A few months ago, I began a series of articles about program hindrances, devoting an article to each of eight things I’ve seen that get in the way of program success, such as how we tend to hear only what we want, disregarding the rest, and the importance of saying “no.” This installment deals with the tendency to estimate poorly the pace and magnitude of change.

Perhaps Bill Gates said it best, that people “always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will happen in the next 10; don’t let yourself be lulled into inaction.”

If you can think it, then it will happen. You need look no further than your own cell phone as proof of that. Star Trek foresaw that type of technology years ago, along with other innovations that have come to pass, such as Siri and Alexa. But change can come slowly or too quickly. We must be prepared for either, lest we become complacent – or get swept away. However, people tend not to anticipate change appropriately.

And change can come in different packages. There’s technology, which is what people tend to think about first when we talk change and advancement, but the legal and regulatory environment is subject to significant change as well.

Technology may lag our needs, but then it will catch up and then surpass us, until our needs evolve and we surpass it again. Take VMS, for example. There was a time when everything was manual, and we just wished for something to come along the make things easier. When it did, it overtook our expectations and our ability to keep up.

But then, over time, our expectations and the capabilities of that technology converged, and the cycle starts again — we start wanting something else that the current technology cannot provide. Until something else comes along to satisfy our thirst for technological advancement, such as online staffing systems and the cycle repeats itself.

In terms of legal or regulatory changes, consider independent contractor classification, which has seen significant changes in terms of court action worldwide. In the US, there’s also a new joint-employment policy that is pending from the National Labor Relations Board. Add in other vast changes that may affect the workforce solutions ecosystem, such as last year’s implementation of GDPR, or the impending Brexit, and there’s much change afoot.

The adoption cycle. And people don’t accept change at the same pace. Part of the adoption cycle is the “adoption-gap,” which often occurs after the 2.5% of innovators and the 13.5% of early adopters have led the charge. The adoption-gap is then generally followed by the 34% early majority, the 34% late majority and finally, the 16% of laggards that finally catch up — often too late.

If anybody is in any doubt about what planning for the future means, I am always reminded of a time back in 1991 when I went to one of my customers’ main development laboratories. They showed a video of three- to four-year-old children playing. After a couple of minutes, a person came onto the stage, looked up the video and said, “ladies and gentlemen … our customers.” Think about that. Tempus Fugit. Maybe you were one of those children!

What are your needs? What do you hear others saying they wish they could do? What new issues are landing in courts? The issues of today may be the gadget — or legislation — of tomorrow. As a program owner, you must keep learning about the evolving workforce ecosystem and stay one step ahead of the adoption curve, enabling you to have more meaningful discussions with your partners and suppliers.