About three years ago, I was given responsibility to manage an existing program. The program had been running for 10+ years and had grown organically. The program was running in several remote locations, each of which had evolved on their own into something different. At first, I believed the program was well established and shouldn’t really be modified much because it appeared to be working just fine. Then things started to fall apart.

I soon realized that there were major problems at many of our locations. Each location had been experiencing a lot of frustration, but they didn’t have a clear communication channel to report such issues. We at once began to capture and track the issues through JIRA. The resources assigned to this program were sparse. We found ourselves running from fire to fire, attempting to extinguish the fires faster than they appeared. However, it was clear from our issue tracking system that more problems were reported each week than were resolved. The situation continued to get worse.

To add to our troubles, old systems that had not been upgraded for years were now unsupported by the manufacturers. Systems of materials distribution were being discontinued. The floor was literally falling out from under us. I had customers calling constantly, screaming about the poor service. It was a nightmare.

Every tactical measure I could think to employ was failing. We just couldn’t keep up. My desire to serve the customer and to never disappoint kept pulling for me to just keep fixing the problems. But I couldn’t. We just couldn’t do it.

It was about this time that I realized that we needed to take a step back and reevaluate the entire program. Real changes needed to take place. We needed to move to a place where we were operating on supported technology. We needed systems that the department could support. We needed to simplify the operations. We needed to standardize. Most importantly, we needed to take a deep look at the purpose of the program and design a system that could fulfill the purpose.

Communicating with the customers that we had to stop supporting the old system was a hard thing to do. Nobody likes to disappoint people. I’m sure we could have done a better job at this, but we did our best to communicate where we were ultimately headed and why change was necessary. They had to endure for a significant time while we rebuilt. This was a hard pill for them to swallow.

My team has worked on this new system for several years now. We haven’t reached a point where we are satisfied with the new program offering, but we have a plan on how to get to the next step and then to the next step. The good news is that the new system is stable. We’re not constantly fighting fires anymore. We’ve been able to standardize. We are able to work on forward looking solutions. This is a much better place to be in.