Over my 20-odd years in the business I have worked on countless projects. Most of them have been deemed to be ‘successful’ (sometimes in the context of ‘We put a project in place to implement xyz and we have implemented xyz therefore the project has been successful’) and a number of them have, unfortunately, been unsuccessful. It is always easy in hindsight to look back and understand what it is about a project that made it less successful than it may have been - and the reasons are numerous. But in my experience the main reason that a lot of projects fail is change management (or lack of it). I have written about this previously. What I want to do today is to look in a little more depth at one facet of change management which is - in my opinion - a prime candidate for ‘reasons most projects are unsuccessful': Lack of senior management buy-in.
What do I mean by that?
In ANY project it is a no-brainer that somebody further up the management chain has to have bought in to the reason why you are doing this project, ahs to understand what you are trying to achieve, and has to make sure you as a project are set up for success. This should ideally be a senior manager in the organisation. Unfortunately getting senior management buy-in happens one of two ways.
- Assigning somebody senior as a sponsor (but no skin in the game)
- Getting someone committed and working together to ensure this happens.
Let me tell you why this is a bad thing. If you are having your bacon and egg for breakfast you are getting two different entities involved, the chicken and the pig. It is probably fair to say that in this instance the chicken is involved, but the pig is committed. It’s the same with having a senior manager who has no skin in the game. He is the chicken in this scenario. If things go wrong he will apologise, or lay blame somewhere else or something similar. He isn’t committed to the project in the same way as the pig is committed to your breakfast. He has no reason to put everything into this project. As a result it will generally wither in the vine and die (or manifest itself as a badly scoped project which barely meets user needs and suffers from delays and other issues).
On the other hand if the senior manager is focused and involved with the project it can smooth over a lot of cracks and make the project run easier and with less friction. The end result may be better and closer to the users needs.
So how do you know whether you have the chicken or the pig sponsoring your project? Here are a couple of pointers:
Your projects needs to have buy-in at the right level.
It is no good assigning responsibility to an individual who is at a middle management level for a change that will affect the whole company. Generally the higher the better when it comes to seniority and buy-in. If you can get someone on the board then this will be ideal. Failing that a senior level manager reporting in to the board.
Make them accountable
When you have identified your senior sponsor (and especially if this is for sponsorhsip of business process proects), give them responsibility for the whole of the process chain (You are designing your processes to work across your business not up and down silo’s aren’t you?). Give them authority to make changes that will be felt across the whole organisation. Don’t let individual parts of the business override them with claims of ‘we’re more important than manufacturing’ claims. This is especially important in these times of cost cutting and intense focus on the bottom line. It is too easy for someone fairly senior in, say, manufacturing, to bypass or change a process to ‘speed things up’ using the excuse that it will increase our economy of scale calculation (or something similar) only to find that this has caused an adverse effect somewhere later on down the line. With a single person accountable for the whole end-to-end process this should not occur.
Put some measure in place to make this happen.
Add objectives in the senior managers yearly assessment that are dependent on the processes being managed appropriately. Remember there are only two ways to change behaviour: Either punishment for exhibiting the wrong behaviour or praise (in the form of compensation) for exhibiting the right behaviour. Telling a manager he is responsible for this and then not holding his feet to the fire is tantamount to telling him he’s not responsible. Hold his feet to the fire!
The main point to remember here is that authority for managing processes has to be at the right level (i.e. senior) and has to be given to someone who is then measured on their ability to manage this. Failing to do this is tantamount to telling your project it is being run by a chicken.
Reminder: 'The Perfect Process Project' is still available. Don't miss the chance to get this valuable insight into how to make business processes work for you.
Click this link and follow the instructions to get this book.
All information is Copyright (C) G Comerford
See related info below