How to Convert Project Failures into Amazing Success

We all want to be positive, embrace an optimistic future, and focus on possibilities.  This is especially true in managing projects and introducing change into an organization.  We see the possibilities at the other end of the change, it can be exciting . . . however, the change can’t simply be declared and expected to happen.  The journey needs to be led and managed.

At a high level, I have found that there are key behaviors at the Organizational, Team and Personal levels that are critical for any change journey.

Organizational Behavior

“Here it comes, another ill-conceived program.” Many communications coming from the leadership team leave employees wondering about priorities, impacts, and expected outcomes. When an organization effectively manages change, the leadership team agrees on the purpose of strategy execution, successfully engages employees to adapt to the change and implement decisions, and willingly reaches throughout the organization to help employees handle the implementation.

Team Behavior

Without healthy team behaviors, team members end up pointing fingers at one another, and devolve into counterproductive, time wasting rituals. Effective teams work together quickly to achieve goals. This requires healthy conflict to engage and discuss difficult topics, commitment to the team’s purpose, and a willingness to hold one another accountable for outcomes.

Personal Behavior

We’ve all seen cartoons depicting the disheveled executive. When you look beneath the appearance, you see an ineffective, guarded individual who doesn’t deliver. Conversely, effective executives are open, vulnerable, accept risk, and speak with honest candor with others.

Here are five characteristics of an organization that effectively manages change. How does your organization stack up?

  1. The leadership team agrees on the outcomes of decisions.
  2. Priorities are clear to the organization.
  3. The organizational impacts of decisions are understood by those impacted.
  4. Front- line employees are involved in implementing the decision.
  5. Leaders coach employees through the implementation of the decision.

Looking at every project through this five-pronged lens is key to your success. Thinking about both project structures and behaviors at each of the three levels, organizational, team and individual ensures that you are comprehensively considering every element of your project teams’ make-up to ensure success.

Dedicated to your profitable transformation,

Steve

Why the idea of Change Management is Wrong!

I’ve been doing this work for decades, and I have never really thought of it as managing change. Rather, I think of it as leading transformations – or transformational leadership. There are two primary focuses.

  1. When an organization goes through some sort of change, it is transforming from one state to a new state. The focus first needs to be on the outcomes of the transformation – not on the transformation itself.
  2. While it is true that the work must be managed, the focus must also be on the work required to lead the organization to the new state, not merely on managing the activities that accomplish the transformation.

My own experience, backed up by study after study, indicates that the focus on leadership during transformation is essential. The number one attribute of successful transformations is actively visible sponsorship – or leadership. If the leadership team is not aligned to the purpose and working to ensure the organization is enrolled to drive it forward, the chance of success drops significantly.

For a long time, I was self-critical because plans I developed at the beginning of a project were often significantly altered as we proceeded through the transformation. Once I realized that changing the plan was representative of the growth of the leaders leading the transformation, changing the plan became an indicator of successful leadership transformation – a key ingredient to the approach outlined above. I a reminded of a quote by Abraham Lincoln, “I shall adopt new views as fast as they shall appear to be true views.”

Therefore, it behooves those of us in the business to start calling this work what it is: Transformational Leadership. Everything we do to help an organization drive to a successful transformational change is rooted in this concept.

Dedicated to your profitable transformation,

Steve

Is More Effective Leadership of your Transformation a Waste of Time?

The Project Management Institute says firms that effectively manage their transformations do the following things better than their minimally effective counterparts:

  1. They are 7 times more likely to detect change in the external environment.
  2. They are 3 times more likely to leverage significant changes.
  3. They are 5 times more likely to establish change management beyond major projects – mostly to help achieve changes in culture.
  4. They are 5 times more likely to work across functions.

These firms have a 50% better chance of projects being on-time, on-budget or on-spec and have an 80% better chance of meeting or exceeding ROI goals.

Dedicated to your profitable transformation,

Steve