Project Management in Practice

Beyond the alphabet soup of PRINCE2, MSP, MoP, PMBOK, ITIL, Agile

Tag Archives: change

Is productivity gains the answer to improved business outcome?

Is productivity gains the answer to improved business outcomeI recently ran into an old school friend. At the time we were nearing the end of high school he was the coolest dude with a job at a fast food place. He had disposable income and an old second hand car. What else do you need in life? Those of us that were planning further studies or apprenticeships got plenty of advice from him on the futility of our endeavours. When someone mentioned better prospects and better pay, he simply said if he ever needed more money he can simply work a few extra hours.

All these years later I was surprised to see him holding training materials. I was intrigued with this change of attitude. At the time some of us were thinking of investing in our future and as a result consciously taking on a few more  years of hardship, he had no appreciation that his circumstances could change. He shared with me his predicament in working harder and harder to support his family. This larger than life character was backed into a corner. It is great to see him sorting his life out.

What has this got to do with business outcomes you may ask? It occurred to me how many organisations take a similar approach to making money. Everyone is in a mad rush to squeeze yet another billable hour out of staff, minimise non-utilised time. The only certainty is that the environments we operate in will change. As my friend found out eventually, there is only so much difference you can make using this approach.

True sustainable change comes when you have the commitment to review your methods, acknowledge the failings and change accordingly.

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How do I break down silos?

I have been reflecting a on a programme of change we had delivered to a client last year. The organisation had traditionally operated in divisional silos, where each department had competing interests in various operational matters. It was an immensely successful project, winning international awards for both us and our client. I have been trying to reconcile in my mind what went well and what could have been done better. One realisation that hits me on the face is that it is people who make programmes a success or failure, not technology, or ingenuity.

The first ingredient I see for success in any change programme is to have someone with a vision. This needs to be within the organisation where change is taking place. Without this key ingredient any change programme will not succeed. Vision from the outside consultants will never succeed unless an internal champion exists to advocate for it. Vision on its own is not sufficient. You
need a sympathetic ear from someone who can yield a reasonable stick. Time will come when you need someone to bang some heads together to make sure people follow the strategic direction desired by the organisation.

Any significant change programme takes a significant amount of communication, some negotiation, elements of compromise. Then again compromises cannot be about the strategic direction, more about in approaches to get there. You also need to make sure that in search of a better future, you do not compromise the business today. This is always a delicate balance to strike. Breaking down silos and getting people to communicate is the key. How do you do that?

Change by nature is a threat to people. Different people approach this threat in different ways. Getting the first few on board is always the most difficult in a change programme. One thing to remember is that some people will be against the change regardless how you approach it. There will be another group who are ready to be swayed for or against the change. The key is to ensure you focus on getting the fence sitters on your side and find a way to neutralise the active opposers.

The way we approached this task in the programme was to set small targets. We chose to consult widely, but only integrate the systems of two departments that were most enthusiastic about the programme. We ensured technical representation from all the departments and word started filtering out that the programme had a more than even chance of succeeding. It was much easier to bring other departments in the fold.

Regardless of how much momentum you build at any stage of the programme, there always comes a stage when the pace slows somewhat. You need to keep an active vigil for any signs of stagnation. Changes are difficult to implement. If things get too hard, people will go back to old habits. Measure your success as you go and distribute your success story. It builds buy-in from others and keeps morale high for those already converted.

When changes take hold, take the old tools away. It will prevent going back to the old ways.


How to handle resistance to change

If you have read any of my posts you will realize I am a fan of PRINCE2 as a project management methodology. In most cases I consult the manual regarding process and required content for the various management documents. The other day I struck a situation and realized a key limitation of PRINCE2.

Our organisation has grown significantly, twofold over the last few years. More recently our client profile has changed from a lot of small clients and projects to fewer larger clients with bigger projects. This shift has necessitated more emphasis on process and governance. Read more of this post

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