The July 2012 issue of PM Network provided some highlights from PMI’s 2012 Pulse of the Profession Benefits Realization In-Depth Report (try to repeat that title five times quickly!) – one of the practices identified in successful projects was having project teams take ownership for deliverable usage beyond their creation.
The challenge in justifying use of this approach is that most project team members are under pressure to commence the next phase of the project work or to move on to their next project.
The team members who have created the process or system outputs from the project are going to want to see those deliverables used. However, we know that changing people’s behavior takes time and if the only involvement the project team has had with the staff is the training sessions that took place prior to handover of the deliverables, then the responsibility for ensuring that the changes stick falls on the functional managers. Even if these managers are actively engaged in the project change management activities, they can’t solely be relied upon to ensure compliance. On the other hand, if the team members work hand-in-hand with staff over a period of time, the coaching moments that will occur will be much more effective than functional manager oversight.
Another advantage of taking this approach is the cliche of eating your own dog food. While not a panacea, if a project team knows that they will have to use the deliverables from their projects and have to defend their usage on a daily basis with the staff, usability and quality are likely given more weight than if the project team feels they can just toss the outputs over the fence.
Finally, while not a direct benefit of the approach, it does support the concept of rotational staff segregation to reduce contention between day-to-day operational work and project involvement. I’ve written previously about the significant threat that uncertainty regarding resource availability estimates poses to projects, hence removing one variable from the resource allocation equation should reduce the severity of this risk. This can also provide a good break for staff from the deadline pressure and uncertainties of project work and is akin to the good agricultural practice of crop rotation.
The specific duration of the operational involvement really depends on the complexity and nature of the process or system changes. Cataclysmic upheavals to established procedures will require significant elapsed time for advocacy and coaching, whereas minor changes could be addressed in the manner of a brief post-project warranty period.
Having a portion of your project staff support operational usage after deliverable handover may seem a luxury that most organizations can’t afford. However, ignoring this practice is a good example of penny wise and pound foolish!