Its time to stop assuming that the business knows what to do in relation to projects. They don’t, and relying on them to perform from a basis of ignorance is madness!
To many business managers ‘projects’ are a dangerous escapade. They’re difficult to control, difficult to bring in on time and budget and even more difficult to deliver the expected results. Projects are seen as a ‘necessary evil’ rather than an effective means of realizing strategy.
So the business tries to instil some controls and discipline — without knowing what it is doing.
One favourite approach is the externally imposed deadline. “I want this done in three months!” The madness of this type of externally imposed deadline seems to escape most business managers. As the saying goes, ‘You can’t get a baby in one month by making nine women pregnant!’
Yes, it’s good to focus attention on delivering the project as soon as possible, but not without cognisance of the workload. And, especially with systems projects, where much of the work is invisible (defining and developing and testing interfaces, etc).
This sort of imposed deadline nonsense can be addressed by treating each project as a ‘change project’ and defining clear, business-understandable change plans with size, scale and complexity assessments so that you can have a sensible discussion with your business executives. (See “How to plan change” at valuedeliverymanagement.com to see how this is done.)
Another favourite approach is the change imprimatur — “Make it happen!” As a divisional CFO was bemoaning to me, “They agree the benefits and then we have to make them happen even though, most times, the project fails to deliver what is needed to deliver the benefits.”
“Making it happen” is not an event but a process, the change process. This is not clear to most business executives. To them, “change management” is something you do near the end of the project involving training and communications. I’ve seen executives rule through and delete the change budget believing they are saving costs when they’re mostly destroying any chance of delivering value.
Conventional methodologies perpetuate the belief that ‘change’ is something you do on a project rather than being the purpose and nature of the project.
Simultaneously, blogs and the press are full of complaints by project teams about not being able to get the business involved. They’re not involved because they don’t know how to be involved and we don’t help them.
A recent presentation by an international consultancy debated the question, “Project Management and Change Management — same or different?” They concluded that change management was subservient to project management. Wrong!
Change is the purpose of a project, project management is the controlling and enabling mechanism. They are two different dimensions.
No wonder the business executives are confused. Let’s clear it up once and for all.
Your project is a ‘change project’. It exists to change the organization. Without change you’ll not get any new business outcomes, benefits or value.
Changing technologies, upgrading systems, adding enhancements are all ‘changes’. Even if the project is 90% technical in workload and delivery, it is still a change project!
Building a new plant or assembly line is change. New products are change. Even building a new road is a change project as you want people to use it which requires them to change their driving patterns.
So, we have the opportunity to kill two birds with one stone — to realign our projects correctly to be change projects, and to start to educate the business as to what is and is not possible with projects and fully involve them in their delivery. This will stop their madness.
Let’s think, talk and walk ‘change management’ from day-1 of our projects. Let’s present the workload, tasks and outcomes in change management terms. Let’s make clear what change tasks the project team will action and which are the responsibility of the business. Let’s give the business the knowledge and tools to action their tasks rather than relying on ‘hope’. Then the business will know what to do (and how to do it) and we’ll all get the desired results.
Let’s re-orientate our projects into being ‘business change projects’ and bring the business along with us to deliver the results. When you do, the ROI goes up exponentially.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
© Jed Simms, Australia, 2008 — Can be reproduced with source acknowledgement
The Value Delivery Management Guide, “How to plan change” is available from valuedeliverymanagement.com. It is a simple change planning approach that the business can help populate and action.