Getting a Project to the Finish Line – Six Drivers of Success You Can’t Overlook – Part II
In the first part of this series, I talked a bit about the importance of a strong sponsor with the organizational authority to effectively lead and champion the project and associated changes. Several people chimed in to make the point that in companies today, it’s sometimes nearly impossible for one person to serve as the only sponsor. It’s an excellent point, and I should have mentioned the existence of sponsorship coalitions. A coalition brings together a small group of sponsors, all of whom should be on the same page when it comes to messaging, purpose, and reinforcement of what’s changing. Which brings me nicely to the topic for this second installment in the Six Drivers series: Organizational Relevance.
In its simplest terms, organizational relevance links the business value of the project to the strategic purpose or objectives of the enterprise. It engages people at each level of the organization because they can see how the project helps move the needle in some important way. It also becomes the basis for effective communication and target employee engagement (upcoming topics for Parts 3 and 4 of this series).
Simple terms don’t make this a simple concept, however, and it’s one of the most overlooked dimensions when setting a project up for success. So how can you effectively create and maintain organizational relevance?
Keep the project’s outcomes in commonly understood business terms. Even if the entire reason for being is the upgrade of technology infrastructure, articulate the milestones in a business framework: mitigating the risk of technology failure, reducing total cost of ownership, enabling increased capabilities or performance. Figure out what will resonate with your sponsor(s) and the people who will experience whatever is different about the future state and use those words to craft your business value statements.
Associate your project’s major milestones and deliverables to business value statements. If you can’t match each project outcome to at least one business value, your effort is already at risk of becoming organizationally irrelevant! This isn’t easy; in fact, it can be darned frustrating because certain highly technical project outcomes are sometimes hard to frame in simple business terms. But if you don’t keep at it, the only people who will understand, celebrate, and appreciate what’s been accomplished will be the five people who got it done. And that would be a shame.
Establish one or two simple, relevant metrics for each statement of business value. Then, baseline the current state performance against that metric, using proxy measures if necessary. As the project achieves key milestones, report performance changes to prove the delivery of business value. It’s key to have simple but relevant metrics that people can identify with, and you can measure.
NEOS has developed a Business Value Linkage Model that brings all these components together, but any project leader or program manager can put this type of model together.
Probably 25% of the time, when we engage with a client whose project has stalled and is bleeding money, we find that a giant, black abyss has opened up between the business’ understanding and expectations of the project and what the project leaders are thinking. It’s understandable because project personnel are engrossed day in and day out with the inner workings of the effort (e.g., the minutia of form automation and design or the intricacies of an Exadata implementation), The two “sides” begin to speak a different language. The Rosetta Stone should be the Business Value Linkage Model that explains how the form reduces new business submission errors, or Exadata shrinks reporting time.
If your project is losing funding, no longer gets A-player resources, and can’t get executives to attend the steering committee meetings, then take a close look at how organizationally relevant you are perceived to be. Re-frame your business value in terms the decision-makers understand to put your project back on solid footing.
Part 3, coming before the end of the month, will tackle the thorny issue of Communication, both within the project team and to the organization as a whole.