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Posts Tagged ‘Change Management’

Change and Sustainability remain an illusive goal for organizations

Posted by Ammar Mango on June 3, 2013

They seem to be pulling in two different direction but they do not have to if managed properly; Sustainability tries to maintain improvements  and value gained from initiatives, while change management pulls the organization towards something new and further improvements.  How can organizations maintain the balance under such pressures?

The answer starts with the right attitude at the executive level, but cannot stop there.

First, we have to make sure that the new improvement initiative is designed and carried out properly.  Meaning by a competent supplier who built the system based on best practices, culture of the organization, and the organizational level of maturity.  This is a big assumption, and many initiatives fail this test of quality.

Even if the initiative was carried out properly, sustainability remains an illusive goal.  The main reason for that is its strong ties to change.  A situation that needs to be sustained is usually unstable, otherwise sustainability would be an easy task.  The reason for the instability is that the organization is new to this new improved state of operating.  So, tendency is to go back to the old, after the pressure from upper management to adopt new systems cools down.

One of the main reasons for the inability to sustain is that the belief in the change is only at the upper management or even just the sponsor level.  So a strong sponsor will push the organization and force it to use the new system and will ensure that happens as long as the sponsor is in power.  But as soon as the sponsor moves out of the position, or a new management gets in, almost all previous improvements are abandoned.  This is very common in organizations.

Some middle and functional managers have become so skeptical of change and its possibility that they play along with the zealous sponsor knowing that soon enough he will go away or give up.  Once a manager in private told me “We (managers) are like wheat stalks in a field.  We will bend with the wind of change so not to be broken , but as soon as the wind stops blowing, we will go back to our old ways.

Ironically, some organizations become so accustomed to this cycle of new initiatives that soon cool down, that they become experts in the politics of dodging the change.

I am a strong believer in executive support for change initiatives and believe it is a key ingredient for success.  However, when that support does not yield real buy in across the organization, chances for success are really dim.

This is why I believe the real champions of change are the middle managers.  They are close enough to the work that they can influence it, and close enough to upper management to understand the strategy.  The executives have to bring management into the loop early and ensure buy in.  Not by force, but by ensuring that middle and functional management is a partner even in identifying the needed change initiative.  If this is not possible the executives have to bring fresh blood from outside who have the vision and experience in the new proposed system, and give them the power to carry out the change.  This surgical maneuver at the organizational level can be tricky and dangerous but sometimes it is necessary.  Some organizations bring in outside consultants as surrogate managers to lead the change initiatives with the right levels of power within the organization to carry out the change.  This also can be done, given the right level of support to the “outsider” is given by executives.

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Value delivery & sustainability, not project management

Posted by Ammar Mango on January 10, 2013

What we need is ensuring delivery of value and sustaining it from the project.  Project management is one of the means to do that and while necessary, it is not on its own sufficient.

For example, an organization takes on a project to deploy a new HR system.  Even if the system is deployed and stakeholders are trained, still there is no value.   The value comes when the system is put to use.  Even then, it is still a waste of time on the long run, if the measures to ensure sustainability of the value are not in place.

Many Project Management Offices (PMO’s) ignore the real reason they are there, which is the ultimate success of their projects and that comes from delivering sustained value.  Without that, a project  is a tool to collect money from a promised, but not delivered or sustained value.  On the long-term that does not work.

However, PMO’s cannot solve this problem alone.  Without upper management support on the client and supplier side, it is hard for the PMO to go beyond the narrow marginal goal of delivering successful projects.

Clients need to budget for change management and sustainability.  Request for Proposals must insist on sections that cover both.  I would put a considerable part of the evaluation score of any proposal on these two items.  If suppliers are not capable of handling these parts I would require a change management model to be enforced on the project and request that the supplier bring in the techniques and expertise necessary to do these two parts.

Performing organizations need to discuss with clients the needs for sustainability and ensuring value delivery at the upper management level.  Also, start raising awareness of buyers to the importance of sustainability and the importance of handling it in a structured manner.

The new fad in the coming years will be going beyond deliverables and focusing on value.  This is why “program management” might start getting more appeal.  When you request delivery of services and supporting this delivery with sustainability and change management activities, this endeavor is beginning to take on the shape of a program, not only a project.   Because a program can carry project as well as operational components to it, as it strives to deliver benefits, not only deliverables.

Currently, projects and support periods post projects are looked at as two separate periods, almost separated from each other.  PMOs need to start looking beyond their narrow scope of delivering projects and merely providing support, but to also accommodate programs by forming a Program Management Office (PgMO) for each of its programs to accommodate the need to deliver value.

Many research show that PMO’s will continue to be questioned about the value they bring to an organization.  I think PMOs are safe and will continue to flourish at firms whose main product can only be delivered through projects.  However at firms who deliver value through operations, and projects are means to improve the value delivered, PMOs will be scrutinized to ensure they go beyond just delivering projects and focus more on delivering and sustaining value.

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Organizational Change is Like Riding a Bicycle

Posted by Ammar Mango on June 11, 2012

One of the toughest challenges on projects is managing the change that the project work and deliverables bring about. There a lot of similarities between organizational challenges from change and the challenges of riding a bicycle:

1. Expect to fall a couple of times before you get used to it:  Same with new systems and processes; be ready to be clumsy using them.  However, we need to remember that once you learn the new ways, they will bring better results.

2. In the beginning, walking is easier:   Just because we are really good in the old ways of the organization, does not mean we should not change.  We think we are good in the old ways, but that will do us no good if the whole way we are doing business is not fit for the new work environment.

3. In the beginning, walking is faster:  Change helps us do things more professionally, and even if we probably can get short term benefits faster taking shorcuts, however, learning how to do things the right way and professionally will pay off.

4. Doubting our ability to ever do it right: Other bicyclists make riding seem so easy.  Until we try it.  Then we find out it is not as easy as they make it look.  So, we get disappointed and not want to do it anymore.  If you want to master your profession, you need to put in the time to learn how to do things right.

5. We want to break records after first day of riding: We are used to see bicyclists zoom through the finish line and being hailed by the crowds.  However, we do not see the years of hard work and sweat and exercise that precede the events.  Same thing with change.  do not think that organizations who master their work got there without the hard work, the mistakes,

6. Someone running along holding the bike: It is OK to gradually build capacity, by bringing in consultants, trainers, support people, who have experience, until we are able to do it ourselves.

7. Do not buy race bike from day one: It is OK to get a bike with training wheels, or an easier to ride bike.  Same thing with organizations, do not rush into using complex tools and processes from day one.  Start with a simplified system, and build up into something more sophisticated as your team get the hang of it.

8. Get the right size bike: You might want a bike like the one your neightbor has.  However, you might need something higher or a thicker tire, then you need to get that.  Same with organizational change.  Do not borrow another company’s system and assume it will “fit” yours.  Customize your system to fit your needs and requirements and organization.

9. Don’t go off track too soon: Going on rough terrains when you did not get enough training will result in problems.  Same with organizational change.  try to tackle safer, easier projects rather than challenged projects, especially in the beginning, to build momentum and small success.  This will motivate team and prepare you for bigger more challenging projects.

10.  Try and Try again: Imagine if you stopped trying after falling off the bike for the first time.  No one would have ever learned to ride a bike.  Instead persevere and be ready to fall off and get back on track several times until you do it right.

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The PMO in cultural context

Posted by Ammar Mango on May 21, 2012

I was talking to a colleague today who works for one of the top five global consulting firms.  He is assigned to a PMO setup project in Saudi Arabia.  The discussion was on why many Project Management Office (PMO) setups in the region fail to achieve objectives.  Here are some of the causes we raised:

1) Not addressing culture in PMO setup: Many companies try to copy PMO setups foreign to the region, without taking into consideration the cultural aspects and current level of maturity of project management practices in the organization.

2) Lack of deep PMO experience for many of the consulting companies carrying out the PMO setup project.  Yes, they might be big companies with long experience and big names, but they do not have the experience in PMO setup.  Most of the companies good at this, even in other parts of the world are smaller size, more specialized companies in specifically organizational project management.

3) Many companies try to run a full fledged PMO without a clear gradual plan of bringing the PMO to its full functional state.  They are eager to get it working and they get entangled into having to handle too much too soon.

4) Many try to set up a PMO without a clear documented governance that ties to the organizational vision and strategy.

5) Focusing too much on software without having the processes or the people to get the job done.

6) Lack of real empowerment of the PMO at Executive level, where PMO is pushed to perform, without bringing departments and key stakeholders to support the PMO.

7) Passive resistance from key stakeholders who see the PMO as taking away from their authority or power in the company, or who are benefiting from the status quo, or who are not clear on the PMO and how it can help them.

8) Giving up too early on the PMO for the lack of understanding that PMO setup is a step in a journey that usually takes years to mature the PMO and really reap the benefits from it.

What do you think?

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