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Scary Things That Happen to Change Management and Learning Professionals

Trick or Treat – Which do you prefer? Halloween, Hallowe’en, All Hallows’ Day, Day of the Dead, or Samhain.  Whatever you call it, for many of us in the West it is a day and evening for children (and some adults) to dress in costume and go to parties or collect proffered candy or other treats door-to-door.

Growing up, this day was a personal favourite – even more than Christmas. The spooky and scary, the costumes and candy, and the celebration of harvest and the unofficial end to fall is what makes this time of year so special. As I thought about the upcoming holiday I started to remember some experiences during my career that could be considered Scary, Trick and even Treat. I figured if I had some great stories, my colleagues must too.  Here are a few of our most scary or sweet and sometimes just comical experiences as ERP/technology trainers and change professionals.

The year was 1998.  I was in a small city in Northern Ontario to deliver SAP Navigation to a group of rail employees. Northern Ontario in February is cold. But for a few weeks that year there was a cold snap and of course that was when I was scheduled to go and deliver training. A native of Calgary, I was not unaccustomed to cold winter weather. But I was not quite prepared for what I would encounter. As is common for many of our colder northern Canadian locations, the temperatures might be frigid, but the sun almost always shines bright – a decent trade-off if you ask me. Upon arrival the pilot informed the passengers that the current temperature was minus 50 degrees Celsius – before windchill. Ugh. No problem, I was prepared with parka, boots, mittens, toque and thermal underwear.

When checking into my hotel I was cheerfully informed that due to the cold the heating system was having some issues keeping up with demand, that all rooms have been provided additional blankets, and electric heaters were available by request – while quantities last. Ugh. No problem. It was late, I had thermal underwear and apparently extra blankets and I had to get up early the next day anyway to get to the client’s training site, so I just went straight to bed.

Morning came. It was still dark outside, but the sky looked lovely and clear– it was going to be a beautiful day. Or not…  No hot water – no, correction, no water. The person at the front desk informed me that due to the cold weather all the plumbing was frozen with no specific time for when it would be running again. Ugh. I got ready as best I could. Bottled water to the rescue, and my toque was just going to stay on all day.

Arriving at the training site I realized my day was not going to improve. Not only did the client’s building not have running water there was no electricity either. I inquired about training delivery.  Surely, they would want to postpone? No? Really? But I have no power, so no system. Do what I can? Really? Ugh.

I had just enough battery power on my laptop to go through some slides (sans projector…) and thankfully I had brought all the printed participant materials with me (remember, it was 1998 – that’s just what we did back then!). Plus, the guys in my class didn’t really want to go back out to the rail yard. While it was cold in the training room, the outdoors was a lot colder. What could I do?

One guy suggested (jokingly, I think) that I use the whiteboard and draw the screens for them. Brilliant! I had a volunteer go find me some dry-erase markers. Armed with a huge whiteboard, beautiful natural sunlight streaming in through the window and four coloured markers I did just that – SAP Navigation demonstrated via whiteboard.

In 2013, Greg Roth (my business partner and Harbinger co-founder) was working in Churchill, Manitoba delivering training for the new e-Health system. Greg is an amazing trainer.  On top of being very knowledgeable, he is super engaging; he could read passages from the phone book and people would find it fascinating! So, what happened next was very odd.

Greg had his back to the room of participants pointing to and describing some key fields that were projected on the screen. When he turned back around to engage with the participants what he saw was all their backs – all 15 participants were crowed at the window looking out. At first, he chuckled. He had to admit, the view of the Hudson’s Bay was breathtaking.  But he was surprised that all his participants had decided at that moment to take it in. When he asked what they were all looking at, expecting a comment about the beautiful bay, he was shocked to see the group part down the middle and point at the massive Polar Bear who had decided to come and check out the training through the window. Polar Bears are gorgeous, but you do not want to get close to one.

The window just did not seem like adequate protection and this giant bear looked less interested in e-Health, and more interested the humans’ health. Eventually, the bear meandered away. Everyone was a little dazed, memorized and a bit scared – even Greg had no superpowers to get everyone to re-settle and continue training that day.

Monem Ansari is a really good trainer and a bit of Jedi with his seeming mind tricks. “Monem, you’re such a D#%K!”, one participant exclaimed as she stood up from her chair and joined him at the front of the room. Needless to say, the entire room erupted into laughter.

Monem had asked the room for a volunteer to come up and “drive,” screen on the projector through some tasks during a Microsoft Dynamics training delivery session. There were no takers and certainly, the woman with the expletives wasn’t too keen. So, he meandered through the first task, feigning ignorance and asking for help. This must have been pretty annoying for his fan, who knew more than she might have been admitting to herself. Monem barely had to say a word when she came up to the podium and navigated through 4 tasks she would undertake on a daily basis, all in a new system.

The scene nearly came to close with a high-five, applause, and a side-hug. Right then, someone walked in the room and had to hear about when Monem was called a d#%k! More laughter ensued!

Training delivery always runs the risk of some scary moments. Will the system work? Is the training data correct?  Is there enough training data?  Did the training environment get refreshed last night – aka – is there enough training data? But the Change Engagement or Change Management side of projects can also be scary at times. While there are many stories that come to mind there is one general situation that is sadly as common as a misspelled Trump tweet.

Imagine, it’s Project kick-off. All the key stakeholder and project team members are in the meeting. Everyone is excited and engaged. The project sponsor goes through introductions; the Project Manager (clapping), the Solution Integrator team members (more clapping), the business SME’s (hooting, hollering and clapping), the Change and Learning team – aka the squishy sh*t… (giggles, awkward silence, laughter, no clapping…). Yep. squishy sh*t, lipstick on the pig, the fluffy soft stuff – we have heard and been called it all – definitely one of the scariest situations ever.

After 20+ years as a training and change professional, I know I have heard, seen and experienced many spooky, scary, trick-or-treat work moments and honestly love it all.

Happy Hallowe’en.



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