In a recent blog entitled Has Your Strategic Plan Fallen Down the Rabbit Hole?, CEOs are encouraged to utilize project management (PM) to keep their strategic plan on track. Peter Marci, the Director of the project management discipline for a leading Interactive Agency, asks his favorite interview question, which is, “What do you feel is the secret to project management?” Typically he receives the answer, “communication.” This is, of course, not an incorrect answer. However, Mr. Marci feels that a different response would provide greater insight into the candidate. More about that answer later. As with everything, there is an art and a science to project management. Moreover, there is a lot of advice out there about how to best manage a project to keep it from falling in the proverbial rabbit hole. This advice includes:
Famed speaker and coach, Patricia Fripp, will often say, “When someone wants to give you their money, you take it!” There is also an old saying that goes, “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.” These phrases carry a similar message. The story of what brought the contemplation of these two phrases to mind follows.
Often when we entrepreneurs market, we will give products and services away for gifts at special events. Don’t we all just love these unexpected perks? It just so happens, that a colleague of mine, whom we’ll call Bill, spoke for an enterprise with around 15 employees. He provided one hour of complimentary coaching as one of these perks. Upon hearing him speak, several of the employees wanted to engage him in a coaching program. One of these was a person who had received a complimentary the one hour coaching perk. Bill faithfully delivered the one hour coaching and the employee told her boss, CEO of the enterprise, that it was the best hour she had ever spent.
As we climb the corporate ladder, we have much more at stake in our careers. Executives, in particular, play a high stakes game every day when it comes to career management. It is common knowledge that the more we earn, and the higher up we are on the ladder, the longer it takes to find a job when, for whatever reason, we are out of one.
Our ears often ring with “Always keep your resume up to date.” The winds of change can blow us and our careers in different directions. We can also hear that, “During change, no one’s job is safe.” This is a strong concern in the cases of mergers and acquisitions (M&A). Therefore, keeping your resume up to day during M&As becomes imperative. Do we do it? Not a chance. Take heart, an M&A doesn’t always mean a job loss and there are ways to prepare better and even, in some cases, take control. Let’s look at some scenarios and options.
Awash in Fear
When in my early thirties, I took swimming lessons. One day I decided I wanted to dive off the diving board. I would sit on the end of the board, thinking courage would show up, give me a nudge, and I would just gently fall into the pool. It didn’t happen. Building up more courage, I would walk to the end of the board, but again courage was off doing something courageous elsewhere. Several times, I built up even more courage and would take off running to the end of the board, stop right at the edge, and my courage ran the other way. Courage drowned in a pool of fear and that fear engulfed my brain, body, and heart. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, I jumped – and obviously lived to tell about it. This scenario will not fit everyone’s idea of what courage is and isn’t, but it’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.
An executive coaching client suggested that “everything in her company is in disarray and nothing is getting accomplished.” As I began questioning her, it was easy to understand why. Current projects for this organization include:
- Restructuring a large department while finding a new leader for it
- Opening two new branches in different towns.
- Acquiring another company
- A major remodeling project at headquarters
- Preparing for a major bi-annual meeting to be held in four months
- Putting together a succession plan in anticipation of the CEO’s retirement in a few years
Not only are there several major projects in the works, the CEO often loses track of what he has told his team, who is to do what, and how much progress has been accomplished on each project. In fact, on one of the new branch openings, three people had three different opening dates as their goal.
Do your team’s behaviors emulate the famous musketeer slogan? Can you really have such a utopian culture; or is this idea just as fictional as the musketeer story? If your company is in trouble, is the idea of creating such a team going to distract from more urgent needs? If teambuilding is the only focus – yes. We all know that when teams begin experiencing disruptive behaviors, it is the manifestation of a deeper issue.
Logic tells us that handling important business issues is imperative. However, your team can be part of that process and creating an “All for one. And one for all.” culture is achievable as is illustrated in the example of DaVita, a company that provides kidney dialysis.
Change doesn’t come easily…or cheaply. Here’s a scenario: The Board or Executive Team, meet and hammer out their strategic plan and go back to work at their desks and begin putting the building blocks in place to reach the goals they’ve set. A few months, or a year into the plan, they suddenly discover that not only is change expensive, but it’s costly in ways and areas the strategic plan, well had no plan for. Every type of change comes with a price tag.
Employee Costs: Regardless of whether the change is small, drastic, incremental, sudden, planned, or unplanned, people will pay a price in terms of emotion and productivity. People handle change differently. Some will create havoc and slow the change process down through change resistance. Others experience stress as they may fear losing their jobs, or they may struggle learning a new process or technology, or they may express anger over the merge with a bitter business rival. These reactions cost your teams and business heavily in lost productivity.
In his book, The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business, Josh Kaufman describes a phenomenon he calls “bystander apathy.” In essence, Mr. Kaufman suggests that any project without a leader won’t get completed. He cites committees as a perfect example, as they often do not have a leader and a project can linger inside a committee literally for years. Your organization’s strategic plan can be met with the same fate without accountable leadership.
Many leaders believe that change needs to involve everyone, and that’s a good thing. However, handing responsibility for that change off to everyone or anyone besides the executive team is not so good. Change begins at the top. Further, executives must be involved and held accountable throughout the change process. Much of this begins when developing the strategic plan.