Any project that seeks to introduce a degree of change to an organisation inevitably brings with it an element of risk and uncertainty of success. It should be a given that nothing is changed unless it is clear that the end goal actually improves the organisation in some tangible way, and that the effort involved in making the proposed changes will be worth it in the end.
There are countless books, studies and experts in project management and change management that all offer valuable insight into how to deliver successful projects and we don’t pretend that anything we say outweighs the need to have a well-rounded approach when delivering a successful change project. However, we wanted to give a flavour of our style and how we work with our clients to deliver projects successfully and make sure that the benefits being sought are achieved.
#1 - Say No To Egos
We work hard to leave it at home. We understand that we’ve simply been hired because we either bring expertise the client doesn’t have, or we are providing resource the client doesn’t have. That is the bottom line. We haven’t been hired because we know everything about the client or what should be done to sort all their problems
Attitude is one of the main things that will determine whether a project succeeds or fails. So we are open to ideas from our clients. Often it’s the people working at the coalface and experiencing the problems who have practical ideas how to solve them, so it is important to always be open to those who may have different (perhaps better) ideas. That doesn’t mean we leave our expertise behind, it simply means we will always look for the best solution, even if it wasn’t us that came up with it.
#2 - Eyes On The Prize
It’s important for us to have structure, approaches, plans and methodologies. But they’re not the most important thing. The most important thing we do is keep an eye on the end goal. We’ve been hired to deliver an outcome for our clients so we’re adaptable and willing to change the approach to suit the problem. We listen when someone who understands the organisation much better explains that ‘that’s really not going to work here’. It doesn’t mean we have to accept it but it may mean we have to find a way to work around it. We don’t let the rigid application of our way of doing things become a hindrance to what’s going to deliver the optimal outcome.
#3 - Be Structurally Sound
Governance, Steering Groups, Project Management Offices etc. The underlying principle of all of these things is that a project needs structure.
We agree with the principle, however, … you don’t necessarily need to see it to be successful.
Much like the human body, which has structure in the form of a skeleton, that underlying structure is hidden. We have found that a good project will hide the structure that supports it, because that’s not what matters. What matters to us is that the right people in leadership positions have confidence and trust that there is sufficient structure and that they will be appropriately involved in decision making when its required.
In our experience the quiet competence that sits on top of the project is far more valuable and important than any big, noisy project management structure that gives an illusion of control that doesn’t actually exist. For us, the ideal project is one that has delivered the outcome the client wanted, and they haven’t even really noticed we were there because we found a way to deliver change with minimum fuss or disruption.
#4 - Transparency Is Key
Issues will arise. That’s inevitable. Things will go wrong. People make mistakes.
Operating in a way that makes that OK doesn’t mean we accept it, or do our utmost to prevent it, but it does make things easier to deal with if you accept it can happen. We take care to be open and honest with our clients and relevant leadership involved with the project. We raise appropriate issues early. We take the time to walk people through thought processes and allow them to challenge them. Making sure the right people are involved in decisions at the right time, and the thought process behind them not only gives everyone confidence in the decision but also gives everyone the ability to explain that decision with confidence.
As we are transparent with everyone about what we are doing and why then unless there are very valid reasons for not disclosing decisions and the thinking behind them, people respond better when they are trusted and everyone is open with what is happening.
#5 - Watch The Time
We’ve been hired to deliver a project. It will likely impact many people in the organisation. That doesn’t give us the right to monopolise their time. We think it is important to remember and respect the fact they have a job they are trying to do. Change projects can frequently seen to be annoying inconveniences interpreted as ‘just more work to do’ when ‘I’m just trying to keep up with the work I have’. This applies just as much to those in leadership positions as front line workers, especially as leaders are often expected to lead change projects in addition to many other demands on their time.
People’s time is valuable and finite. Just because for some, the project is the most important thing we know that many people, including senior leadership, have multiple things that are equally important and have people placing demands on their time coming from all angles. So, getting the balance right for when we need people’s time, and when to leave them alone matters.
#6 - Every Voice Is Valid
Every organisation has (at least) one. That person or group that is always raising objections or raising issues, or just thinks a bit differently. We are great believers in seeking these people out. Talk with them about what’s happening, allow them to challenge the approach and thinking.
We won’t always have to take what they say on board, but it will sharpen plans up and help keep us focussed on doing the right thing. We talk with them about what we are proposing and invite them to challenge our approach and thinking as they are frequently a source of good ideas and great at highlighting things that could go wrong. We may actually be able to get them onside which is the ideal outcome as they will frequently become powerful advocates, but even if we can’t, we certainly won’t ignore them.
#7 - The Human Touch
There are obviously many more areas that could be covered here, but at the end of the day, we are working with people, and its people that make the culture of an organisation. We understand that and work hard to adapt to work within that culture. People like to be included. People like when someone shows an interest in them. Building relationships that are genuine matters to us and are not built just to get what we want from someone.
People are messy, unpredictable and hard to control, which at the end of the day is what makes working on change projects interesting, challenging and above all, dare we say it.