Expect the Right Thing

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The right thing isn’t always normal. Sometimes the right thing is extraordinary. The right thing is costly in many ways.

For large projects with 6- to 18-month life cycles, the due date is often chosen using what I jokingly call testosterone-based planning. Example, for a big computer system I was involved in installing, new clients would always ask what the record was for installation. They would then schedule a date that would break that record.

When is the worst time to schedule a target implementation date? Obviously when you know nothing. But it happens all the time.

That testosterone-based schedule is never met. How could it be? It’s based on virtually no information or experience.

One way to measure great change leadership is to only change the date once, using real experience, and then successfully make the new date.

Doing the right thing sometimes breaks promises. Here’s what I mean:

The expense run rates for these projects were in the multiple hundreds of thousands of dollars per month. There was tremendous pressure to complete the project (because of the expense of course) but also in order to begin experiencing the positive results the system would provide operationally.

We’re getting to the leadership point. When the leader’s actions push the team toward speed and completion a crossroad is introduced.

A bit of remedial project management. The Triple Constraints – Time, Cost, Quality. If you want it fast, it will cost more, or you can reduce quality.

The executives in those big projects reflected the pressure to get done by saying we want it done fast and you must also manage the cost. On time and on budget is a terrible way to measure success for an organizational change. Basically the executives were saying: “Reduce quality. Cut corners. Don’t do the right thing. Just get it done.”

We could meet the published due date or we could do it right.

As an executive leader, do you realize you are pulling these levers? Triple constraints is a model that applies across the board and in most every situation. It’s working whether you realize it or not.

What’s the truth? Yes, you want to push to get the project done. Do you really want quality to wane? Is the budget really fixed? You’re really putting your project team in a bind.

You have to help them lead through it. What can you do to help when you have the facts from the project leaders? Perhaps you can smooth over budget overruns. Perhaps you can help explain the need to delay the project. Maybe you can review the approach and see if anything can be shifted without impacting quality.

I saw a great example of this type of leadership just this week. A client executive helped a project manager do the right thing from a quality standpoint resulting in her delaying the project delivery date, which was the right thing. He sent the important message that he expected the right thing not just the expedient thing.

This leadership stuff is hard. It’s so easy to send the wrong message resulting in redefining your culture. Care is required.

To do this week: Review your change initiative portfolio. Work with the project managers. Talk through how the triple constraints are at play for each project. Make sure the levers are being pulled the way you want.

Let me know how it’s goes. Click the “comments” box below to participate in an on-going discussion via LinkedIn.

Jim Canterucci

I don't know everything. But I want to. The focus of our firm, Transition Management Advisors, is to develop leadership capabilities to create a championship culture, generate innovation, and successfully lead the resulting changes.

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On June 6, 2018
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