Empowering success in complexity
One in six IT change initiatives such as ERP and CRM systems turn out to be money pits, with cost overruns averaging 200% and schedule overruns of almost 70%, according to Bent Flyvbjerg of Oxford and Alexander Budzier of McKinsey, who studied 1,471 such initiatives worldwide and report their findings in the September 2011 issue of Harvard Business Review.
This is not welcome news particularly for those small but ambitious companies who depend heavily on IT for competitive advantage. The authors go on to recommend that we break big projects down into initiatives of limited size, complexity and duration as well as make contingency plans to deal with unavoidable risks. It is gratifying indeed that there’s a better way to manage these projects but these suggestions are clearly limited in impact. No amount of planning or structuring will have a truly significant effect on the complex world of information technology; the limiting element, and also the empowering element, is people. Even if you do have a water-tight plan, circumstances will change and the context will shift. When this happens, as it undoubtedly will because it always has, you’ll be obliged to make a new plan and start over.
There’s only one real answer and it lies within the people who lead, design and implement such projects. Their perspective and perceptions, which drive their behaviors, is the critical factor. The ‘will-power’ to create success in this or any other area will always out-perform the ‘way-power’. As leader, your essential task is to define the ‘what’ and the ‘why’. Then choose the right people – those who have a passion as well as the knowledge, skills and experience for the work – give them a clear mandate and resources to match and let them find the answers.
When they do, recognize their efforts, their learnings as well as their results and celebrate!
About the author: David Huggins MASc, FIoD, CMS is an experienced behavioral scientist and executive coach who’s dedicated to bringing out the best in individuals and groups. His insights and direct contributions have taken business leaders to elevated dimensions in performance. He can be reached through his websites at www.andros.org and www.polarisprogram.com