Many organizations have a vision statement focused on long-term goals. In my experience, project professionals tend to dislike such vague objectives because they lack detail on how the goals should be achieved. This is program or project work: We want to turn a sponsor's idea or goal into actual plans.
But in reality, vision statements in a project or program can be very impactful, as they lend themselves to collaboration among stakeholders.
As an example, let's look at the Buddha Memorial Center in Kaohsiung, Taiwan.
At the heart of this religious center is a relic of the Buddha that avoided destruction when it was snuck out of the country during the 1960s Cultural Revolution. Three decades later, Buddhist monks in India felt the relic should return to Taiwan. For Taiwanese citizens and politicians, as well as Buddhists worldwide, there was a wish to do full justice to the relic and its religion.
Planning for the Buddha Memorial Center began in 1998 when the relic arrived in Taiwan. Construction launched in 2003 and was completed in 2011. During that time, the design for the center changed more than 114 times, growing from 20 to more than 100 hectares (247 acres). Even when construction finished in 2011, the world's largest copper Buddha statue, at 108 meters (354 feet) high, was added to the center in the spring of 2012.
Although it's in every project professional's nature to keep as close to plans as possible, and keep change to a minimum, change management was a key factor to success with the Buddhist Memorial Center project.
The project managers had to be flexible and communicate. Traditional tools and techniques such as 'rolling-wave' and 'fast-track' planning allowed constant change to be embraced.
Program visibility was also important. 'Program visibility' refers to making sure everyone involved is aware of objectives and strategy risks, and that everyone feels involved in the management and its outcome. (Program Management Standard, p14. Doman IV: Stakeholder Management.) In this case, regular meetings were held for all the major stakeholders. The meetings were often open to the public and media, which helped generate even more support.
Meetings are as much about reaching consensus as sharing information. Program visibility also ensures that all stakeholders, from sponsors to workers, share a sense of purpose and commitment.
The lesson learned from building the Buddhist Memorial Center shows how important it is to share your vision for a project or program. Doing so can allow you to create a lasting impact.
How have you made your project or program more visible?
Editor's Note: Photographs taken by Liang Ching Chih.