In one of my recent articles, the title “Why all the pain? Is fluff really the cause?”, I talked about the early phases of a project, the phase before and during the acquisition of a new system. Many believe that the protocols and best practices for performing a needs assessment as well as a thorough review of their business processes (whether they are documented, or not) are unnecessary, and are really “fluff”… actually, too many believe this. For them, from my perspective, buying and implementing a new system is just a matter of finding out who they know has had this installed and what their recommendations are… And it is a matter of attitude, because they do not see any value to this process, then there is no value to this process…
With 20 years of project experience, my amazement of the ignorance of such values by executive decisions and management has left me. This practice does not just happen in the USA and Brazil. There has been a slow deterioration of the standards, best practices, and efficiencies of project management – to the point that many companies do not even realize they are their own cause for their project problems. Meanwhile, the executives are pointing at the vendor, the consultants, the project team – is this real leadership? Or is this just bypassing accountability and responsibility by deflecting the blame?
Much of this deterioration occurs during hard economic times, when many make the mistake of making the economies more important than the efficiencies. They usually do this with the thought that they will correct the problem later and will just have to live with the problem for now. Sometimes this is necessary – but not very often. In 20 years I can recall only 3 such necessities – and to my knowledge, even they have not been corrected, not to mention my other clients that decided to take the same path.
In the quest for resources with accredited and certified skills, one thing is CONSTANTLY overlooked – the management of time, people, and efficiencies is still paramount. Being accredited or certified just means the person knew the answers to the tests. Question is, are the tests reflective to the current business needs and demands of today? Or are they reflective of just the theory and hypothesis being presented in the classroom?
When anything is efficient, there is a return on your investment (ROI) – and the more efficient, the faster the ROI (almost always, not always – there are conditions where substantial investment of capital may delay the ROI longer than normal). Some ROI’s do take longer than others. It is true some efficiencies are not worth the investment at the time the need for the efficiencies are noted – which usually results in the unvested efficiencies being lost to the day-to-day need to get the job done. Would it not be wiser to record this as one of the efficiencies for an upgrade or a new system? Most do not keep such records – and when the need for a new system or upgrade become necessary, they are looking at the new system’s bells and whistles while the processes they try to fix – and need to be fixed — are ignored.
Given that many companies do not find the time or place to appoint any value on documentation, is it supposed to be a surprise that a new system does not resolve their issues? Not to mention creates a whole new set of issues? A thorough review of business processes – and documenting them – as well as a needs assessment for the current super-users as well as departmental needs (like reports) should occur before considering a new system or an upgrade. Why? From my experience, clients that listened to such advice reduced the investment amount needed for a new system, were able to shorten the timeline of the project, and the pain involved in such an implementation was minimal. Why? Well, it goes to a basic principle that applies to anything in life. When there is disorder, there is pain – when there is order, there is little if any pain. An implementation is a birthing process, there will be pain involved… but why add more to it? That is about as smart as seeing a tree in the middle of the road and driving straight into it. In essence, when you fail to document, when you fail to assess your true needs – and document those as well, you don’t leave enough room to drive around the tree.
But documenting of business processes is only PART of the solution – documenting the full and true needs assessment should be completed as well. In most cases my experience, both exercises can take between 3 and 6 weeks total, depending on the size of the company. While the review of business processes needs to start at the beginning of every process, the needs assessment needs to start at the end of all business processes. Without well documented business processes, how do you do REALLY know where to begin the needs assessment? You may think you do, but later you will find that undocumented hindsight is very costly. Both the review of the business processes and the needs assessment has to focus on asking the right questions – not seeking answers to solutions, seeking answers should come much later! Too many projects will seek solutions as they go only to have to backtrack from a discovery made later that affects their path they have chosen – wasting time, resources, building frustration, increasing the pain…
Everyone’s decisions are affected by experiences, knowledge, emotions, who we listen to, who we do not listen to, and even our fatigue has an effect. Most bad decisions are made when tired – this is known by most, ESPECIALLY after they have accomplished such a feat. With an acquisition of a new system, for many this will be a new experience. If it isn’t, you can instantly surmise their past experiences of acquiring a system by their reaction to the news of such. If they hide under their desks or suddenly develop a nervous twitch, you could safely surmise it was not a good experience, yes?
Pain is the presence of disorder – if you can list eve ONE time when things were orderly and you had pain, then it was most likely the result of a headache or flu, not the result of a project. There will always be those that love disorder and those that love order. If you love disorder in your life, then all the more power to you. But many are standing back and assessing why all the pain. They are looking for guidance as to how to reduce this pain and they have some very good ideas. They also are willing to listen and become the leaders of tomorrow. If you keep getting the feeling you are looking at the taillights of someone or something, if you are constantly in pain with a project, then you are not the leader… The people asking the right questions are leading, my question is this: do you like where you are standing or where they are going?
Remember, age has nothing to do with wisdom – we all know very wise children of 7 years, and very foolish adults of 70 years… Nor does certification, though it does have value – if you are using Microsoft or Apple software or machines, then you are using the innovations of two men who never completed their education. In my 20 years, I have consulted for many people who have gained their advanced degrees from college yet I have only completed a couple years of college. I am no Bill Gates nor am I a Steve Jobs. I am however, very capable of seeing what is not working and what is working without a textbook telling me what to do or by listening a professor that has never worked in the field. There are some great teachers out there, but it is widely known that there is a huge disparity between what is being taught and what the business world needs from recent graduates. I am not condoning the education industry – they are due for a change as well, and many know this already.
What am I saying? There are many that are discontented in the way things are managed, taught and operated today – most of those are tomorrow’s leaders. The least we can do is hear them AND listen to them – and then let them have their time in leadership. They will make mistakes, like anyone doing something for the first time will.
We need to cultivate their future by giving leadership to those that are sensitive enough to listen, strong enough to lead, wise enough to reflect, and big enough to provide aspirations…
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