How to kill a transformation project

It is very common for organisations to create transformation projects in order to reshape the way they do things however many organisations fail to get these projects to deliver a real transformation in performance.  The directors and leaders of organisations frequently use similar approaches to kill the transformational projects which they should be supporting.  So if you want to join them and kill some of your projects here are the best tips:

  1. Fail to give the project any senior management attention.  After all everyone in the organisation will know as much as you about the reasons for the project, the necessary impact, how to link all the high priority initiatives together and how to ensure the solution is being developed with the necessary pragmatism.  Given this, your input is completely optional so best to get on with operational management issues.
  2. Starve the project of full-time resource.  If you load the project up with part time people, the team will spend their time going round in circles, talking to each other but not concluding anything.  It works even more effectively if some of these people are the type of self-opinionated people who no one else wants to work with.  This approach also saves you having to debate with your colleagues what really are the business priorities and how to develop people who are interchangeable rather than experts in narrow areas.
  3. Avoid committing to real benefits and the tangible outputs that will deliver them.  By doing this, you never really commit to anything so no one can accuse you of failure and you will always find someone else to blame.  Even better, pick the latest management fad to build you project around.  This way you will get all the kudos and mental stimulus of applying the latest thinking and no one will be surprised when the idea goes out of favour and the project gets put on ice.
  4. Keep clear of all detailed discussion about methodologies or systematic approaches.  Using an established approach just feels like an excuse for everyone to baffle you with technical jargon and acronyms so just let the team evolve their own way of doing things.
  5. Allow yourself to be driven by the big operational problems and allocate resources to problem solving projects to address these issues.  Yes, they will overlap and compete with the transformation project but solving operational problems yields more brownie points than transformation.  Of course transformation is more important in the longer term but it is important to get through the intervening period.
  6. Avoid the difficult decisions.  One of the real problems with transformation projects is that they demand key people, operational expense and capital and making big priority decisions is a real challenge.  How do you compare revenue today against bigger revenue a few years out?  How do you prioritise customer service today against customer benefit later?  You can’t so don’t bother.  When asked to prioritise by the transformation team, avoid discussing it with your colleagues because they don’t know either.  Fudge it with the team.  As long as you smile and seem helpful, you will probably get away with not resolving the issue and they will find a pragmatic solution.
  7. Finally ensure that you do not allow any real concerns to surface or pessimism about the organisation.  Surround the project with bucket loads of optimism and don’t tolerate any critics.

Follow this advice and you will get exactly what you deserve – a failed transformation project.

Andrew Kearns

Hartswood Management Ltd

Removing the roadblocks to delivering real improvement

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