A client recently presented me with this disheartening outcome – his organization had invested significant blood, sweat & tears into helping to develop and implement a new governance model coupled with some pragmatic practices automated using a commercial solution. The procedures had passed the “gold-plating” test and had been trimmed to the bone based on feedback from front line & management staff. Managers had been trained on the procedures and had transferred this knowledge down to their direct reports. Communication, coaching & training were the lifeblood of the initiative.
In spite of this diligence, almost a year after the changes were launched, process compliance and consistency had barely progressed an iota beyond time tracking (and even the quality of that data is suspect).
My client has spent a lot of soul searching to identify the root cause for this – were the procedures perhaps still too onerous? Was the tool they purchased not the best one for their needs? Should they have invested more effort in training & coaching? Were there too few resources to support the operational state for the processes & policies?
As it turns out, the greatest contributor to this situation was a lack of change commitment from the sponsors for the initiative.
Had this commitment been present it might have evidenced itself in many ways:
- Frequent, visible & vocal support for the processes & supporting tools in all staff interactions
- Insistence on compliance with established procedures from peers & reporting staff and consequences resulting from chronic non-compliance
- Dogged persistence in consulting the underlying PM information systems as the official system of record instead of continuing to use ad hoc enquiries to know “what’s going on” with projects
PPM is all about changing behaviors and the hardest behaviors to change are sometimes found at the top echelons. Executives don’t like to be perceived as “hard nosed” with their peers or reports but this misplaced desire to be a nice person fosters mediocrity and kneecaps progress. Once it is known that a few people are getting away with non-compliance, the magnitude of non-compliance grows.
Assuming policies & processes are flexible, fair & well automated and that staff have been appropriately trained and coached on their usage, removing the heads of a few key offenders is an unfortunate, but necessary step to reinforcing credibility in one’s leadership abilities as well as the processes one purports to support.
The lesson to be learned is not to waste money in hiring staff or tools to evangelize, support & automate PPM if you are unwilling to demand behavioral change from your organization.