August 2008 - Secrets of New Project Success
- Avoid Square Peg in Round Hole
- Improving the Process
- Four stage process
- Benefit of Process
- Resources (links, books, articles, the
of New Project Success
By Baldwin H. Tom, CMC
"Let’s set up a creative thinking program."
"OK, this should be in HR."
When an organization-wide (cutting across functional groups) initiative is
housed (structured) in a business unit without first working through the full
aspects of the effort, one often finds the proverbial square
peg in round hole problem. The resources are not well
matched, personnel do not have the appropriate skill sets, the unit leadership
does not have the ideal passion, etc. One then wonders why the initiative
does not work out well.
The need to quickly identify a place to house an initiative is very strong
because new things are disruptive and known entities more comforting.
When there is an owner, someone becomes responsible to manage the new effort
and there is a sense of ‘containing’ the newness. Yet, this should not
be the first step taken. Why would one choose one home over another before
the effort is clearly defined?
When working on cross cutting initiatives
like establishing a creative thinking
initiative, the choice of a home may seem clear. "Let’s place it in
Human Resources." Until one has defined the nature of the initiative,
know how to implement it and who or what might be needed to make it work,
providing a structure should be the last thing done, not the first.
Here is a four stage process that avoids the urge to house a project before
its definition. The progression of stages — Goal, Process, Resource and
Structure — is particularly important because each provides answers to a
logical, sequential set of questions.
- What do you want to do?
- How are you going to do it?
- Who or What do you need to get it done?
- How are you going to assure consistency, reproducibility and performance
measurement of the efforts?"
Descriptions of each stage are provided in chart form.
What do we want to achieve?
A common focus helps overcome individual agendas. This must be a
If there is insufficient time devoted to reaching a shared goal, the
effort will not be optimized and the best scenario will be that not all
participants will be engaged.
Without a shared goal, the worst scenario will be that the entire
effort will unwind and be discarded.
Note that a shared goal is one that all participants can articulate in
Hence, if the goal is not clearly stated, it will be a challenge to
agree how to proceed.
How are we going to do it?
Of all the stages, this may be the most important one.
If the process is poorly considered, then the entire effort is at
Asking this how question,
at this point, will focus the group on methods and procedures to be
aligned with the goal, purpose, or vision and hold off discussions about
what can’t be done because there is a lack of personnel or funds.
As the original goal was shared by all participants, completing this
stage before considering resources should not be controversial.
This stage is critically important if one is building a coalition
working on a common cause.
Then it will be important to agree on desired behaviors as part of the
process that will help offset differences in personal values and
Decision making considerations must be articulated here as well.
Is this by consensus? How is consensus defined? Who represents each
Building a coalition is a deliberate act and if a key step is missed,
it makes the effort more difficult.
Who or what do we need?
This discussion is guided by who
or what is needed to manage or
act on the processes/methods.
The rubber finally meets the road here because by answering this
question one determines whether the in-house talent, experience, or
materials/technology is sufficient or not.
At this point, if the effort has been conscientious and the goal
desirable, there will be strong impetus by participants to consider ways
to obtain the needed resources, rather than give up for lack of resources.
How are we going to assure reproducibility and
Structure refers to policies and procedures, rules and regulations, and
operating norms that provide guidance
to such efforts.
It refers to procedures such as clear, transparent, and consistent
means for communications; it refers to the office responsible to manage
the project that includes the means for reporting progress.
It refers to the necessary administrative hierarchy; it refers to the
process to evaluate and measure results; it should also refer to
deliberate ways to acknowledge successes – individual and group!
The latter is especially important for all participants, regardless of
status – employee or volunteer.
The first steps taken with this four stage approach allow free thinking that
energizes participants because constraints are not called into play until after
different options for getting the work done are presented under Process.
When limited funds and other resources constrain the plans under Resource,
efforts to find ways to overcome the limitations are greater when there is
passion and ownership of the efforts.
In contrast, if constraints are brought into play early in the planning that
inhibit expansive thinking, there will be less invested emotional energy to seek
ways to find needed resources.
About the author:
Baldwin H. Tom, CMC® Former instructor
in Strategic Thinking and Planning for the United Way of America; Past National
Chair of the Institute of Management Consultants
USA, 2004-2006. Get free
management downloads from www.tbgroupconsultants.com
©1999-2008. The Baldwin Group, Inc. All rights
reserved. Used by permission of the author.
Books - Disclosure:
We get a small commission for purchases made via links to Amazon.
Related newsletter articles:
2001 - Successful Project Management
2006 - Project Management - Early Warning Signs
2000 - Sponsoring Successful Projects
1996 - Management vs. Leadership
2001 - Consulting Skills for Managers
2004 - Successful Stakeholdering
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