When It Comes to Implementations, Why All the Pain?

Why All the Pain When It Comes to Implementations?

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Every project has its pain points – some more so than others.

Yet none are without pain…

For the scope of this article and as pain is an emotional experience, let’s remove the systems and machines and look at just the human factor.

We will look at pain as experienced from two human factors — knowledge and beliefs.

And we will make an assumption that from these two human factors, all other aspects of the project will evolve.

If you believe there are others, please feel free to start a conversation below – that is why we have blogs, yes?


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Many of us know that our skills only account for 30% of our actual work while human interaction fills the 70%.

How accurate are these numbers?

Not sure, but many professionals I know and many articles I have read mention they spend twice as much time in human interaction than they do in my actual work, so the 70-30 ration appears to be reasonable.

The first human factor – knowledge — comes in 4 forms…

  • Things that we know we know…
  • Things that we do know that we don’t know…
  • Things that we don’t know we know…
  • Things that we don’t know we don’t know…

If your head hurts right about now, I can empathize, mine did too.

Stay with me, I’m about to explain all this…

Things that we know we know

example, except for those that suffer from color blindness, we all know what the color red looks like…

we know what milk tastes like, or a beer…

you know the preference of your spouse’s coffee or how they like their meat cooked (ok, maybe some of you don’t)

Things that we do know that we don’t know

We know a trillion dollars is a lot, but most of us do not know what a trillion dollars looks like…

Most of us don’t know how long will it take one person to spend one trillion dollars if he or she spent one million dollars an hour (no cheating with a calculator, you know you don’t know)…

We know we don’t know what it is like to spend a million dollars in one hour…

And neither do I….

So, we know we don’t know…

Things that we don’t know we know

OK, the third form of knowledge is the one that usually gives everyone a headache — and you probably reacted with, “What??”

Allow me repeat it…

There are things we DON’T know — that we DO know…

OK, like?

These would usually be things we forgot we already knew…

Something we learned a long time ago, but only now realizing we have learned this a long time ago…

Or something we do out of tradition, and are reminded why we have this tradition…

Have you ever been congratulated for a great job and you had no clue what they were talking about?

That would be in this form of knowledge as well…

Things that we don’t know we don’t know

Finally, there is the fourth form of knowledge…

Everyone is usually fairly certain about this…

This is where we usually discover something new about anything.

The knowledge becomes evident after much research through our own efforts or after someone who has the knowledge shares their knowledge — and their experience — with us…

Sometimes – correction, most of the times – there is a lot of pain involved with this form of knowledge, or lack of knowledge.

What you don’t know that you don’t know is something many avoid.

It is also something many explore, either out of curiosity or to gain knowledge of what is needed or required for something…


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Now, lets focus on the second human factor — beliefs. First, we’re going to define beliefs as this:

  • Concepts and / or thoughts that have been repeatedly placed in front of us until we “buy-in” to the concept(s) or thought(s)
  • Along with repetition, belief is also a result of who we have chosen to listen to and eventually accept what they are saying
  • Beliefs are the result of our experiences, our traditions, our habits — anyone that has tried to kill a habit knows just how deep rooted a habit can be and how much resistance there is to change a habit  (which leads why beliefs are usually very difficult to change until the person is ready to change that belief)…

Truth will not facilitate a change in belief, otherwise we would change the moment we recognize what we believe is truth.

What do we usually do instead? Most of us will question it, some of us will test it, then eventually we accept it – eventually…


Changing a Belief

If truth will not change a belief, what does?

Usually, that change will find its beginnings with repetition – marketers are very keen to this concept, it is how they sell an inferior product or service over a superior product or service.

This is also evident with peer pressure – your friends encouraging you to do something you don’t want to do, even if they are wrong about it.

Eventually, this repetition will eventually create a persuasion. And once someone is persuaded, they have a choice – hold onto their current beliefs or form a new belief; they go through a decision process.

And how come not all good or great decisions are effective? Some decisions are “before their time” while other decisions have never made it beyond our craniums…

Every decision has the right moment , the right season, for it to be introduced – just ask Galileo…

OK, perhaps it’s a little late to ask him anything…

Any belief that is being challenged, or is going through a process of change, one element is constant – pain… not to mention your self-confidence if the belief being challenged is big.

This challenge is compounded because you are in floundering in what you don’t know that you don’t know…

When our beliefs are being challenged and our lack of knowledge becomes evident simultaneously, we become vulnerable.

Very vulnerable.

Many will react very defensively by invalidating what is being presented.

Others will be curious and question everything that is happening — either with confidence or in fear.

There are a host of reactions when challenged beliefs and lack of knowledge coincide.



When Beliefs and Knowledge Coincide

In the moment where the two coincide, this is where both leadership and innovation evolve.

Not necessarily together, but one or the other, or both.

This is also where the pain point for many is highest.

Especially when there are a FEW beliefs being challenged and there is a LOT of unknowns that need to be known.


The Last Word

This is the first of a series of articles that will be focusing on some concepts that many believe are not necessary — and how they affect the pain levels of any project.

Just as we don’t have to buy everything that is being presented on the supermarket shelves, we also do find things that we find interesting, wanting to try, or intentionally arrived there to get in the first place.

The same with this series — all of it works, but like anything else, the only part that works is the part you believe.

Have you ever known faith and doubt to occupy the same room???

We will examine what happens when belief refuses to change and the unknowns start building enough weight that a project takes too long to complete, and the budget increases dramatically.

And how an incomplete or poorly executed needs assessment on the front end of a project can be the death of the project before it even starts…

Recommended Readings

Prisoners of Belief: Exposing & Changing Beliefs That Control Your Life   Know What You Don't Know: How Great Leaders Prevent Problems Before They Happen   

More On Software Selection

Listing of All Software Selection Articles

More On Client Executive Sponsor

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Author Bio and Latest Posts

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Garrett O'Brien

Garrett O'Brien

Garrett is the Chairman of the Executive and Advisory Boards for
The HRIS World Research Network

With 20+ years in roles as a client executive sponsor, project manager as well as functional / technical lead, Garrett is sought for his expertise globally.

He has been involved in large-scale and complex implementations since 1991 and has recently moved his operations to be with his wife in Brazil.

Garrett has had the pleasure of working with some of the greatest talents in the industry, and constantly shares his experiences and knowledge through content and webinars.

He has managed somehow to be fluent in Portuguese, German, French and English along the way.

When not working, you will have to be adventurous to stay up with him as Garrett loves motorcycling, gunnery, boating, sailing, flying, and sports fishing.

Garrett’s current roles…

  • Publisher, editor, writer, and owner of 6 leading HRIS system and career blogs which are read by 50,000+ monthly visitors monthly in 90+ countries, 40%+ the audience being decision-makers in their organization (and about half of that being C-levels!).
  • Serves on the HR.com Advisory Board for the CoreHR, HRIS and Payroll Community
  • Is the CEO for CGServices USA, focusing on multi-provider, multi-line implementations for HRIS systems
  • Is a Council and Education Member of Gerson Lehrman Group Council, helping institutions of the world leaders meet, engage and manage experts across a wide range of sectors and disciplines.

In the news...
HR and the Cloud

Isabella Chan of HR Matters talks to Garrett O’Brien about the growth of cloud computing and building a technology strategy around HR.

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