Posts Tagged ‘executives’

The ESP connection

November 18, 2017

The following is an extract from my new book ‘How to get Fired at the C-Level: Why mismanaging change is the biggest risk of all’ in association with my friends at Tailwind Project Solutions – previous extracts followed a series of 5 Challenges that I think every organisation should consider, and consider very carefully – and now we will look at the 5 tests of control:

Another quick test of control is the ‘Executive board to Sponsor to Project Manager’ relationship or the ‘ESP’ connection test.

Let’s start with the simplest form of this test by asking ‘Is there one?’.

Does the executive team interact with project sponsors on a regular basis, perhaps are they even the executive sponsors themselves? And do the sponsors interact and engage on a regular, bi-directional manner with the project managers?

Come up with a ’No’ at any of these connections and you have trouble ahead. You do need all three and you do need them connected and communicating.

If you don’t declare a complete and utter ‘No’ then the next step of the ‘ESP’ test is to consider any weak points in this ‘Executive board to Sponsor to Project Manager’ relationship. Here we can go back to the question of do the executives understand change (and projects), and/or do the change sponsors understand what it means to be such a sponsor, and how to go about being and effective sponsor, before arriving at the project management community and asking they know what they are doing, do they have experience and are they supported in skills and tools and method?

Such a consideration will allow another perspective on the robustness of your entire change management structure and to focus where there is a need.

One point here. If there is a problem at say the ‘E to S’ connection and also at the ‘S to P’ connection, then the priority has to be to focus and fix the ‘E to S’ problem first as the higher the issue the bigger the issue is in my personal experience.

TAKE THE TEST: Consider each level on the ESP connection and evaluate the change leadership maturity at each level – then assess the strength of connection at each of those touch points, ‘E to S’ and ‘S to P’.

Tailwind Project Solutions was formed in 2014 to provide a bespoke approach to project leadership development. Owned by Director & CEO Alex Marson, the organisation works with large FTSE 250 clients including some of the biggest companies in the world in the Asset Management, Professional Services, Software, Automotive, Finance and Pharmaceutical industry.  The company has a team of world-class experts who provide a bespoke approach to the challenges that our clients have, and the company was formed because of a gap in the market for expertise which truly gets to the heart of the issues clients are facing – providing a robust, expert solution to change the way that companies run their projects.

At the time, the market was becoming flooded with training companies, providing a ‘sheep dip’ approach to project management, and the consensus was that This didn’t solve the real challenges that businesses and individuals are experiencing in this ever-increasing complex world of project management. The vision was to hand-pick and work with the very best consultants, trainers and coaches worldwide so that Tailwind could make a difference to their clients, to sit down with them, understand their pain points, what makes them tick, and what is driving their need for support.

These challenges being raised time and time again are in the project leadership space, from communication issues, not understanding stakeholder requirements or having the confidence to “push back”, lack of sponsorship support, working across different cultures, languages, levels of capability and complexity. We expect more from our project managers – we expect them to inspire, lead teams and be more confident.

Tailwind’s experience is vast, from providing interim resources in the project and programme management space, supporting the recruitment process, experiential workshops, coaching – from project managers through to executives, providing keynote speakers, implementing PPM Academies, PM Healthchecks and Leadership development. The approach is created often uniquely – to solve the real challenges of each of their individual clients.

http://tailwindps.com/

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Give me ‘C’

March 11, 2016

I have seen in the companies that I have worked for, and I am sure that you have all seen it as well, the special ones amongst us that are on a fast track up through the organisation destined for the hallowed ground of ‘C’ level appointment. We all watch in awe and wonder at the skill and ability in acquiring new skills and mastering new responsibilities and generally doing a whole better than us.

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And there is nothing wrong with that at all. They experience the company as broadly as possible with experiences in finance and in sales and in marketing and in manufacturing and even sometimes in services perhaps. They get first-hand experience of the component parts of the businesses that they will one day lead and this is a really valuable preparation. These are the ones identified as having future leadership potential and any company will invest in such people for their joint futures.

Sadly I have yet to see a future ‘C’ work their way through the project arena, the PMO, the project management practise. It seems as if, when it comes down to it, that the project side of the business (as opposed to the operational side of the business) is maybe a little less important, a little less attractive?

There is a danger of cause in putting a non-project person in charge of projects.

A comment from my recent PMO Survey summed it up with ‘the management in charge of the PMO are highly experienced operational managers, each with a significant and solid track record. Unfortunately that expertise does not translate into projects where the deadlines, delivery management and interaction between different role-players are significantly more acute than in operational management’.

So perhaps the ‘C’ is not immediately destined for the PMO leadership role but surely there is a critical need for such future leaders to understand the nature of their ever increasingly project based activities.

Take an action all of you PMO leaders – talk to the ‘powers that be’ and to the fast track talent development agencies in your companies and open up your PMO with an invitation to ‘come on in and enjoy the experience’.

In the long run it will only benefit the PMO, your projects, you yourself and, of course, the organization. Projects are here to stay and with the increase in project activity inside organisations then really the next generation ‘C’ level should understand as much as they can about our world.

Executives: Stop Failing Your Projects!

May 29, 2014

Yes you read that right – not ‘Executives; stop your failing projects’ but ‘Executives; stop failing your projects’

In ‘Why good strategies fail: Lessons for the C-suite’ published by The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited in 2013 the report stated, in the conclusion, that there was a need for increased C-suite attention to implementation (therefore projects) ‘Leadership support is the most important factor in successful strategy execution, yet a substantial number of survey respondents indicate that the C-suite is insufficiently involved’.

On the subject of finding the right level of C-suite engagement the report declares ‘… one of the most worrying findings of our survey is that leading executives at a large number of companies do too little about strategy implementation. Only 50% of respondents say that strategy implementation secures the appropriate C-suite attention at their organisation. Similarly, 28% admit that individual projects or initiatives to put strategy into place do not typically receive the necessary senior-level sponsorship’.

This is why I make the loud and bold challenge that ‘Executives are failing their projects’ and I strongly believe that this situation needs to stop – now!

C Suite Executives

So how can you get this message up to the highest level in your organisation?

Well fear is one way so why not try this simple ‘script’ when you get the opportunity.

Start with your company project portfolio value (this should be a reasonable reflection of the strategic investment). For the sake of this example I am going to use pounds sterling but, of course, feel free to adopt your own currency of choice. I am also going to use a small portfolio value of say £20m, again please insert your own figure here.

Now this next step will depend on the type of industry you are in but choosing a typical regulated commercial model for a business then it can be said that out of that total portfolio some projects are compliance driven and some business driven. In this example we will use 40% as compliance and 60% as business growth projects. Therefore we have £8m invested in compliance projects and £12m in business development projects.

But we don’t stop there. For each project to be sanctioned there must be a ‘value added’ benefit. For compliance projects this is less ‘value add’ and more ‘cost impact’ and so perhaps this is a 2:1 ratio as a result of potential penalties for non-compliance plus the actually project investment costs. In our example this would be £8m multiplied by 2 plus the original £8m, which equals £24m.

Now for the rest of the portfolio, the business growth or development projects, then you don’t invest £1 to gain £1 – what’s the point? – Of course not, there has to be a return on investment ratio that typically might be at around 4:1 (apply your own business factor here presumably you have something in your business case approval process that has such a figure defined?). Therefore investing £1 would gain a return in investment of £4. Therefore using the same maths as the compliance projects we now have in our example a total of £12m multiplied by 4 plus the original £12m, which equals £60m.

We now have a ‘true’ project portfolio value of £24m plus £60m which gets us to a nice big number of £84m.

In the ‘Project Management Institute, Inc. Pulse of the Profession™, March 2013’ it was assessed that the value impact on poor project sponsorship from the executive level had real significance. The report suggested that with regards to ‘Meeting Project Goals’ there was a +29% variance with good sponsorship in place but when there wasn’t good project sponsorship in place there was a -13% variance of ‘Project Failure’ that is there was a 13% more likely chance of the project not delivering what was expected.

Investment in project sponsorship is evidence that the executives are taking strategy investment seriously, and not doing so an example of where the C-suite are failing their own business and investors (and projects).

Taking our £84m portfolio and doing nothing to develop good project sponsorship means that 13%, or £10.92m, is practically written off from day one.

If your CFO is in the room right now and paying attention tell them to go get the shredding machine and stuff £10.92m in to it right now – you might as well as this is what is more than likely going to happen to all that money, all that investment, it will just disappear and you will have nothing to show for it except a lot of resources wondering what they had been working on all this time (I would say burn it, visually more powerful but also more of a safety risk).

And hey we haven’t even considered disruption of business costs during the projects – what shall we say here, maybe another 20% of the total portfolio investment, about £16.8m or so?

And you know what? Everything is never equal. I suspect that the 40% we allocated as compliance project investment has a greater success ratio than the other projects, not that these projects are any more ‘healthy’ but that through the fear of non-compliance the company throws resources at these projects over and above the other 60% of business development projects and achieves’ success’ the hard (and costly) way.

Now if these ones are ‘successful’ (he says smiling knowingly) then the other 60% must carry even higher levels of potential failure.

Workout these figures now.

And looking back at your portfolio we said 40% was compliance activity and 60% was business growth but think about it, of the balance how much is real ‘clear blue strategic change’? I bet that most is just to keep pace with your market and perhaps only 10% is real change. So again if failure is the ‘norm’ and the focus on success tends towards the compliance end of the project scale, how successful are the true change projects you have underway in the organisation?

Now I realise that all of these figures are open to interpretation and maybe my maths is less than perfect but you must get the general idea. Big investment in strategy through projects needs to be backed up by real commitment to successful delivery and, whilst the development of good project managers backed up with appropriate processes and methods is critical, it is the clear responsibility of the executive leaders to connect such strategy to project activity and to sponsor these projects in a competent way.

Hopefully all of this will have woken up the executives and you have their full undivided attention but just in case here is one last statistic that may well help.

A four-year study by LeadershipIQ.com interviewing over 1,000 board members from 286 public and private organizations that fired, or otherwise forced out, their chief executive found that the number one reason CEO’s got fired was …. Wait for it …. Mis-managing change! And what is change if not projects.

And so I go back to my opening statement and shout it out once more ‘Executives; stop failing your projects!’

Peter Greenwood, group executive director— strategy, CLP Group agrees, in ‘Why good strategies fail: Lessons for the C-suite’ notes that ‘Companies fail or fall short of their potential not because of bad strategies, but because of a failure to implement good ones’.

 

And if you need some help with this message then I am happy to speak on your behalf – just email me at peter.b.taylor@btinternet.com today and let’s get that message heard loud and clear!