Insight Blog

Two Letters that Project Managers Dread

by Frank Carrera

May 14, 2019 | Project Management

Project managers say that the worst two letters in the English language are “re”. Re-plan, re-work, re-examine, re-launch. True. No one wants to find themselves in re-planning mode. However, sometimes, when a program goes off the rails and needs a course correction to get it back on track, a re-plan is necessary.

Lake Shore Associates (LSA) was recently asked to take over and lead a re-planning effort for a program that was struggling. It had gone through many program managers (both internal and external), had challenges executing on a global communication strategy, and had lost all trust from its stakeholders. The objective of the program was to lead migration of an Enterprise service to a cloud technology (PAAS). After an assessment of the health of the program, we quickly learned that the challenges the program faced had nothing to do with the actual program technology components. Migrating tens of thousands of user accounts to the new PAAS environment would be relatively easy compared to the real issues the program was facing – lack of trust from the user community and the ineffective execution of the initially developed communication strategy by former program managers.

Lack of Trust

Due to the history of past implementations and the length of time the program was stalled in the planning process, the global user community was skeptical. This skepticism turned into resistance and it was difficult to get the user community to engage and take action for key pre-requisites necessary for the migration. We knew we had to fix this and thus acknowledged the lack of trust and demonstrated our intent to resolve it. For the program, this was done by demonstrating progress and small wins. This started with holding a formal program kick-off with key leaders and stakeholders from around the globe. Additionally, the program was re-presented to the broader global IT community via monthly technology seminars.

Ineffective Execution of Communication Strategy

There was little to no communication regarding the “why” for the migration or the timeline. When a communication was distributed, all country IT leaders received the same generic message with no specific timing of potential migration for their country. The impact of this was IT leaders became frustrated with the lack of information and either created their own narrative or focused on other initiatives that required their focus – deferring the program activities.

As a Prosci certified firm, our approach to resolve this was to employ the following keys for effective communication:

1.)

Segment your stakeholders so you can deliver specific and unique communication. In our case, this included creating messages for regional IT stakeholders (e.g., Americas, Asia-Pacific) vs. local IT country leaders.

2.)

Be clear on the “why” for the change including the risk associated with not changing. For our program, we had a hard date deadline provided by a 3rd party vendor with significant financial impacts.

3.)

Allow stakeholders to provide feedback. Communication should not be one-way.

4.)

Repeat key messages. It takes between 5-7 times for a person to absorb a key message.

With a focus on building trust and more effective communication, we re-launched the program with a global audience and introduced various tracks of work with key milestones for the next 12 months. This re-launch included input from the global audience and the announcement of potential migration dates for the various components. Additionally, communication updates were triggered based on key milestones that were approaching. Finally, there were several countries with a larger user base with whom we conducted weekly meetings to build confidence and minimize resistance. As time went on, these meetings became less frequent and eventually were eliminated by the local IT staff due to the trust they now felt in the program. While this took many months over the life of the program, this trust was key to regaining the support of the local IT groups when user migrations occurred for their local users.

While it is normal to dread a re-planning exercise, LSA RElishes in it. LSA believes that trust and communication are foundational elements for any program to succeed. Moreover, it is never too late to REincorporate these elements into the operating model of the program.

LSA is a boutique, management-consulting firm that helps organizations execute their business strategies with thoughtful approaches to project/program management, change/talent management and strategic supplier lifecycle management. For more information on how LSA can help you with your project and change management needs, visit www.lakeshore.is.

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