Monday, January 26, 2009

Questions a Change Agent Ought to Ask

Susan Cramm of Harvard presents interesting questions from the new HBR article "How Project Leaders Can Overcome the Crisis of Silence."  We are all familar with the type of statistics persented, that 70% of IT-enabled business initiatives fail or fall short of expectations.  The authors try to get project leaders to engage in five conversations to gain greater insight into whether a project is going in the wrong direction:

  1. How often do you plan projects around how you would like the business to operate rather than the way it really operates?  How often are estimates and deadlines set using the PDOOMA methodology (PDOOMA - Pulled Directly Out Of My Ass)
  2. How often is the Project Sponsor drafted, un willing or uninterested?  I've written on this before "Project Manager: Right Person, Wrong Title" and unless the Project Sponsor is fully committed and powerful enough, there is no amount of project leadership, management or funds to make a project succeed.
  3. Are we faithful the the approval process?  How often do we follow a process when it's beneficial only to leave it when it's more expedient to cut corners?
  4. Are we honestly assessing our progress and risks?  How often do we put in work arounds, short cuts or make desperate efforts to complete a deadline knowing things have been left out?  How do we communicate the issue after it has happened?
  5. Are team members pulling their weight?  What can we do about it if someone isn't?
These are all discussions the project leadership should have.  Not only to gain insight into them, but also to find effective ways leaders can confess if the pressures of deadlines have forced them to take short cuts they would rather not have taken.


Pawel Brodzinski said...

I think as far as you're close to the project team and you have your eyes open you should see something is wrong. And yes, one should look for reasons why projects aren't going as they should.

My favorite from the list is project sponsor with lack of interest in project. This especially sucks when you try to work agile way and you have to emulate project owner feedback somehow.

Andrew Meyer said...


isn't the problem that often times people don't want to see problems? PMs and everyone else is far happier communicating good news, often times they omit troubling items. They believe they can fix the problem before it becomes worse.

I have been guilty of that myself.

Craig Brown said...

The point about powerful stakehodlers shortcutting the deciion making proess is interting.

I'm currently watching a sponsor shortcut his steering committee and can feel the storm brewing already.

Andrew Meyer said...

Craig, my heart goes out to you. You know, I have a friend who works security. I'm sure he can lend you a bullet proof vest. Of course, what you really need on a project is a way to get the knives out of your back...

Good luck,