What? You Want Me To Go First?

Over the Thanksgiving holiday I found myself in a gift shop chock-full of unique and interesting items. One sign (that was for sale) struck an immediate chord with me because it’s right on target with the business issues I often encounter when helping organizations adopt BPM programs. The sign said simply:

Throughout 2011, my colleague Claire Schooley and I have published research that focuses on change management — what methodologies and best practices to use, how to organize for change management, and pitfalls to avoid. But the “you go first” part of the sign grabbed my attention — it’s a great point. And to be honest, I haven’t seen a data-driven body of research about the pros and cons of going first in initiatives involving substantial change. If you know of something, we’d love to hear about it. Just add a comment to this post.

Probably everyone can think of the reasons why you shouldn’t go first:

  • There’s the old saying “Pioneers get an arrow in their backs.”
  • It’s risky (see bullet point 1).
  • Prototypes, pilots, or early adoptions are often half-baked and you waste a lot of time experimenting.
  • Going first may mean that you don’t have time to adequately do your “day job.”
  • If you go last, you get the benefit of all the feedback from those poor guys who went first!
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