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Are you a ‘caver’ with big projects? 

Are you a ‘caver’ with big projects? 

Nicola Hopes

3 May 2022

Are you a ‘caver’? 

I mean, do you cave in and give up too easily when you’re told your plans might not be possible or your timelines are unreasonable? 

Well, cavers live in the dark. And that’s not where you want to be, is it? 

Look, I know the reality of making change happen in a demanding business. We’ve all heard the analogy of changing the wheels while the car is moving.  

But if that change is a genuine business priority, there’s always a way. 

Case in point – I’m working with a client to change the way they operate. There are big benefits to what we’re doing – in terms of value to the business and to the working lives of people in the team.  

The leader is visionary and wants to make the change. 

The stakeholders buy into the need for change. 

The team are up for it. 

But…it involves the unholy trinity of complicated change: people; process and technology. All underpinned by a healthy dollop of shifting mindsets and ways of working.   

And so, when they’re trying to put their plans into action, the experts they’re relying on are either busy on other things or telling them all the reasons why it can’t happen at pace. 

So, we had a team talk which went something like: ‘We know the current model is unworkable. This support is critical to taking the next step. Until we take that step, all we’ve done is create some to nice slides. Here are your options…’ 

To my delight, my client didn’t cave. They’re bringing in additional resources.  

But I often hear of times where clients do cave.  

They’re busy. And this becomes a fight they don’t have the time or the energy for. Does this sound familiar: 

‘We need more clarity on x before we start’ 

‘We need to finish y project before we do this’ 

‘I can look at this in 2 months’ time…’ 

And I call balderdash (and yes, I’ve cleaned that up for you!). 

If you wait for certainty before you kick off complex change, you’ll never start.  

And I never believe a binary ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to capacity to deliver change – there’s always a way to move it forward. To take the first step. 

So, how to make the impossible, possible? 


Create capacity  

Don’t allow the resource-worst-case-scenario to dictate your plan. If you’re being slowed down, look for opportunities to get creative: 

  • Not everything needs an expert. Is there someone in the team with some transferable skills who would love an opportunity to shine?  
    • If someone can organise, they can manage a plan.  
    • If someone has good people skills, they can engage users.  
  • Buy in a bit of bench strength. If your technical expert hasn’t got capacity, bring in an interim expert for a limited time reporting to them. It can work brilliantly. I’ve seen it time and again. 


Make naysayers part of the solution  

If a critical person is telling you all the reasons why not, ask them how they would do it. 

I love a simple ‘Ok, no problem. How would you do this instead?’ 

If they have a great idea – fantastic. 

If they have baseless resistance – it calls it out. 

Either way, it’s progress. 

Don’t let a lack of imagination limit what you can achieve.  

It’s a risk sure. But all change is, right? 

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