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Thursday, 24 July 2008 03:36

Maximising a Project's Chances of Success

Written by  Alan Griffiths
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The difference between success and failure in implementing change in any enterprise is quite often the smallest thing – a small key in a large lock.

All too often we set out to create a change in the processes being used in an enterprise, only to find that after much hard work, the change has not occurred, and that all that there is to show is a lot of sweat and frustration.  Many is the time that a staff member, a manager, a consultant or a trainer find that although they have been given the task of implementing a change process in the operation of a company, its final acceptance and permanent imposition has not occurred.

Why? Because the person most responsible for its overall implementation and ongoing operation – the Supervisor, the Manager, the CEO – has not seen the need for the change in the first place. 

Instead, they have been happy to maintain the status quo, keeping things just as they are, not having identified, visualised or followed the benefit of changing the way things have been done up to now – or maybe they just might not have been included in the loop when the change was first mooted.


Too often, those attempting to create the change have failed to “sell” the reasons for the change to the key decision maker, the one who will ensure that the change is identified, justified, implemented, and kept in place into the future.  Instead, the change driver will have personally taken on the idea of the change as being an essential, without realising that they are the only ones able to see the purpose of the change …. the key decision maker has not seen this same vision!!


I have seen much time, effort and money spent on implementing a change in the way staff are asked to perform a task, or operate within the business, only to see the changed process whither and die very soon after it is put in place, because the more senior personnel responsible for its ongoing day-to-day operation have missed the boat - they have demonstrated a failure to see the vision.


I have seen consultants employed by management who have assessed the need for the change, recommended it to management and had it approved; trainers provided to help staff to understand and assimilate the change; and IT departments modify processes.  Yet within a very short time after “implementation”, or even during the process, little or no change is perceived, as the staff see that their seniors show little or no interest in the process.  I have seen supervisors - responsible for the staff being trained – make themselves unavailable during the training process – often taking leave.  Staff soon sense that although they have been told to make a change, their leaders have no interest in the process at all … subsequent assessment of the effectiveness of the change programme show that little, or no improvement in the system has taken place.


On other occasions, I have seen CEO’s - or the relevant senior manager - leave the driving to their subordinates – moving themselves onto other items in their range of responsibilities.  Little or no effort is made by the CEO to follow through with either their interest or, where necessary, their direct involvement in the change process.  Again, the process loses its significance, and again fails.  

There are many different scenarios in these circumstances, and I’m sure that you, the reader, can provide your own examples.


It is essential that right at the formative stage of the development of any idea, that the key players be identified.  The most important people are the key decision makers, and it is imperative that they be identified, and brought into the process right from the start.  They need to be instrumental in seeing the vision being presented, and that they see it in the clearest of terms …. their enthusiasm for the process will help ensure its success – long term.


In the case of Project Management, this as important a step as the first step of identifying the Project itself.  Until senior personnel are able to take on personal ownership of the concepts of the Project, its chances of being undertaken to final success are very much reduced.


In modern day Project Management, the Project may have even been originally identified by the Project Management team itself, and then promoted to senior management.  Alternatively, it is equally likely that the Project has been identified by others – field staff, marketing, senior management, etc.  In all cases, the key issue is to not only get management approval, but more importantly, ongoing active senior management support.  It is not being suggested that it is necessary for senior management to take an active day-to-day role in the build up and achievement of the Project – this would destroy the strength of delegation that has been created to allow suitably competent Project Management staff to carry out their duly appointed tasks.  What is needed is their support.  Thus, it is essential to ensure that –


  1. Once the Project has been identified, the key decision maker(s) in senior management are likewise identified – quite often it can be some senior officer other than the CEO – the CFO, a senior departmental head, or similar.
  2. On identifying this key person or persons, every step should be taken to –
  3. Get their agreement to the Project – a positive and enthusiastic acceptance
  4. Assist them and their key associates in senior management to be fully au fait with the Project’s needs and benefits
  5. Encourage them to take a full involvement (albeit possibly at a distance) in the ongoing processes involved in the build up and implementation of the Project
  6. The lines of communication between Project Managers and senior management are kept open at all times
  7. Senior management is encouraged by the Project Managers to participate in regular briefing and discussion sessions
  8. Senior management is encouraged to take a visible role in the processes involved in the Project’s creative and implementation stages
  9. Senior management’s acceptance and participation is seen by all staff involved in the project’s various stages – from formulation through implementation to final operation.

Only with the active involvement of senior management in the Project at all stages of its creation and final operation will the chances of its success be enhanced … not to do so is encouraging final failure.


You might say that what is being alluded to here is the strength of TEAM – and that is quite correct.  The success of a team is only as good as the participation of all players, from the chief to the lowest player.


Leave out the chief at your own peril!!
Read 4815 times Last modified on Tuesday, 29 July 2008 20:49
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