Why Change?….Success Criteria # 3

In Success Criteria #2, I linked culture to organisational performance in delivering projects mentioning that “an organisation always gets the project they deserve”. But also when the project team exhibits great leadership they can overcome this.  We will therefore talk about leadership and team composition, but before doing so there is another more important criteria.

That is asking the question of why change anything in the first place?  Knowing why, helps define what the change is trying to achieve?  It could be a simple technology change like a desktop rollout or it could be something much more transofrmational.  Even with a desktop rollout there can a lot of reasons why this is being done and this changes the approach and the outcomes.  Is it a defined upgrade due to end of life or is there other reasons, such as a new enterprise capability that requires new desktops?  Is data and applications being migrated or accomodated in the new environment or discarded?  Will this have impact upon operations?  Is there variations to specifications allowed for specific needs by some users/managers?  Who pays for these?

I have only scraped the surface with questions.  The answers will define what outcomes the team is supposed to deliver.  Is it a low cost, tightly constrained project or is it allowed to consider value judgements that may cost more but bring some benefits. 

Why are these questions important?  All projects make trade-offs, some make them more explicitly than others.  If a project is not making trade-offs between time, cost, quality and benefits then it has a very loose direction, it is not finely tuned nor highly defined.  It is like saying just run over there and see how you go, versus you are about to run in the 100 metres on that track on this time and day.  To do things well, what you are doing needs to be clear, as do your objectives.  You cant do something well, when what you are supposed to be doing is vague.  Yet some projects are very unclear. In fact, it would seem purposefully so.  Not having clear objectives means you can’t fail…well perhaps that is the view by some. 

Not having clear objectives also means you can never succeed.  and this forms Success Criteria #3, have a clear mission.

What changes will the OGC demise bring?

After last year’s first step of moving the OGC, its pieces have now been split up and the OGC as an entity in its own right has now officially ended.  This was confirmed in mid-April.  What does this mean for everyone that uses the many methodologies produced by OGC (all trademarked to Office of Government Commerce), such as PRINCE2, MSP, Gateway, M_o_R and the increasing numbers of others.

Well to start with, what is clear is that everything that the old OGC used to do is being scrutinised.  It seems unlikely that they would get rid of things that generate revenue, and in most cases, it would seem that the training and accreditation programs supporting the methodologies would generate significant royalty revenue at the very least.  But just because they are revenue earning doesn’t mean they will be maintained.  We see governments close down activities that earn money all the time if it doesn’t fit within their priorities.

So with formal confirmation of the OGC being split up less than one month old, it is probably too early to know exactly what the future will hold.  However, so far, it seems the only thing that is under threat is the Gateway Hubs.  This may have an impact on some government bodies in Australia, although in some cases, they themselves have started moving away from a strict interpretation of Gateway, and adding more pragmatism into their gating/governance frameworks.  Of course we encourage this approach in all methods, and while strict methodology purists may frown upon it, some of us have the experience to go with the methods to know what actually works.  As a result, the retirement of Gateway Hubs may not be a huge impact.

Also worth considering is that supplier risk is always a consideration in any procurement and in the adoption of any standards.  When relying on another government department for supply, supplier risk is probably not considered so seriously by most, after all, aren’t all governments going to be around forever.  Of course governments themselves are, but how long will they support a particular initiative, well that can be anyone’s guess.

Success Criteria # 2 – Talking about Behaviour

Criteria # 1 was about risk management.  We all do risk management to some degree.  Let’s face it, that is the only reason a project starts.  How many projects have you started because you didn’t want to change something that was likely to happen in the future?  None I suggest.

Whether you use risk management explicitly or not, future risks (or opportunities)  are likely to be the very reason why you are embarking upon any change.  You are doing risk management, well in part anyway, even if not all of it.

But even if you were to establish some stronger risk management standards, what gets in the way of organisations who have risk management but still fail to successfully change the way they operate is culture.

Consider how many policies, processes, standards etc your organisation has or doesn’t have.  Which ones get used, how often and how?  This is defined by culture.  Most organisations today have a defined risk management standard or policy.  Corporate governance dictates it.  Yet the difference between those that use it and use it well and those who don’t depends on culture. 

Sometimes risks are managed, but some risks are not spoken about.  That is defined by culture.  Sometimes there are areas of sensitivity to management or to corporate history that some in the company cannot face or face constructively.  This is culture.   Sometimes valid risks are escalated by a team to management but ignored or rejected and not dealt with.  This is culture.  Sometimes risk management is seen as not relevant or important because operational priorities are the only things that get interest and traction.  That is culture.

What every successful team realises though, is that whatever the culture of the organisation, they must stand up for what they need to do to be successful.  They must create their own culture, as a variation to the organisation at large.  In other words they must lead.  They must lead the change.  And the bigger the change, the bigger the leadership must be.

A colleague has a saying that “an organisation always gets the project they deserve”.  To some degree that is true because a project is a part of an organisation, and organisational behaviour is defined by culture.  But there are exceptions to that rule, and those exceptions are when the team exhibits great leadership and redefines the culture that they operate to, and shows the organisation how to do that well.  Of course it may be a short period of time, but that can be enough to successfully implement its outcomes.

Starting with Success Criteria #1

This post represents my first blog in a while and a fresh commitment to blog more regularly.

To restart here, I have recapped on Success Criteria #1, Risk Management.  That sounds boring doesn’t it!  Well perhaps so.  But let’s get real about what we are doing when we implement changes  to a business.  Aren’t we creating a new future?  Risk Management is about doing things today to create a future state tomorrow, or to avoid a different future state.  Given we are implementing changes to create a new future state of the business, then it makes sense that risk management should be a key capability.  However it is often not the case.

When we look at programs and projects that are implementing change, one of the first things we look for is whether risk management is being practiced.  If it is we know that the team is looking far enough ahead and doing today what’s required to manage any future challenges they expect to encounter.  If they are doing that, this it is good.

If they are not doing that, we consider whether they are doing Issue Management.  If  so, the team are at least identifying, categorising and prioritising tasks for those challenges they are facing today.  This is OK but not as good.  Lastly, if they are not doing either of these then they are scrambling to cope with every issue as and when it arrives.  The team is therefore in a reactive mode.  It is impossible to be high performing in this mode.  The team may feel busy and may feel like they are making progress, which they are, but they will never be more than mediocre.

Making changes to any business encounters problems.  That much is normal.  How you deal with them is what varies.  Issue Management gets the team triaging problems,  Risk Management gets the team ahead of the curve and gives it and the organisation the best chance of success.  This is why this is the Number One Success Criteria.

I’ll cover # 2 of 5 in my next post.

Brisbane Office Closure

With the current flood conditions in Brisbane, and the shutdown of the Brisbane CBD, our Brisbane office is closed this week.  We plan to reopen on Monday 17th January subject to access, services and utilities being available.

E-mail and mobile phone communications are still in operation.

How many change programs can we deal with?

Have you noticed how we have so many more projects, change programs, new initiatives and strategies in our organisations today?  Have you noticed that so many more people are Project Managers…all demanding some attention and resource?
The 2000’s was the decade of Project Management I believe.  We now have so many PMs, and almost as many projects to go with them.  That means we probably have more focus on objectives that we did in business in the 90’s.  But the downside can be that in the face of limited resource, where do we put our attention, where do we direct our energy?
We may have more focus on objectives but less clarity on which ones are important.  This blunts the edge of gaining effective change, when we are spread so thin doing a lot of things in mediocre ways.
I sometime write for a Singapore based magazine called Walk Your Talk.  I wrote an article on this very subject and some ways of dealing with it.  The article is available from our website.

You can access the full article here.  I hope you enjoy.

Was this job too much for KPMG

The world of big business can be a little scary I suppose.  In the case of Queensland Health’s payroll debacle, you have two of the biggest IT companies in the world in SAP and IBM.

Not even they could stop what happened from happening.  But what was surprising for me was the Stage 2 KPMG report into Queensland Health.

It seemed to be written by someone who is a little scared about offending anyone, perhaps concerned about any legal ramifications or impact on relationships or perhaps concerned about stating a view.

It starts with two pages of Scope, then 3 pages of Approach, then 3 and a half pages of Observations, half of which was dedicated to areas for future investigation.  It then capped it all off with 2 pages of Disclaimers.  The Disclaimers are of the same volume as the Observations.

KPMG can do great work, but don’t count this piece of public record as one of them, this is far from saying anything other than “let’s be cautious”.

Managing the health of process and technology change #1

I have held back from commenting for a little while now, but it has been over three months and the story continues with recriminations and reports.  Of course, I am referring to the Queensland Health payroll situation.  I will focus on just one aspect of it, the number one and often repeated error of our top five oversights associated with major failures of this type.

This error is the biggest threat to successfully adopting process and technology system change, such as Payoll implementations.  That error is in not recognising the organisational risk at stake.  Let’s face it, for a payroll implementation the major risks should be clear, i.e. not paying your hard working staff.

So given the troubles that have been encountered let’s start with the management of risk.  Apparently, as reported in The Courier Mail on the 14th April, there was some debate over whether a memo made its way to the Minister in charge of the Health portfolio.  There have been many questions about what advice was provided to whom as you would expect.  But this kind of misses the point.

Whether the memo got there or not shouldn’t matter.  For all large organisations, changing payroll is a high risk activity.  It should be so high that those in charge should be obtaining the necessary assurances to ensure it is under control, not waiting to be told if it is not.  This is where too many process and technology change programs go awry…poor recognition of the organisational risk at stake by those at the more senior levels.  No this is not “an IT thing” this is, as in most “IT” these days, a business thing.

We must assume that the Minister and significant others knew of the project.  After all, it would have likely required Cabinet approval.  And with a change to a payroll system that pays approximately 1/3 of the Queensland public service it should rank high on the risk profile.

As such it should have resulted in pro-active verification from the executives and stakeholders, with specific questions being asked and specific standards being defined, not a call me if you need me approach.  The QAO report defines some of these standards such as governance, testing etc.  The lack of them, while being tangible, is a symptom of not understanding the risk, rather than the root cause of these situations.

Maybe I am going out on a limb here but I really don’t think so.  This remains an industry wide issue.  There are way too many “failures” still happening with regularity, and too many senior business (and government)players who still think of these situations as an “IT thing” instead of a major risk to the success of their business, for anyone in this latest situation to feel singled out.  They have too many friends from those who have preceded their path to feel that way.

Seth Godin…more than just marketing

Seth Godin is one of my favourite marketing and business writers.  I love this recent blog which some may feel has nothing to do with marketing, but really has everything to do with it and with business.  Seth writes:

The difference between running and managing a project

If you choose to manage a project, it’s pretty safe. As the manager, you report. You report on what’s happening, you chronicle the results, you are the middleman.
If you choose to run a project, on the other hand, you’re on the hook. It’s an active engagement, bending the status quo to your will, ensuring that you ship.
Running a project requires a level of commitment that’s absent from someone who is managing one. Who would you rather hire, a manager or a runner?

In my experience, organisations rarely deliver a result by managing a project, it takes people running them to deliver results.  And if you can’t deliver a result you can’t create a good reputation, a good brand or a good business…that is marketing 101.

Go Harvey Go…Harvey Norman GOt it right

It was pleasing to see the recent announcement at CeBIT by Harvey Norman’s Chief Operating Officer, Mr John Slack-Smith, that Harvey Norman would be pushing ahead with a new enterprise solution.  It was also somewhat predictable that they would receive some questions for not pursuing an on-line strategy as reported in MIS Australia.  In my view they have got their priorities spot on.

It reminded me of the press criticism that SAP received for not following everyone else into the dot com bubble.  Of course history now shows that SAP came out of the dot com bubble stronger and more dominant then ever, because they stuck to their strengths and avoided the hype. 

Harvey Norman has grown solidly, has grown internationally and with acquisitions in recent years.  The core of their business is in delivering great service, great range, cost effectively.  To do this they need to manage their supply chain well.  A new integrated system will help with that.  Once they get their internal systems better able to perform, then they can leverage that into improved customer experiences, and that may ultimately mean providing online options.  So they have definitely got their priorities right.

What I really like about this set of priorities by Harvey Norman is the recognition of risks in doing this scale of change.  Some may feel that its easy to put up a web site and take online orders.  Well perhaps if you are doing a few orders a week and operating from your spare room.  But with 10,000s of transactions at stake, multiple suppliers and a well founded reputation at stake, then it takes a bit more than a web site.  There is a lot of process and technology complexity to manage here.

So it is this risk that is clearly appreciated by the Harvey Norman executive in their decision.  This is step one in any program of work of this nature; understanding the risk at all levels of the organisation.  Then plan accordingly.  Congratulations Harvey Norman and team, you are leading Australia in retailing expertise, and perhaps about to lead in managing process and technology change. Go Harvey Go!