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."
I agree: Saira Karim, PMP
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?
For more on change management, read PMI's Pulse of the Profession® In-Depth Report: Enabling Organizational Change Through Strategic Initiatives.
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:
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.
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:
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?
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:
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.
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:
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.