I was talking to a friend who used to work in a startup. She had recently quit, after months and months of complete exasperation. The owner simply ran her ragged. She told the story of meeting as a team, on endless occasions, and agreeing on a set of project objectives. And then, the owner would change his mind, and the project would change. It was one change after another, always in the name of pivoting.
In the startup world, pivoting is a common occurrence as you fine tune your offering and learn about your target market. Know when to pivot is tough though. I’ve seen some startups fail to pivot and run out of cash and others pivot so frequently that nothing they did ever got off the ground.
The problem is not limited to startups. I’ve seen nonprofits bounce from one endeavor to another so fast that it made me dizzy. I’ve seen businesses go through mergers or acquisitions so fast that they were still catching up from changes that had been initiated five years before.
I understand that some organizations and industries are more prone to chaos than others. But are you managing change, or letting change manage you? While this is a blog about managing change on your projects, your ability to reduce chaos depends on effective organizational strategies too.
Even the best project methodology will be challenged if the larger organization is unfocused. So, one preliminary step is to create an organizational strategy for evaluating opportunities and challenges.
Create an organizational strategy for evaluating opportunities and challenges.
Do you meet regularly, but not too frequently to review your strategic direction? I usually recommend annual planning, with quarterly reviews. But what happens when your largest competitor announces a major price cut that will impact your sales? Do you sit on that for three months until the next quarterly review? Or in a knee-jerk reaction, do you cut your prices without any analysis?
If you have a strategy for evaluating opportunities and challenges, across the organization, you can strike a balance between a knee-jerk reaction and inaction. Part of that strategy may involve your PMO, if you have one.
Understand that change happens at many levels.
Change can be a very personal subject – as people in organizations struggle, in their own ways, to manage the change in their professional lives, not to mention personal lives. We can help people cope with change by being supportive, presenting it as inevitable, and offering training. I have written before on how to better deal with change resistant people here. Whatever you do, avoid discussing change on social media. I’ve seen some disasters in that arena.
In addition to your project changes, people can be coping with other changes in their lives – which may make your project changes harder. Sickness, divorce, career moves, weddings, and vacations are all change stressors. For most of us, we no longer want to park our personal lives at the entrance to the workplace. So, understand the complexities that this will bring to the organization.
At the enterprise level, change can happen in various departments, through multiple projects, and also in the larger organization. Depending on your organization, you may have a team of people who are solely dedicated to one project or working on five different projects at the same time. There may be multiple projects impacting the same group of workers. Prepare to spend time communicating what the impact of the changes you are working on will be to those in the organization. Listen to people’s opinions. You may learn something. Don’t underestimate the need for training.
Create a project change management approach.
Focus on the alignment between your project strategy and your organizational strategy.
I see organizations spending big money on projects when they haven’t focused on how those projects will deliver organizational results. I wrote on that here. Proper alignment helps to ensure that money is not spent on boondoggles, that project changes actually get rolled out, and that people throughout the organization understand the changes that are coming down the pike, and how these changes will impact them.
You can manage change or let change manage you. Documented processes that work, and lots of communication and coaching help. If your senior executive is prone to changing his/her mind, you may want to lobby for a change control board. It may not happen, but if changes have to be approved by a group, it can slow the chaos.
Need help? Give me a call.