Be in the 30% of successfully delivered projects (yes, it really is that bad!)


Somewhere around 70% of projects fail to achieve the benefits they set out to. That’s a huge amount of precious organisational resource that’s being wasted or under-utilised on projects that simply don’t deliver. How can you help to ensure your programme of change delivers what it sets out to? There are so many factors at play when we enter a period of change but there are some fundamental steps you can take that will put your programme on a surer footing.

Why the hell are we doing this? You must be able to answer this question. What is going to be better once your change has been implemented? Why is it worth the pain (because let’s face it there will be pain here, changing anything in organisations will always have an impact)? Why should I get behind it? Why is it worth the inevitable disruption? If you are struggling to answer these questions you really need to ask yourself whether this is the right change to make right now. If the answers are clear to you, you need to start evangelising about it to everyone and anyone with as much passion as you can muster. Your senior team needs to be behind you and visibly, vocally supporting this change. Spend time on building this case for change and make sure it features in all communication relating to the project. You have to genuinely believe this is the right move for your organisation. If you can enthuse with integrity you will start to build followers.

How the hell are we going to do this? So you know why you are doing it and you’ve got people behind you, the next step is demonstrating that you know how this is going to happen. Any change needs a clear roadmap. You don’t need to share your multi-page MS Project plan detailing every task that’s needed to get you there. In fact, definitely don’t share this! But you do need a clear, well thought-through visual that speaks to your audience in their language, shows the high-level steps needed to deliver and the timescales it will be delivered within. It doesn’t matter what project methodology you choose to adopt to get you there. Whether you are Agile or Waterfall, some combination of the two, or something else altogether, a demonstration that you have a view of how you will get from A to B is essential to give people faith in the programme, hold people to account, and demonstrate progress along the way.

What the hell has it got to do with me? For your change to stick it needs to be clear to everyone impacted how their world will be different when the change is embedded. What will they do differently? Why and how will this be better? How will you know they are doing it? For this to work you have to engage all line managers in the roll-out and adoption of your changes. You need to decide how you are going to reward or recognise those that are doing it well and how you are managing the resistance that will inevitably come your way. This is the hardest part of your change implementation. It involves a wider group of people, possibly your whole organisation, and it is the bit that is so often glossed over or missed completely. You can tick off the why and the how but until it is being lived by people going about their day to day work your programme is not complete and you can’t start demonstrating the benefits.

Building a programme plan that takes you way beyond project completion and into the business as usual of day to day life once the changes have taken hold will allow you to successfully transition from project mode to BAU. Who will take responsibility for what once the programme team has moved on? Who will hold others to account? Building this capability and mindset into wider teams from the outset will help your project to be in the 30%.

Caroline Doran is a project consultant working with organisations at times of change and transition. She takes a people-centred approach to change and project management and is committed to developing change capability within organisations.

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