There are quite a few stories out there about project failure caused by poor Organizational Change Management (OCM) or complete lack of OCM. What about successful Organizational Change Management? I have always felt like fashioning Change Management after a marketing campaign was a very good way to go. I was working on a huge worldwide program for a very large pharmaceutical company that had the best OCM I have ever seen. All of the leaders supported the change. This involved a good deal of their time as they had several events to help the users understand the importance of the change and rally around it. They communicated very frequently and in many different forms. The program leaders made sure that they were getting requirements from all locations participating. Obviously the leaders of the organization were willing to spend money to handle the people side of change as they could see there would be a return. We all know that huge worldwide programs can be the riskiest so the company did all in its power to try to ensure success.
And then there was the time I was brought into an organization to bring a great deal of change. The CIO wanted change. The PMO Director wanted change. Everyone wanted change! They just didn’t agree on what this change looked like! But they agreed it needed to be done yesterday (they really did as they had been looking for a resource to lead this for quite some time). This caused a great deal of resistance from the people who had to do the work to get the projects completed. And then there were the various businesses under the corporation who needed to come together to help develop the requirements that would work for all. I worked with the sponsors to ensure they stood behind the changes required from the program. I built targeted communications for all the various areas of the organization and communicated frequently. I didn’t have the luxury of a big budget and many resources to ensure OCM success for the program but I was a big fan of the solution so my enthusiasm kept me going. And as I said most of the people in the organization realized that several things needed to change as things weren’t going so well before the program was implemented.
When I was researching for a keynote speech I was to present, I came across a very inspiring story of a project success. The two hour house. One of the major elements of the very successful project was people working together because they really believed in the project. This project wasn’t about change in an organization but it was about people really believing in what they were doing. And that is what you want on OCM – for people to believe in the benefit to result from the project. For that particular project the “benefit” was proving they could build the house per a 2 hour schedule. In the end they were proving out the major elements they felt must be in place for success of the project (very detailed planning, risk management, only dedicated believers on the team, contingency planning etc.).
I was just reading a study of Project Failures which got me thinking about the warning signs. The following are true warning signs and issues I have had or witnessed in my Project Management career.
You know your project is in trouble when:
1. The project team was just assigned but the customer wanted this 6 months ago. And the deadline isn’t changing from the original.
2. Your project team is very unhappy because the project has this overly aggressive schedule.
3. You have some team members that don’t like each other – to the point they are acting like 5 year olds asking you to remove the other team member. Time to provide a lecture on being a good team member (and acting like a grownup).
4. Your sponsor is nowhere to be seen – has completely dropped his or her sponsorship of the project.
5. One of the team members has developed a mantra: “I will have that done tomorrow”. This task was due last month!
6. The project contract has a specification that is tighter than the spec your team felt they could meet.
7. Your designer has kept a secret from you: that he doesn’t have a clue how to design the solution.
8. Your stakeholders selected the software – very thorough analysis of alternatives involving tons of people and tons of hours. They selected the application that will work much better than any alternatives. Unfortunately, that is not the application you are implementing. At the last minute an executive informed you that you were to buy one of the alternatives. He claimed that, as a company, we only purchase from this major software vendor.
9. Stakeholders are not happy about this change but they are happy to tell you they don’t want this change.
10. You day-dream a good deal about changing careers.
Some ideas around these project issues:
• Good risk management is important. At the beginning of the project work to determine what can go wrong and what you will do about each risk. This is not just for the PM to do but the entire project team will be valuable in working on this.
• Thorough stakeholder analysis and management will help avoid users that don’t want to use the new system or process.
• Research has shown that a project with no sponsor is more likely to fail that a project with a strong sponsor.
• Communication, communication, communication – with the project team, the sponsors, the stakeholders
o This includes communicating problems – along with what needs to be done to solve the problems.
• If faced with aggressive schedules make sure this is included in your list of risks. This is a difficult issue. The customer always wants it asap and meeting all goals and high quality and in budget. That is a daunting task!
What signs of project trouble have you had? And what did you do about it?
1. Good Strategy: Sound business strategy tied to organization’s core competency. Strategy is interpreted into what gets done in the organization and the benefits are being realized!
2. Good Employees. They are empowered to do an amazing job and always finding better ways to do things. The employees are good at solving problems. They like to come to work and you aren’t even bribing them with free stuff!
3. Outstanding Leaders. They inspire, they motivate. They know what they are doing and keep up with and handle change brilliantly.
4. Corporate Culture is healthy. People collaborate, brainstorm, share knowledge. People care about their work. Not too much politics. Performance metrics measure the right things – to ensure the organization achieves its goals. For the most part, people get along together well and they are positive, glass half full types.
5. The leaders are on top of things: The business thrives in its industry. Leaders understand their market, stay on top of the industry trends and changes. They understand how to deal with the issues of the industry.
6. The organization can handle constant change. The business has the structure in place to change strategy (and associated execution) when major change occurs in the market. The organization is flexible and adaptable. The organization is agile because it has processes, procedures and standards that are just right – not over done (too much rigidity and processes causing inefficiency) or under done (everyone just does whatever!).
7. The company is proactive, not reactive. Issues are anticipated. Risk is managed. The business is quickly solving problems and making sound, rapid decisions as required to succeed.
8. The organization has creative thinkers and innovators. They are coming up with better ideas than the competition.
9. There are no silos. The functional areas work together!
10. The organization has the information and data they need to make the best decisions at all levels of the organization.
This is my brainstorming on what contributes to corporate success. I would love to hear your ideas. And if some of them sound a bit idealistic, they probably are. I am in a positive mood so that’s where the idealism comes in.
I am seeing companies out there asking for people who work well under pressure. I thought everyone was good at that because there are always plenty of issues and challenges in the workplace. But I have seen a lot of different attitudes when difficulties occur in the business. Here are some attitudes that are all wrong for dealing with business challenges:
1. Ignore the problem and it will go away. NOT!
2. Hand this off to someone else. You can collaborate with others, run your solution by others but complete handoff is not something you can do and expect to go anywhere in your career. We all need to be problem solvers. If you feel you must push this further up the chain of command, at least offer your ideas on resolution of the problem.
3. Let out your frustrations and rant and yell about who is to blame. I don’t think anyone sees this as working well under pressure but I have been amazed to see high level people get away with this. I do think this is becoming less common though.
So how should you deal with pressure, issues, challenges and downright disaster?
1. Remain calm and analyze the problem. What is the root cause of the issue and potential solutions?
2. Keep a positive attitude and open mind. I got this idea from people I have worked with. They say that when I worked under great pressure, I kept a positive attitude, which in turn helped keep my teams motivated. Negativity is not productive or motivating, generally this just leads to the issues not getting resolved quickly.
3. Negotiate. Some of the biggest pressures I have encountered related to the customer (internal or external) wanting it now (schedule problem) and wanting it cheap (budget problem) and wanting all the bells and whistles (scope problem). I have found that it is good to find out the prioritization of scope, schedule, cost according to the client. Which of these constraints is most critical? If it is schedule, tell them what you can do by that date and how you would phase the rest of the solution. If it is money, convince them they will have what they need without every last bell and whistle.
4. Corporate culture is key to dealing with issues. If the organization punishes people for reporting problems, there will be more problems. If the organization is consistently looking at performance, proactively anticipating issues and risks while planning mitigation and empowering people to solve problems, the business is likely to run smoother.
5. As I mentioned in item 2 above, your best move might be to all take a deep breath and remind yourselves that panicking doesn’t resolve anything. Then get people together and brainstorm solutions.
6. Keep the issue in perspective. Is this something people will even remember in a day, week or month? Is it possible you will laugh about this later?
7. Plan on getting your frustrations out from all the pressure at work by exercising – the number one stress reliever!
What are your ideas for keeping calm under pressure? If employees are constantly seeking this in their workforce, its a good idea for everyone to work on this.