Voices on Project Management

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Voices on Project Management offers insights, tips, advice and personal stories from project managers in different regions and industries. The goal is to get you thinking, and spark a discussion. So, if you read something that you agree with - or even disagree with - leave a comment.

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Agree or Disagree: Don't Change Culture

Categories: Change Management

Agree or Disagree is a new series on Voices on Project Management in which two bloggers debate both sides of one point of view. Here, we take a closer look at a quote from Peter Drucker, U.S. management consultant and author: "Company cultures are like country cultures. Never try to change one. Try, instead, to work with what you've got."


A country's culture consists of its people's history, thoughts, system and rules. Companies are structures that originate and operate within that country's culture, and they exist to fulfill the needs of that country's people. A country's culture will impose and manifest itself within the company through its local workforce and interactions.

"Company cultures are like country cultures" because of what people perceive to be acceptable and unacceptable; what they are sensitive to; and what their priorities are. For example, one very famous Western multinational coffee chain that operates in Saudi Arabia synced with the country's culture to design its shops and services, which feature separate women, family and men sections. Like many other international companies, this one has successfully used the "work with what you've got" approach.

I have to agree with Drucker that we should "never try to change one" because that can be perceived as antagonistic and lead to alienation. In my experience, successful individuals and company cultures are the ones that expend their energy to find commonalities and adapt to complement local culture without compromising their core business values.


I disagree: Dave Wakeman, PMP

Peter Drucker said a great deal that still rings true in our daily and professional lives. Yet, this statement isn't one of them. 

In reflecting on his quote, I find myself imagining what he would say if he looked at any number of businesses or sports teams that make changes to their administration and turn their culture into something entirely different.

An example that illustrates why Mr. Drucker is wrong is when Nick Saban became head football coach at the University of Alabama in 2007. He undertook a plan he calls "The Process" that changed everything about the football program's culture. He emphasized taking everything one step at a time -- which differed tremendously from other coaches, but led to unbelievable change and success. Alabama won three national championships in five years. 

In changing an organization's culture, look at three key points. First, the buy-in must start at the top of the organization. You can't have a legitimate change in culture without full commitment. Second, you need to change your reward and feedback system to reflect your new culture and the new results desired. If you are still rewarding old behaviors or you don't reinforce the kind of behavior that you are hoping for, your new culture won't take hold. Finally, the lines of communication have to be wide open. This means you have to communicate the goals, objectives and other measures of success to your team. This is important because it allows your team to act in a manner consistent with the new culture.

Do you agree or disagree with Mr. Drucker's quote? 

Posted by Voices Team on: March 17, 2014 01:58 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

10 Tips for Sustainable Change Management

Categories: Change Management

In my experience, project managers must accept change management disciplines as part of their project management plans in order to reduce the risk of an initiative failing. And in recent posts, I've discussed how:

In this post, I'll discuss how project managers have an opportunity to make a long-lasting impact on an organization by indicating where change disciplines integrate with project management. That's because the keys to successful change management lie in the project management process groups. By leveraging the project management processes and activities across the project life cycle, we can build in and ultimately sustain change. Here are 10 ways to address change in your project management plan: 

  1. Gather requirements during the initiating phase to articulate a change management plan as part of the project charter.
  2. Design a plan that integrates the work activities and drives performance by using a specific approach, such as John Kotter's 8-Step model.
  3. Engage stakeholders early to gather their expectations and gain their commitment.
  4. Integrate change needs into risk, scope, budget, communication and human resources plans during the planning phase.
  5. Identify change leaders as part of the project team, or hire subject matter experts to engage and coach staff and leaders to drive change. 
  6. Execute an integrated communication and change management plan that assesses the culture for change readiness, and communicate new expectations and ways of working in the future to become accustomed to new behaviors.
  7. Generate quick wins to display the new ways of working as examples of change outcomes. I create a quick list of wins by gathering insights from stakeholder interviews and a review of performance measures. This allows the team to build momentum and credibility for the new work approaches.
  8. Gather feedback during your monitoring phase to modify approaches and thus continue to drive desired change outcomes. This allows you to evaluate what techniques work well and which ones need to be stopped or tweaked to support the adoption of new behaviors.
  9. Sustain the change by developing a transition plan to operations that includes trained teams. Make sure a sustainability assessment is conducted at predefined periods, beginning with quarterly reviews, to continue governance.
  10. Celebrate the team's accomplishment on the internal change that will drive the future of the organization. These celebrations should acknowledge individuals and teams who have adopted the new behaviors--and thus help create successful role models for others to learn from and emulate during adoption.
As a management consultant, I used this checklist of tips to help me move from strategic planning to tactical implementation to sustainable operations. For example, I once had a client organization that deployed a new service management provider to improve its delivery and cost of IT operations. As the client introduced the new provider, the service delivery measures were not improving and were starting to miss the ROI expectations of the business case.  

I was hired to review the business processes that underpinned IT service delivery, and develop an improvement plan to restore the service delivery organization and meet the business case expectations. I started by conducting a prime value chain analysis and conducted stakeholder reviews to gather requirements. Based on my evaluation of best practices and the activities that hurt service delivery, I developed an initial management improvement plan. This plan was based on process reengineering, redeploying resources and reorganizing governance. 

During the implementation planning, I used every one of the steps above to ensure I was leading through the change, engaging stakeholders and staff while ensuring the organization would be able to sustain the new ways of working after my assignment ended.

Which of the above steps do you find most valuable in ensuring sustained change? 

For more on change management, purchase PMI's Managing Change in Organizations: A Practice Guide

Posted by Peter Tarhanidis on: December 04, 2013 12:14 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Communicating Change

To implement a successful change initiative, you must first create the desire for change within the affected stakeholder community. If stakeholders believe the message being communicated, the way they react and feel changes in response.

Research in Australia, New Zealand and the United States has consistently demonstrated physical changes in people based on what they've been told. Studies report people Down Under and in Canada who are told wind turbines cause health problems actually experience health problems. Similarly, in a 2007 study, Harvard researchers told some female hotel employees that their usual duties met the U.S. Surgeon General's recommendations for an exercise regimen. Four weeks later, the researchers found improvements in blood pressure, body mass index and other health indices among the informed group compared to a control group of attendants who hadn't been so informed.

What this suggests is the conversations around your change initiative will have a direct effect on how people experience the change. Gossip and scaremongering will cause bad reactions; positive news creates positive experiences.

To drive success, you need to make the right conversations. Some strategies to help include:

  • If you can't see and articulate how the change is actually going to work, it probably won't work. Explain "how" and keep explaining to everyone affected by the project's outcomes.
  • While it's painful to integrate change management planning into your project planning, it's even more painful to watch your project fail. Make sure all aspects of the change are covered in your project plan or the associated change management plan -- and that the two plans are coordinated.
  • Keep explaining the "whys" behind the change. Once is never enough! You need a well-thought-out and implemented communication plan.
  • The only antidote to scaremongering is information. And that information needs to be accurate and believed. What's actually going to happen is never as bad as the things people imagine "might happen" in the absence of easy-to-understand, well-communicated facts. 
Expectations tend to become self-fulfilling prophecies. You need to communicate the expected change your project is creating will be beneficial and good for the majority of the stakeholders. If this message is both true and believed (the two elements are not automatically connected), the experience of the stakeholders is more likely to be positive. 

Communication often can mean the difference between project success and failure. A 2013 PMI Pulse of the Professionâ„¢ in-depth report shows that executives and project managers around the world agree that poor communication contributes to project failure. Of the two in five projects that fail to meet original goals, one of the two do so because of ineffective communications. The study also reveals that effective communication is a critical factor in creating success.

Given the stakes, it's time to ask: How much positive communication do you do each day?
Posted by Lynda Bourne on: November 05, 2013 10:15 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Taking Competitive Advantage of External Change

Categories: Change Management

In recent posts, I've discussed how project managers can become agents of change, and how managing change can drive their organization's business goals. In this post, I'll focus on the external events that can affect business -- and how project practitioners can help their organizations derive value from these changes.
 
Over the years, I have witnessed organizations incorporate external forces, such as fluctuating market conditions or the advent of new technology, into their business planning process to much success. 
 
A few years ago, I was part of a project team that helped harness external change. I was employed at an organization at the top of its industry, but one that was also facing shifting customer demands across its portfolio of products. The organization had to consider how to meet the demand changes, increase revenue and address the variability of the business plans. 
 
The organization defined a new strategy that would allow us to weather economic headwinds, advance our value creation by integrating new products and services, and increase shareholder value. That strategy relied heavily on investing in a multi-year journey to execute mergers and acquisitions. And to succeed in this strategy, we needed to adapt internally to incorporate newly acquired companies into our operations.
 
That led to the creation of a Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A) integration team, and I was invited to participate in building up this capability. Management selected a core project team that included high performers, particularly those who demonstrated strong IT skills and solid project management experience.
 
Right from the beginning, our core project team focused on setting clear goals, based on how we would provide benefits to our organization's customers -- and shift the market demands back to our favor. We drove several goals-setting sessions to establish a project timeline and identify opportunities for synergy savings (syncing expenditures to reduce administrative costs).
 
Then, we selected the rest of the M&A integration team members -- mostly various subject matter experts and business analysts who were well versed in project and change management. This helped us deliver multibillion-dollar integration on time and closely aligned to strategy. We were able to do so because of our team members' clear roles and expertise, but particularly because of these standout team characteristics:
 
  • Agility: We were very nimble, moving quickly to pull and release team members across milestones.
  • Change management: Team members' ability to adopt additional support requirements within their groups allowed the full integration to occur.
 
Over the next three years, this same project team was called upon to develop knowledge and competence in the area of internal change. My organization dedicated a small M&A office to develop integration tools and codify our knowledge. We were even asked to continue to work together to build on the initial strategic goal: to help the company maintain its leadership position in the industry. That required us to support post-merger integrations by leading work streams and mentoring junior teams. Our competence increased in managing people across matrix teams, and the use of change management prepared us to lead and sustain other major initiatives of the organization.  
 
How do you identify external change and help turn it to your organization's advantage? For more on change management, download PMI's Managing Change in Organizations: A Practice Guide, currently available for free download for a limited time only. Explore PMI's Change Management Resources.
Posted by Peter Tarhanidis on: October 03, 2013 10:51 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Effect Change, Drive Business

Categories: Change Management

More times than not, change leads to new competitive environments -- and project managers who are able to adapt quickly tend to survive and capitalize. In such an environment, one of the most important tools a project manager has is the ability to effect change to drive an organization's competitive advantage, its ultimate goal. However, as I discussed in my previous blog post, change is always met with resistance and uncertainty. 
 
Not only do project managers have to deal with resistance to change from team members, but they must also plan for and overcome general pitfalls of implementing that change. To do so, consider incorporating better change methods into your daily practice. Below is a list of 10 design principles -- culled from a list created by Booz Allen Hamilton consulting principals, which I expand on with personal experience -- that should be part of our overall change plans efforts: 
 
  1. Address the "human side" systematically. Engage employees early in the planning phases. Proactively manage suggestions and concerns based on their field of expertise.
  2. Start at the top. Gaining executive buy-in to ensure the likelihood of success.
  3. Involve every layer. If the change affects the entire organization, then consider identifying managers at each layer to be responsible for the change management plan. 
  4. Make the formal case. Establish a business case with defined goals that articulate the rationale behind the change and the benefits it will deliver to stakeholders. This could be a renewed organization mission or vision statements.
  5. Create ownership. Motivate employees to take ownership of the change and leverage the organization's rewards and recognition system to reinforce those team member commitments.
  6. Communicate the message. Teams need to understand how to be successful in driving change. Establish a formal plan to deliver that message through a communication matrix that includes methods such as town halls, videos, team meetings and informal gatherings. 
  7. Assess the cultural landscape. Assess the organization's values, beliefs and attitudes to obtain the baseline culture. Then contrast the baseline against implications of a new, post-change culture to determine what to communicate to stakeholders as the value of the organization's new culture.
  8. Address culture explicitly. Provide employees the expectations of the new culture, and identify ways they can help it flourish. Reinforce those who embrace the new culture by using the organization's rewards and recognition system. 
  9. Prepare for the unexpected. There may be a new set of stakeholders not originally considered during the development of the change plan. Remain flexible to integrate their engagement, should it be warranted.
  10. Speak to the individual. Identify an individual's emotional situation and prepare to understand their reaction to change. Then guide them to adapt to new ways of working.
What change methods do you use to provide your organization with a competitive advantage? 
 
PMI's new title, Managing Change in Organizations: A Practice Guide,  is currently available for free download for a limited time only. It contains knowledge to help project and program managers identify change elements and account for them in their project/program plans, as well as create clear and powerful strategies to guide organizational development. Explore PMI's Change Management Resources.  
Posted by Peter Tarhanidis on: August 01, 2013 09:46 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
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