During projects, a whole host of things can go wrong: scope creep, lack of commitment from your sponsors, resistance to change from stakeholders… the list goes on.
But we know that not all business change outcomes are under the control of the project team; some organisations are just not set up for successful projects. To make sure your project doesn’t become another failure statistic, it’s worth carrying out a ‘health check’ as part of project planning, looking at some of the key aspects affecting change.
You can’t immediately change a company’s leadership or culture but you can uncover potential issues, areas that will need your focus and ways you may be able to use your influence for a better outcome.
Of course, projects should only go ahead if clear business benefits and drivers have been identified. Do they stand up to scrutiny? Can they be clearly articulated? And who are they actually benefiting?
An Afiniti colleague was telling me only the other day about an organisation he worked for where the IT team routinely advised the business of their next project, but usually didn’t get a response – and didn’t expect one. They ploughed on with each project regardless because, after all, they were the experts; they knew why they were doing it, even if the end-users didn’t!
How true are the following statements in your organisation?
- Leaders talk to us; we have good visibility of company performance and plans.
- Senior executives are skilled and experienced in the leadership of change and change programmes.
It’s beyond the remit of a project team to tackle leadership culture head-on, but it can support leaders to fulfil their role in change. Make sure that your project communications explicitly align the benefits to wider plans and performance but keep them relevant to your audience.
Name-check leaders (with permission!), suggest to them the enormous benefit of leadership visibility on roadshows, town-halls, even videos. This brings us neatly to…
Is there a culture and widespread practice of encouraging honest two way feedback? If there isn’t, introduce a mechanism for your project to garner employee views throughout the life of your project, not just at the end. Most importantly – act on it and be seen to do so.
Are people provided with the learning they need to deal with business change and new technology? Don’t make assumptions, even based on previous projects – know your users!
For example, we were rolling out new laptops and a Windows upgrade for an organisation a few years ago and their IT department was pretty insistent training wasn’t required. They were wrong, which resulted in an upsurge of calls to the help desk at ‘go live’. They’d made an assumption based on how they thought technology was used, not on the reality.
Carry out your own analysis of user needs, to make a compelling case for your choice of learning approach.
These are just some of the aspects of change that can pose a real threat to the likely success of a project or programme. They’re the reason our industry has the change readiness assessment: to see how prepared an organisation is for the impact of projects and programmes of change.
It’s a rare organisation where change is always implemented smoothly but a project planning team does have it in their power to affect the outcome and maybe even influence how change is dealt with in the future – as long as you’ve done your homework.
Online change readiness assessment