Sunday, 01 May 2011 00:00

The On-Again Off-Again World of Projects

Rate this item
(0 votes)

A Pretty Bar Graph

Businesses exist to make money. To improve operations they create various initiatives with promises of improving the bottom line. Projects, though, cost money. They do not make a profit. The dichotomy in a strapped economy to spend savings on projects to improve future profits usually results in the conservation of cash. Many an argument has been had over whether it is better to run improvement projects, burning precious cash and heading off the competition, or taking the traditional approach and wait for times with better cash flow. Subsequent to 2008's financial folly, it is well known that most companies sat on their reserves and waited. That action may have some unintended consequences that are in the midst of surfacing.

Projects Spend Money

First, executives must get past the fact that projects do not make a profit. There are certain projects geared for increasing profits. They land a new customer, sell some special product, or implement a new capability, but their return on investment (ROI) is months or years after the project's completion. To make matters worse, if discussions drift toward creating an innovative product or service, in hopes of huge returns, the situation is further complicated by the addition of significant risk. This leaves these adventurous endeavors only to companies who have a healthy tolerance for failure.

Frugality Fatigue

In the down turn since 2008, risk aversion has been at a level unseen in my 30-year business career. For a large majority of companies (Apple and Google being two notable exceptions), the slightest hint of risk in a project, would blacklist it from ever seeing the light of day. Without attempting to recover them, management cancelled projects that stumbled into harm's way. For most situations, this was an appropriate reaction, since project failures need objective outside resources to identify their ills, which most companies were unwilling to hire.

Entire organizations hunkered down to withstand the financial storm doing just enough to keep the lights on with twenty percent less than the bare minimum staff. People are tired of bailing wire, string, and duct tape (and the fear of unemployment) holding their groups together. They want change and will find it in their current company or in a different company that they perceive will have better conditions.

The Revolt Against the Spendthrift

The tide is turning with some potentially disastrous consequences. Projects are being started, people are moving to new jobs, and others who have been on the dole for months, or even years, are returning to the ranks of the employed. With this has come an eruption (okay, maybe a small upsurge) of excitement about solving the problems that have beleaguered companies for the last three years. The result is an onslaught of hastily initiated projects to solve poorly understood problems. The pent-up frustration from performing only essential projects has created a hunger to jump, ill prepared, into the meat of a project, avoiding the drudgery of planning. Executives pushing for higher profits, more efficiency, and a desire to vault ahead of the competition fuel this attitude. It creates a perfect environment for fostering failures, frustration, and fire drills.

Meeting in Middle

If rapid results are required and executives are too anxious to wait for an exhaustive design, take a lesson from the agile community and try an iterative approach. Gather a team of key stakeholders—the ones that will use whatever the project is trying to produce—and challenge them to build something production worthy in thirty or forty-five days. The key is that they may need to live with these results. If they cannot make even the smallest of useful tools in that length of time, maybe the concept is too big to be addressed. The "fail fast" approach conserves cash and promotes a nimble organization. The short timeframe iterations promote team member creativity and innovation while maintaining a laser focus on the problem at hand. The result is an energized, productive workforce that feels purpose and value, while the company minimizes expense.

Kids In A Toy Store

The combination of the perceived need for immediacy and the pent up desire to do something fun, can only be analogous to telling your children that need to buy any toy they see that might make them happy. Best practices wane, common sense becomes scarce, and chaos is customary. No business, especially now, can afford to run off half-prepared in the hope of improving their business. Proper planning is paramount. Segment the goals into small achievable packets and assign people with the appropriate attitude to complete the tasks. Frequently assess their progress, stopping any work that will not achieve quick and decisive results. This requires an involved and progressive executive leadership to guide resources toward the toys that will truly provide the best results. This melding of executives and individual contributors is the key to a cohesive and powerful organization.

Read 6456 times

Related items

  • People vs Process Track Session/Keynote Example

    If you want educational keynote many of our presentations can be keynotes or track sessions. In the example below, the presentation People or Process: Which Impacts Project Success More? is given as a track session.  

    Example People vs Process keynote as a track session

    This session was given at the PMI Sioux Empire Professions Development Day help in Sioux Falls SD on September 9, 2014.

  • Transform Your Project Leadership: For Professionals Leading Projects or Company Initiatives

    Todd Williams contributed Chapter 7, "Leaders Listen." You can buy it on Amazon.

    More coming soon!

  • Filling Execution Gaps: How Executives and Project Managers Turn Corporate Strategy into Successful Projects
    What Filling Execution Gaps Covers

    Filling Execution Gaps

    by Todd C. Williams
    ISBN: 978-1-5015-0640-6
    De G Press (DeGruyter), September 2017

    Project alignment, executive sponsorship, change management, governance, leadership, and common understanding. These six business issues are topics of daily discussions between executives, middle management, and project managers; they are the pivotal problems plaguing transformational leadership. Any one of these six, when improperly addressed, will hex a project's chances for success. And, they do—daily—destroying the ability companies to turn vision into value.

    Check it out on Amazon or the Filling Execution Gaps website

    Without the foundation of a common understanding of goals and core concepts, such as value being critical to success, communication stops and projects fail.

    Without change management, users fail to adopt project deliverables, value is lost, and projects fail.

    Without maintaining alignment between corporate goals and projects, projects miss their value targets and projects fail.

    Without an engaged executive sponsor, scope increases, goals drift, chaos reigns, value is lost, and projects fail.

    Without enough governance, critical connections are not made, steps are ignored, value is overlooked, and projects fail.

    Too much governance slows progress, companies cannot respond to business pressures, value drowns in bureaucracy, and projects fail.

    Without strong leadership defining the vision and value, goals are not set, essential relationships do not form, teams do not develop, essential decisions are not made, and projects fail.

  • Filling Execution Gaps: Building Success-Focused Organizations

    Executives define vision, strategy, and goals to advance the business. Projects enable companies to meet those goals. Between strategy and projects, there is a lot of work to be done—work that lays the foundation for project and operational success. Through experience and research, six common gaps exist in organizations that inhibit project success—an absence of common understanding, disengaged executive sponsors, misalignment with goals, poor change management, ineffective governance, and lackluster leadership.

  • Get Recognized as a Leader: Four Core Leadership Actions

    Leaders make decisions. This requires a core set of actions to gather the best information, hear out the concerns of others, and making a decision that everyone will follow—even if there is not unanimous agreement with the decision. Although there are hundreds of actions leaders must take, there are four core actions that all great leaders do—listening, dialog and discussion, selling a vision, and eliminating blame. This session will discuss those actions in a roundtable format that we call a "What Would You Do?" session. In these sessions, the presenter acts as a moderator spending 10 to 15 minutes per topic working with the audience talking about what the action is, how to best do it, and hearing from the group on how they have carried out the action. This brings significant audience interaction, involvement, and broader education. 

Leave a comment

Filling Execution Gaps

Available Worldwide

Filling Exectution Gaps cover

Filling Execution Gaps is available worldwide. Below are some options.

 

PG DirectLogo
Limited Time Price $20.99
Amazon logo
Book or Kindle
Flag of the United States Canadian Flag Flag of the United Kingdom Irish Flag Deutsche Flagge
Drapeau Français Bandiera Italiana PRC flag
Japanese flag
Bandera de España
Flag of India
Bandera de México
Bandeira do Brasil
Flag of Australia
Vlag van Nederland
DeG Press Logo
Barnes and Noble Logo
Books a Million Logo
Booktopia Logo
Worldwide: Many other
book sellers worldwide.

Rescue The Problem Project

Internationally acclaimed

Image of RPP

For a signed and personalized copy in the US visit the our eCommerce website.

Amazon logo
Buy it in the United States Buy it in Canada Buy it in the United Kingdom
Buy it in Ireland Buy it in Germany Buy it in France
Buy it in Italy Buy it in the PRC
Buy it in Japan
Book sellers worldwide.

Upcoming Events

Other's References

More Info on Project Recovery

Tell me More!

Please send me more information
on fixing a failing project.

Sitemap