If your strategic initiatives have made it a habit of being late or are falling by the way side, you may need to fundamentally relook at how you are managing them. More than 80% of all initiatives cleared in the boardroom do not see the light of day because they do not get completed on time. Ever come across a situation when the organizational initiatives are drastically pruned in the last quarter of the year, so as to try and complete the remaining few on time?
Treating your key initiatives as time bound projects and applying the principles of Theory of Constraints and its project management methodology, Critical Chain Project Management is the way that many organizations have found to significantly improve their On time or even before time completion of initiatives, thereby providing the sharp edge to their competitiveness.
While strategies are usually defined in the boardrooms of large organizations, significant gaps emerge in implementing these strategies at the operational or the proverbial “ground” level. Initiatives derived from these strategies frequently do not see the light of day and the organization is back to square one . . .or even worse, on the eve of the next “yearly” strategy formulation session. Why does this happen? Let us examine a few reasons which will sound familiar:
In this article, I propose that each strategic initiative be treated as a time bound project. While many readers of this article may argue that is exactly what is done in their organizations, I beg to differ. This is actually a myth. Project management needs a very specific and disciplined approach which is lacking in almost all strategy implementation efforts today. A dip stick research conducted by us across more than 50 medium and large organizations revealed that less than 15% of them have any kind of structured project plan in place for the initiatives embarked upon.
Resources required are not firmed up. Accountabilities are not identified. There are no clear “owners” and measurement either in terms of progress or impact on bottom line or top line is non-existent in the medium term. Milestones and decision gates are not transparent. The rationale for the initiative in terms of linkage with the organization goal of making more and more money is not obvious to the implementers. Finally, there is really no regular, frequent, periodic monitoring that progresses the initiative and facilitates removal of obstacles.
Just take the example of the New Product Development: function of most organizations and one can easily see what I mean.
Do they know what the impact of their initiative is in monetary terms (even within a wide range, given the uncertainty of introducing a new/modified product in the market)? Do they know how to prioritize among the numerous new product opportunities on the table? What is the time line committed and what is their past history of completion in time? Are there specific gates and events when key decisions have to be taken on continuing, discontinuing or course correction of an initiative? How are they incentivized to complete their initiatives in/before time? Is there a structured mechanism to monitor the progress of each initiative and to provide early warning signals in case of anticipated delays?
I propose below an overview of a step by step approach that can significantly improve the chances of successful initiative implementation in organizations:
I. Step 1: Project definition – determine the following clearly
i) How will we know if the initiative has been successfully implemented?
ii) What could make the initiative fail?
This is also the Project Frame and needs to be clearly documented and aligned with the project sponsor – the person who is going to set the direction, provide the resources and facilitate the removal of obstacles and challenges. Such a person is usually from the top management. Now, and only now (and not before) can the initiative be called a project.
II. Step 2 – Project Planning and structuring: This will use the Critical Chain Project management (CCPM) approach of Theory of Constraints (TOC) to enable a resource transparent, aggressive timeline for the project and set up the base for effective project monitoring.