You, as the reader, will learn one important thing in reading this today: effective change management as a key ingredient in preventing the perception of failed projects and change initiatives.
There are a multitude of factors at play to see a project or change through successfully from start to finish. First, it is important to understand how far out the initiative reaches. Regardless of the business, change needs to be identified and addressed at all levels: program level, organizational level, project level, and product level. This hierarchy touches on changing the approach to company vision (program level), changing people/ roles and processes (organizational), specific project scope changes and changes in technology, and product or service features (product level). At any one level there are multiple variables to keep in mind and sometimes missed variables can lead to delays or ultimately, failed projects. So, what is the key to achieving a successful initiative?
Out of all the factors, Leadership plays a key role in program and project success. To combat project stress and/or ambiguity across the organization, a leader should facilitate project success by:
1) Establishing clear expectations of the project (not just the due date) and it’s alignment with the organization’s overall objectives.
2) Prioritizing all major enterprise efforts and emphasizing the need for organizational resource planning. Budgets for key projects should include back-filling key operational roles so the Subject Matter Experts are working on the project. Asking your best functional resources to work the project off the side of their desk seldom works and can be a key contributor to failure.
3) Ensuring a culture where two-way communication is encouraged:
1. The people who are setting the scope, budget, and timeline need to listen to feedback from the people who will be responsible for executing those deliverables before committing to a plan. To encourage unity and team accountability, the people setting the direction need to be held equally accountable as the people delivering.
2. Encourage a culture of Relationship Change Management by ensuring the team is having an ongoing dialogue with key stakeholders. This open dialogue should be present at every phase of the project from the team selection through post-implementation support in order to ensure buy-in and ownership. Those efforts with a dedicated Communication and Change Management role, where activities are tracked in the project plan, will have better results.
3. Practicing honesty with oneself. Too often, as leaders, we want to believe something will cost less, take less time, and provide more benefit than the reality. C level executives need trusted messengers who are closer to the work to provide them with unfiltered information, especially if the news is bad.
4. Spending more time ensuring the key roles are filled with people who have the right experience, skills, and natural behaviors to ensure success.
5. Holding people accountable which also includes enforcing a culture of quality assurance. Motivate team members using both the carrot and the stick methods. Bonuses tied to project deliverables can be very effective if they are meaningful and permeate all levels of the project. Removing a problem person from the project catches people’s attention as well.
As a leader, it is important to remember that the two-way communication should be incorporated in every aspect of the project and organization. This will ensure that your organization is operating on the most accurate facts and can therefore, affirm the success of a project or change initiative. Setting up such a unified culture is most effective when it starts with the leader.