Insight Blog

Let Culture Take the Wheel Towards Project Success

by David Pavlovic

September 19, 2016 | Change Management

Technology is moving at an unprecedented pace. With the emergence of the Cloud, Mobile, Digital, Big Data and IoT, businesses are struggling to keep up with this constant state of change. As organizations continue to traverse this new technical landscape, one statistic still remains the same. The failure rate of IT projects remain surprisingly high. Despite all the years of history and countless methodologies, advice and books, IT projects keep failing.

The question becomes why? According to Gartner, Inc.,the root causes for most failed projects generally revolve around people and process rather than technology. People are the one constant in every large organizational transformation. Without the right people, in the right seats, on the same bus, we can continue to expect more of the same.

So what drives the behaviors that derail these critical initiatives? People’s behavior is directly related to the culture within an organization. Wegmans, the #7 best place to work on the Fortune list, modified its business goals to ensure the jobs and career growth they want for their people. Wegmans stance on this approach to goals is: “Take care of your people and they will take care of your customer”. What can we do as leaders within our own organizations to lay the groundwork for a healthy culture?

Recognizing the scale and complexity of modern day technology transformations, let’s explore four of the more critical success factors and how they begin to lay the groundwork for a winning culture:


Patrick Lencioni, author of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, felt trust was so important that he made it the foundation of his model. It’s also the most difficult of organizational characteristics, defined as the degree to which fear is removed from an organization’s relationship between and among employees and transparency is modeled. To assist with achieving trust amongst a team or organization, leaders need to break down the political barriers to remove fear and allow vulnerability.



An organization’s clearly articulated strategic business plan, where vision is known, shared and lived into by everyone in the organization. Lack of clear vision’s major contributor to project failure is fear of change. Most organizations today look at how a change can impact their own financial goals, but “what’s in it for the people” is an afterthought. A compelling vision, incorporating the value and benefits to the people, can have a tremendous impact on the success of a large transformation.



This is a measure of every employee in the organization having ownership of their responsibilities, including a performance management process with natural consequences. Key word here is “natural” consequences. In today’s world, most organization’s metrics, scorecards and dashboards have almost become a religion and the aura is “what have you done for me lately?” As metrics are certainly necessary, they can be overdone and damage culture. Natural consequences can be even more powerful than some traditional accountability measurements. The feeling of letting your team down can have a tremendous impact on one’s behavior.


Continuous Learning

The measure of an organization’s investment in employee skills improvement, career development, innovation, use of technology and the upgrade of organizational knowledge. So how do you convince a decision-maker to invest in continuous learning? Tom Glocer, former CEO of Thomson Reuters, says “The problem is everyone is competing for the same resources and Learning and HR initiatives often sound “squishy” to the CFO. Therefore, the stakeholders need to be convinced that not only will the data demonstrate the importance to the organization down the road, you will immediately be able to witness the importance to the individuals. Over time, it will translate into attrition rates.


According to Dave Alhadeff, VP of Organizational Change Management for Lake Shore Associates, business leaders must shape an organization’s culture through their direct impact on elements such as those stated above. A leader’s ability to establish and model trust, communicate a vision, create a discipline around accountability, and advocate continuous learning brings about a culture that can minimize the risks of change and maximize bottom line results. Fortune’s Best Companies, Glassdoor’s Best Places to Work and LinkedIn’s Most In-Demand Employers all happen to have many of the same companies on their list. They all have one thing in common, strong cultures. This just shows that companies are winning bigger with a winning culture.


If you would like to learn more about creating a winning culture in your organization, please contact Lake Shore Associates