To many business managers, ‘projects’ are a dangerous escapade. They’re difficult to control, difficult to bring in on time and budget, and even more difficult to deliver the expected results. Projects are seen as a ‘necessary evil’ rather than an effective means of realizing strategy.
So the business tries to instill some controls and discipline — without knowing what it is doing.
One mad approach is the externally imposed deadline. “I want this done in three months!” The madness of this type of externally imposed deadline seems to escape most business managers. As the saying goes, "You can’t get a baby in one month by making nine women pregnant!" Yes, it’s good to focus attention on delivering the project as soon as possible, but not without cognisance of the required workload.
Another mad approach is the change imprimatur — “Make it happen!” As a divisional CFO was bemoaning to me, “They [senior management] agree the benefits and then we have to make them happen even though, most times, the project fails to deliver what is needed to realise the benefits.”
“Making it happen” is not an event but a process, the change process. This is not clear to most business executives. To them, “change management” is something you do near the end of the project involving training and communications. I’ve seen executives rule-through and delete the change budget believing they are saving project costs when they’re mostly destroying any chance of delivering value.
Conventional methodologies perpetuate the belief that ‘change’ is something you do on a project rather than being the purpose, nature and focus of a project. Meanwhile, blogs and the press are full of complaints by project teams about not being able to get the business involved. They’re not involved because they don’t know how to be involved and conventional project approaches don’t help them.
A recent presentation by an international consultancy debated the question, “Project Management and Change Management — same or different?” They concluded that change management was subservient to project management. Wrong! But this misunderstanding this goes to the heart of the project delivery problem.
Change is the purpose of a project, project management is a controlling and enabling mechanism. They are two different dimensions. No wonder the business executives are confused. So, let’s clear it up once and for all.
All projects are ‘change projects’. They exist to change the organization. Without change you’ll not get any new business outcomes, benefits or value. Changing technologies, upgrading systems, adding enhancements are all ‘changes’. Even if the project is 90 percent technical in workload and delivery, it is still a change project! Building a new plant or assembly line is change. New products are change. Even building a new road is a change project as, if you want people to use it, it requires them to change their driving patterns.
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