We have depth of project experience, and years of working in the retail industry, on various technology projects. Over this time, we have gleaned some insight into the ways of engaging that get the best long term results for the client organisation and the project, and we want to share some these with you.
Projects have traditionally been measured on time, scope and cost, and if measured by this alone, success rates are low. The measures of time, scope and cost are important but not everything.
We add to this measure of success by asking:
Did the project achieve the business objectives?
Did we take the team along with us?
Do they own it and is it embedded in the business?
There are many moving parts to a project, and the following model helps remind us of some the elements required that contribute to a successful project. I was introduced to the Knoster Model of managing complex change diagram years ago, and I still see it as relevant.
You need a lot of things to align to create successful change in business.
Even the most carefully conceived organisational change plans require more than a great business case to be delivered, they also need vision and communication.
Consider when an organisation decides to make a technology change.
The wrong way lies in informing staff of the change, scheduling training, and expecting them to use it. This will have the effect of many creating workarounds to avoid systems that they find confusing and may have never wanted to begin with (gratefully, we don’t see too much of this anymore, most businesses seem to have caught on).
Coming up with a vision represents a significant part of the mindset needed to align a team. To create effective change, you must also use communication to explain the vision and sales techniques to boost buy-in.
To do that you need good leadership in the shape of project sponsorship.
PMI state of global project management (2018) reported, for the sixth year in a row(!), that having actively engaged executive sponsors is the number one top driver of project success. Part of the project sponsors job is to keep the vision alive.
If you’re interested in developing a deeper understanding of the role of a sponsor and what’s expected of them Colin D Ellis has some excellent practical advice to offer.
Projects with effective communication are almost twice as likely to successfully deliver project scope and meet quality standards than projects without effective communication (68% vs 32% and 66% vs 33%, respectively.)
Source: PwC 15th Annual Global CEO Survey, 2012.
Matching Skills to Roles
At the start of World War II, the US president selected General William “Wild Bill” Donovan to erect the country’s first foreign intelligence service, the Office of Strategic Services or OSS. Donovan had a novel idea of how to get the best staff. Instead of finding people to fit a preconceived plan, he hired the best that he could find and shaped the missions around them.
With talents as diverse as playwright Robert Sherwood and future celebrity chef Julia Child, Donovan created an agency that helped to score important victories for the Allied cause very soon after being formed.
Consider bringing in the best and brightest for your organisation, then tailor the roles to suit their skills. This can help to build a more vibrant and effective organisation from the ground up.
Managing the Learning Curve
When embarking on a new project, managers must understand that the staff they will have, whether from inside or outside the organisation, will need training. We should never assume that any training format will lead to great results, but we should tailor learning sessions for optimal effectiveness.
The learning focus should highlight training for the job instead of the new system. Teaching staff how to operate the entire system generally wastes time. Staff simply want to understand how the new system relates to what they need to do. The trainer should emphasise connecting functions that relate individual staff roles within the new technology. All need to be educated on the process. Without this fundamental concept, the new project will not succeed as envisioned.
The learning process is just as important as the material. Effective training incorporates the needs of those being educated. Some tips on how to run an effective training program include:
- Training in smaller and more understandable “chunks”
- Keep the tone of the training light and even humorous if possible
- Use examples that relate to day to day work
- Use numerous practice sessions to nail down the details
- Use input and feedback to make training more effective in the future
Incentives As Opposed to Rewards
Any vision for a plan of change should include incentives. In this case, incentives mean something different than rewards. Staff get rewards for a job well done. Incentives should reflect built-in motivation to embrace and put effort toward making the change plan a success.
In other words, explain to the staff what’s in it for them.
If the new project can help to reduce workloads and makes processes easier, communicating these facts should serve as part of the vision and the plan. The team must see that the effort expended to make a change will work for their benefit, as well as for the organisation at large.
People, time, communication, and tools all serve as important resources in making an organisational change plan work. Organisational leaders must understand that all represent limited resources.
Many organisations bring in energetic talents with a can-do attitude, then heap project after project onto them. While they cheerfully accept all challenges, they also spread their time increasingly thin. This prevents them from putting their best work into any project, much less all of them.
For some organisations, time represents one of the rarest resources. A study showed that many offices waste up to 20 per cent of their time on procedures and processes.
Another area of time expenditure lies in meetings. Leaders should make a point of emphasis to run efficient meetings that start on time and end early, if possible. I am sure we have all experienced being in a meeting that could have been an email; however, stakeholders having to work through emails or ask around for updates is inefficient communication.
Avoid this by establishing communication channels as part of the project plan.
One of the first steps toward creating a plan of action lies in first considering constraints. Setting aside what the organisation cannot currently do creates boundaries around the plan and prevents it from veering into non-productive tangents.
You should also consider coming up with at least an outline of a plan prior to any other part of the process. This can guide you into making wise decisions about communication and resource allocation.
Make sure that you have what you need in place before executing the plan, or you risk a false start that wastes resources and may even kill the project altogether.
Getting a project to work properly involves more than having an idea and ordering its implementation. It involves crafting and selling a vision, communicating it effectively, than using effective planning to execute it.
Following these tips will make sure that your project ends up as more than just another binder on a shelf collecting dust.