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For some reason, when it comes to organisational change, the standard structures and rigour of traditional project management methodology and techniques are often overlooked, yet properly understood and implemented they provide the vital link required to turn good intent into practical and sustainable outcomes.
When considering project management techniques, emphasis is normally placed on the procedures, meetings, documentation and reports. These are seen as tools of CONTROL, yet project management methodology is underpinned by principles of operation that actually RELEASE people to deliver organisational change, give them true ACCOUNTABILITY and DECISION RIGHTS.
PRINCE2 has become the de-facto stadard for project management in the UK, particularly in public sector organisations. Those on the fringes of PRINCE2 projects often have rather disparaging opinions of it, regarding it as heavy, inflexible and draconian, yet at its heart are a series of PRINCIPLES and THEMES that, when appropriately applied, have wonderful flexibility and relevance in organisational change projects and programmes.
So how might we apply PRINCE2 for effective delegation and individual accountability in an organisational change project? Firstly we must start with a basic principle:
Project management is a mechanism to promote individual ACCOUNTABILITY through DELEGATED AUTHORITY. At the outset, that authority is ASSUMED, but must be JUSTIFIED on an ongoing basis. In essence, project management is about TRUST, and that trust has parameters – abuse the trust and you lose it.
How does that sound so far? Fairly sensible right? OK, now let’s look at the parameters of how ongoing authority is justified…
PRINCE2 has 7 THEMES that guide decision making throughout a project management process. When adapting or adopting a project management methodology that works for you, don’t focus on the various PIDs, logs and reports, instead focus on ensuring that these 7 themes are intact as these are the true heart of the method and provide the parameters by which ongoing accountability is justified.
Theme 1: Business Case
A business case drives all decision-making in the project – without a business case, there is no justification for investment. At the outset, and throughout the project we must ask whether the organisational change will deliver or contribute to the business goals, either qualitatively or quantitatively.
Theme 2: Organisation
The organisation of a project ensures that all voices are heard and stakeholders are managed. It ensures the business gets what it wants and needs, the end ‘users’ are properly consulted and engaged, and the delivery team understands what it should be delivering. Organisation is a recipe for engagement and inclusion in the organisational change process.
Theme 3: Quality
Quality focuses on ensuring that the project’s outcomes are fit for purpose. In considering quality, have we fully defined what we want, and do any compromises we make (there WILL be compromises!) undermine these standards. Quality ensures that the change we get does what we NEED it to do.
Theme 4: Plans
Plans provide for effective communication and management. Is the project ‘under control’? Is everything going as expected? If there are problems, are the right people involved to make the necessary decisions? Plans give us a mechanism to inform and consult the business on the route to sustainable organisational change.
Theme 5: Risk
Risk ensures that potential variations to a project’s outcomes are properly evaluated, monitored and reported. Although risk has negative connotations, as this actually considers variations, they can also be positive, allowing us to properly recognise previously unforseen opportunities. Risk forces us to constantly consider the outcomes of organisational change activity and it’s impact on the wider business.
Theme 6: Change
The Change theme provides the controls by which we deal with the decisions that will inevitably need to be made within a project. Trade-offs and compromise are a necessary part of project management – schedules change, budgets change and resourcing varies. Change provides clear and defined escalation routes, and the paramaters for true delegated authority.
Theme 7: Progress
Progress provides the mechanisms by which we keep project stakeholders fully informed. How often should we report on progress? How do we provide the information? What shouldn’t wait for a progress report? Progress ensures that stakeholders remain fully engaged with the organisational change process.
So, 7 themes, and not a single document, report, log or register mentioned. Instead a common sense checklist to ensure that projects stay on track, people remain engaged and the change you want is the change you get.