward change programs. There are so many considerations needed for not only the tools, but the varying materials (resources and deliverables). Over the years, I developed a sixth sense and know when something is ‘off’ or about to go sideways for both home and people projects. This results in the need to adapt and be creative—and not try to fit a square peg into a round hole.
At the end of the day, I remain excited about our many home improvement projects and anticipate that they will be successful because I’ve not only leveraged my own prior experiences and hired experts when I did not have the time, resources or desire to accomplish the task, but I’ve also prepared well, shared my vision, engaged those who will be impacted (primarily my family) along the way, and knew when to take a different approach. Is going through change easy? No. Is it worth it? Absolutely.