Change resiliency is a muscle

IMG_0112.JPGResiliency is the ability of an object to return to its original form or position after being affected by a force.  Change resiliency represents the ability of an organization or individual to bounce back after experiencing change.

Why is this an important ability to possess?  The cliché about change being the only constant applies to all industries, hence organizations with low change resilience are unable to adopt change at the pace required for them to remain competitive.

Some writers have used the analogy of a spring to describe this attribute – if you stretch it too far, it won’t bounce back, and if you don’t stretch it all, it will rust and also be unable to bounce back when pulled.

I prefer to use the analogy of a muscle.

A muscle needs to be fed, given the time to rest, but also needs to be stressed to the point of exhaustion and fatigue so that growth happens.

How do we know if we are feeding change resiliency well?

Check employee engagement survey feedback.  If staff are indicating that they don’t feel engaged and believe that there is insufficient recognition of their efforts, the muscle is likely not receiving the nutrition required.  Regular, right-sized recognition, coaching for development (and not just performance), and an emphasis on good quality talent management can help.

What about rest?

Ask any professional athlete what happens if they push themselves too hard for too long and they’ll tell you the same thing – their performance drops dramatically.  It’s the same with change resilience. If staff experience a volley of changes with very little breathing room between to find their equilibrium, they will soon experience change fatigue and the good will which may have been built through well managed changes of the past will be lost.

So why do we need stress?

Although continuous change results in change fatigue, minimal change can reinforce a desire to maintain the status quo such that when a large change occurs, staff are unable to adapt in an agile manner. This is why it is good to have staff experience changes of different sizes and impacts on a somewhat regular basis such that their ability to cope becomes more dynamic.

Like all muscles, when properly treated, change resilience grows. Neglect it and you run the polar extremes of atrophy or fatigue.

Categories: Facilitating Organization Change | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Project management creates alignment with doing the right thing

conductor-color-trans-122Those of you who have followed my writing over the past few years will know that the most common word I use to describe project management is predictability.  Uncertainty in terms of outcomes and stakeholder expectations is hardwired into the DNA of projects, hence the primary value we bring to our organizations is by increasing the level of predictability about their investments.

However, this speaks to the end but not the means.

A mantra that I have heard multiple times over my career is “Do the right thing“.  Even the outgoing CEO of my company incorporated this phrase as part of the final sentence of his official farewell speech earlier this week.

Imagine the power of an organization where every individual walks around with that mantra as their core guiding principle.

The challenge comes when we realize that the right thing is in the eye of the beholder.  It is the classic issue of good intentions translating into unintended consequences or worse, complete contradiction in goals from individual to individual or department to department.

You might say that having a shared set of core values and a well defined set of strategic objectives can overcome this.  To a certain degree this can be true (e.g. Google’s early successes with it’s corporate motto of “Don’t be evil”), but when we narrow focus to the context of specific projects, misalignment still occurs resulting in reduced efficiency and effectiveness.

One of my favorite analogies to describe the role of a project manager is as the conductor of an orchestra.  Each individual musician is a subject matter expert, usually with more experience and competency with their instrument than the conductor.  They all are capable of playing a piece individually in a quality fashion.  However, without guidance from the conductor, the full orchestra is likely to not be too melodious.

A critical element of “how” of project management is in identifying and applying timely course corrections to their team members to help align their talents and energy.

Without this, they will all “do the right thing” in multiple different directions.  Hope you like herding cats!

Categories: Project Management | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Risk is not an island!

islandAlthough the Guide to the PMBOK has individual chapters covering key project management knowledge areas, it also highlights the importance in an approach which integrates these knowledge areas in a pragmatic, tailored manner to fit the needs of a specific project taking into consideration organizational and team culture.

One of the most common examples of poor integration across the knowledge areas occurs with risk management.  Risk management needs be tied at the hip with other project management practices, but too often it is as isolated as a porcupine at a balloon convention.

What do I mean by this?

Risk is the embodiment of the uncertainty which is inherent in the DNA of projects.  Until all agreed-to scope has been delivered and accepted, risk does not disappear so why do we not connect the dots by referencing it in other key project management artifacts?

It starts with the charter – while expressing the desired outcomes and drivers for the project, there should also be coverage of the key sources of risk which could impede the realization of these outcomes.

It continues with other core planning artifacts such as stakeholder analysis documents and organization change management (OCM) plans – risks from the register should be referenced in specific stakeholder management plans and should form part of the rationale supporting your OCM strategy.

Risk drives variation in outcomes and hence the cost and time contingencies reflected in cost estimates and schedules should link back to specific risks in the register.  Risk responses for high severity risks should show up as line items in the schedule and should have been baked into your baseline budget.

Project changes should directly tie back to items in the risk register – closed and open risks.  Some project changes may eliminate certain risks – this is why one of the ways to implement the risk avoidance response is to reduce scope.  Other changes might introduce a whole new set of risks.  A well maintained risk register should be able to provide a forensic trail of project change.

Issue logs should also show evidence of traceability to risks – when known unknowns are realized as issues, linking those back to the originally identified risks provides the opportunity to assess whether there is a future likelihood of occurrence and can provide valuable input into post-project assessment of risk management practice effectiveness.

All decisions need to consider risk – analysis leading up to a decision should consider the risks associated with each option, and risk register updates should capture the uncertainties tied to the final decision.

Risk management is like quality – if you tack it on, the value derived is less than if it gets baked in as an intrinsic part of your overall project management approach.

Categories: Project Management | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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