Article by: Karl Walinskas
ever take on an assignment at work, or try to implement something at your
company, that sounded so good--but turned out so wrong? I mean, you did
everything you said you were going to do, when you said you were going
to do it, and the boss--or the employees--or the client--was still dissatisfied.
I have. In fact, I just came from a meeting with a client who will probably
cancel a project thats only halfway complete. It was painful. I
walked into the meeting room and ten or twelve people, hands folded and
heads in their chests, stared mutely ahead as if the methadone clinic
had just made an office visit, while I was figuratively toe-tagged and
put on a slab. I squirmed for an hour and a half while I heard how the
software template that took me a year of work didnt hold any value
for the company. To me those words sounded like Captain Quints fingernails
scraping across the chalk board at the town hall meeting; "Aye. You
gotta shark out there--a big one" ringing in my ears. Three
The basic project management problem illustrated above is, and will forever be, a communication breakdown. Youre tasked with implementing a major change at your company. The following four myths about the way you communicate, and to whom, are smack dab out of the Implementation Failure Handbook.
#1: Dont Be Too Specific About the Outcome. "The
Try to learn from
my own recent mishap. I thought everyone knew what the deliverables would
be on a project designed to help the company measure their true costs.
I wrote what I thought was a pretty good proposal. We had about five meetings
prior to starting the project. So where did I screw up? Well, different
people at the table wanted different things out of the project. I heard
them but didnt really listen. I told the customer what I would deliver,
yet I wasnt specific on what would not be delivered. Consequently,
at the completion of the project, I was looking at disappointed faces
If youre trying to improve your business and want to get people on board for success, be specific about how life will change after the improvement. Your employees are your customers. How much money will the company save? Exactly how many people will you hire--or fire--if things go as expected? How is the bonus plan being affected in dollars and cents? Put your projections in writing. It gives people something to focus on, helps set realistic expectations, and provides you with CYA material if your need it later on.
#2: We Can Make Changes Over a Handshake. In the consulting
profession there is a bogeyman in any major project that is taken on,
especially if the job will be done for a fixed price. That monster is
called "scope creep". Scope creep is where goals, outcomes,
and directives change during the course of the project. Stuff begins to
be included in your scope that was never intended to be there. Whats
worse, you might not be able to deliver it at all!
During any implementation
of major significance at a company,
Myth #3: Im Sure It Will All Come Together in the End. You may be thinking that you could never fall into this one, right? You would be shocked if you knew how many project managers and customers let situations spiral out of control in the name of "not losing momentum." Consider this: if your objective is to drive from Maine to Florida, and by New Hampshire your ten degrees off course, wouldnt it be better to know it then and make corrections? Of course it would, or else youll end up with a lot of momentum in Texas!
If youre making
things happen at your company, and early on you or someone else notices
that you may be off course, it is incumbent upon that person to speak
up and call for an investigation. Re-group and re-think. This is usually
the job of the resources, advisors, and the people affected by the change.
Often the leader of the project is so immersed in the trees he cant
see the forest. Hell happily proceed along the path that looks right
and is totally wrong. In a
#4: They Dont Need to Know. This is the biggest management
mistake that Ive seen made during ten years of consulting. People
surf the Internet. They have a network of friends in high places inside
and outside of the business. Trust me, theyre going to find out!
Problem is, if you didnt tell them and it affects their working
lives, expect resentment and sabotage. If your making a major change at
Back to my example. At the meeting where I was handed my head about missing the project mark, several of the people holding the guillotine cord required an introduction. The most vocal antagonist was a person I had met for the first time when the project was over. He was never included in any discussions about the project, had the results foisted on his plate, and was asked for critique. What would you have done?
If you are responsible
for implementing major changes where you work, one measure of success
is meeting or exceeding the expectations held by the people those changes
affect. Communicate specific outcomes, clearly identify changes in scope,
derail obvious problems early on, and leave nobody, and the columnist
means nobody, out of the information loop, and youll win the expectations
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