“As for the future, your task is not to foresee it, but to enable it.”
– Antoine de Saint Exupery
It’s been said that 70 percent of “change” (i.e., new) projects in business fail. That’s true. But what is failure, why does it happen and how can you improve your odds of success?
Failure of business plans doesn’t always stem from failure to implement systems or processes, or failure of a corporate culture to adapt to changing conditions, growth plans or other mandates. Sometimes, it just means that results fall short of stated objectives.
Therefore, relying on project and program management techniques to improve the probability of success is critical to realizing your intended outcome.
Many proven techniques have been established over time that significantly improve the probability of success of any initiative. These techniques are used by business consultants to help ensure that objectives, milestones and results established in the planning process are accomplished within their allotted time frames and within budget. In a broader sense, they also help ensure that the enterprise moves forward as one.
Some basic guidelines and tips apply to many business challenges and can help guide you along this path.
- Utilize an experienced project / program manager – The complexity and volume of large-scale programs can complicate your overall business growth plan with interdependencies, additional communications, and measuring and tracking complicated metrics. It can also be hampered by limited staff time and unclear expectations. In that regard, an experienced project manager – someone like an experienced business consultant who understands the process and has a proven ability to execute – can mean a world of difference to your business.
- Address the complexity of multiple projects running concurrently – When there are two or more projects running concurrently, additional project management skill sets are required. Issues may arise when:
- Those projects have conflicting objectives or timing
- They require the same resources at the same time
- There are interdependencies between the projects
- There is lack of clarity on who is responsible for what.
- Issues that are critical for one project may be a lower priority for another, so they may not be addressed properly.
In these situations, they require the additional expertise of an experienced program manager.
- Conduct pilot testing to check for small results – These deliver valuable insight about successes and/or challenges to date – and they enable you to course-correct as needed without massive upheaval. As we said before, shoot bullets, then cannonballs.
- Define decision-making authority and processes – Know up front who gets to make decisions; how decisions are made; how it’s determined that decisions have actually been made; how decisions are memorialized; and so on. This may seem basic, but with high-stakes initiatives, little missteps can lead to big problems.
- Establish clear project plans, and use clear metrics and timing as reality checks – Don’t travel cross-country without a roadmap or checkpoints to gauge progress.
- Keep everyone engaged through ongoing communications – As we said before: communicate, communicate, communicate. There should be a clear communications plan that delineates what certain people need to know, and when they need to know it. The plan should address when to communicate, what to communicate, who communicates and the results of the communications. Projects commonly fail due to a lack of communication.
- Use status meetings to check in – These help keep team members on task and accountable for their roles in your plan. Often, we find they also lead to discussions, insights and collaborations that boost the plan’s prospects for success.
- Address issues and risks quickly and decisively – Issues invariably arise; we don’t live in a perfect world. Your ability to change course as needed, adjust tactics and even strategies, and empower team members to resolve issues will help ensure that the plan stays on track.
- Ensure sponsorship and backing of senior executives – Action comes from the top-down. Involve senior leaders early and often in the process to ensure success.