Do we really get project context right?
In my previous post (“The importance of context, of vision – “professionalism is overrated””), I considered the importance of context and as an example discussed that despite the resources that enterprises invest in developing and communicating their vision (to create a culture that can be leveraged strategically), there is a very real gap in awareness that exists and there are costs associated with that gap.
If we can invest so much in vision and culture and yet still fall short, what does this suggest for strategic projects? The duration is typically tight, 1-2 years, and the payback is intended to generate immediate payback.
When we implement a strategic project – a transformational, cross-functional program where commitment to a shared vision is absolutely critical – do we really accomplish this fundamental requirement? Do “all stakeholders in the project have the same understanding of the project, and context, as the leadership team”? Do they understand the context for the vision? Do they know their role in ensuring success? Do they monitor progress and market forces and adjust consistently across the group?
We think they do. What if their context is different? What if their assumptions are different? What if they don’t (e.g. project staff turns over, different departments have different agendas and success drivers, they just never heard the vision statement or saw the business case)?
What do context and vision affect? They affect:
- Speed of Adoption
- Ultimate Utilization
Students of Change Management Methodology will recognize these terms from Prosci Research’s Certification course.
Why do they matter? Because they DRIVE costs and returns!
- The faster our Change Designates adopt the new processes or role, the faster we get traction and begin seeing results. Timing contributes significantly to annual returns.
- The better Change Designates become at the change the better results we will see. Imagine that the change affects sales performance or health and safety – it matters !
- Ultimate utilization speaks to the plateau reached at the end of implementation – the better the ultimate utilization, the better the cost savings or returns.
This crystallizes in the realization that
we can install a program successfully
and still FAIL
(to generate the business benefits).
Reality check and change management
This is the reality. I am reminded of a scene from the movie “Parenthood” with Steve Martin where the family is dealing with a messy, stressful day and the elderly, charmingly eccentric grandmother tells her daughter-in-law “…some people don’t like the roller coaster, I love the roller coaster”. She knows intuitively what we forget – life is messy and highly dynamic, it is an intrinsic quality of our reality. It is also the context for strategic change.
The best practices of Change Management bring tools, techniques and strategies for managing these dynamics. It brings discipline to the chaos. Often it is not about knowing the answers in advance, rather deploying insightful questions that will clarify context, that will align with the vision and keep the program on track with its original intent.