Pt 2: The #1 answer to the rhetorical survey question about implementation barriers: culture

May 15, 2008

Continuing on a theme…

I’ve botched some projects. Not badly but enough to slow something down. Under the big umbrella of ‘culture’ the missteps were the result of the failure to recognize (or the denial of the existence of) the little components.

Little things that make projects fail…

Failure to address the “we don’t do it that way” issue.

One option is to try to find companies that do “do it that way” successfully (ideally within a vertical market) and share that information (everyone is interested in what the competition is doing better). Early adopters are few. New things scare the heck out of many people. Don’t look like the first one to try something. And don’t reinvent the wheel.

Failure to recognize potential turf wars/personality issues.

You can starting fixing this anticipated down-the-road problem by drafting a flowchart for the project and identifying everyone you’ll likely deal with along the way. This means everyone not just the “stakeholders.” Are there people that should be ‘red flagged’ as possible bottlenecks?

(Note: don’t actually use a red flag on your chart. I’d go with “KA” – ‘known asshole’ to you, to others “Key Asset” or “Knowledge Area” or something).

Only you know how best to deal with that person – you might need to get them involved earlier, have a direct conversation with them (nothing like that face-to-face conversation vs. email is there?) about what you’re trying to do and why it’s important, involve their manager in a good way so when you need support you’ll likely already have it, provide them with a reason they are crucial, or explain the performance objective it is tied to.

I think our natural reaction is to just brace ourselves for the turf war we anticipate rather than dealing with it initially.

Maybe it’ll be different this time…or maybe pigs will fly…

Turf wars are about fear, control, and protection of assets. This includes fear of becoming obsolete, acknowledging someone has a better idea, fear of giving up ownership, fear of missed goals.

Other details to think about:

Anticipate fears about change

“we’ve always done it that way,” “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it,”

How will you deal with that? What is your planned response?

Deal with the

“if we allow you do it for you, we’ll have allow everyone to do it”

by piloting something first. This wasn’t fun as in high school either was it? Either find someone who is doing it or make your case for why it is better than something you are currently doing. Also, by suggesting someone is a bottleneckand offering them a way out (pilot!), you’ll likely get beyond this juvenile, “large paint roller” response.

It won’t work because…you know this person…but will it work? What’s your good answer?

Not this: Well, John they didn’t think the chalkboard would work out either but it kind of did…here’s why I think this will work because….
or this: How’s that horse and buggy thing working out?

Not my job

I do widgets. Widget is all I do. I don’t do gadgets. Gadgets are done by the person across the hall. If it’s quicker and not a huge deal, learn how to do the gadgets yourself. If not, suggest outsourcing and I’m sure the widget-maker will try to become a gadget-maker pretty quick. Or, worst case…you actually outsource gadget-making.

Not following the ‘proper’ channels

Ever get the email responses that have more and more cc’s with each response? In a command-and-control environment, this (to me) was a sign of not “getting the right people involved.” Everbody starts weighing in and asking/answering questions that should have been asked already. I think ideas starts in the white space of the org chart and work their way up without jumping channels in this kind of environment. Learn & remember the game rules.

Like Monopoly: You can’t collect $200 unless you pass GO.

Not giving yourself enough time/thinking you can ‘do it all’ yourself/not having a project manager

Guilty? This is a quick way to sabotage your own project. By laying out a path for completion, and updating it, you can properly anticipate and handle the details.

Training is equally as important as every other initiative!

  • http://www.daveswhiteboard.com/ Dave Ferguson

    These are great points, Janet.

    In terms of both turf wars and fear of change, it helps me to look at how things got the way they currently are. Not “how did this problem happen?” but “what things were they trying to fix?”

    For example, tedious, paper-laden procedures guarded by some administrative watchdog probably emerged as piecemeal solutions to individual situations, some of them truly problems. (Some were probably nonsense, but probably not all.)

    Knowing what the problems were in the past helps you figure out if they still are problems and, if so, to see how well your solution addresses their cause.

    Easier said than done, of course. But it can help convince the other party that you can recognize things that matter to him.

  • http://www.daveswhiteboard.com Dave Ferguson

    These are great points, Janet.

    In terms of both turf wars and fear of change, it helps me to look at how things got the way they currently are. Not “how did this problem happen?” but “what things were they trying to fix?”

    For example, tedious, paper-laden procedures guarded by some administrative watchdog probably emerged as piecemeal solutions to individual situations, some of them truly problems. (Some were probably nonsense, but probably not all.)

    Knowing what the problems were in the past helps you figure out if they still are problems and, if so, to see how well your solution addresses their cause.

    Easier said than done, of course. But it can help convince the other party that you can recognize things that matter to him.

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