Project "traffic jam": The high cost of the organisational obstacle course
Companies across a range of industries can get significantly more out of their development activities with a significantly lower level of investment.
For years, many companies have been drowning in change. One change in the organisation barely takes effect before the next is implemented, and digital change projects queue up in the IT department for months at a time due to lack of capacity.
It is not unusual for certain key employees to work on several projects simultaneously and therefore constantly have to keep an insane number of balls in the air. It all results in a frustratingly slow pace of change and perhaps even worse: disturbingly expensive development.
We have long been aware that change is difficult and that many development projects fail, and most companies have undertaken serious work to become better at both change management and project execution. The classic challenges such as organisational resistance to change, demanding project funding and an eternal battle for resources create an obstacle course that development initiatives must overcome to succeed. This is nothing new. This can be seen quite clearly when, for example, you look at the types of talent employers are looking for.
In your LinkedIn feed, you see a general requirement for new colleagues who can multitask and handle the many balls they must keep in the air, while demonstrating convincing impact in a complex stakeholder landscape. Organisational change is extremely demanding, so it takes superhumans to overcome the organisational obstacle course – and that is developing into a huge problem.
Change projects create traffic jams
The reason for the problem is that, along with the many development initiatives, strengthened change management and project execution, as well as all the excellent superhumans who will bring them to life, a whole new type of challenge has arrived on the obstacle course. Namely, all the other projects.
They all need the same organisational attention, the same resources, and they all fight for priority at various management meetings. As if navigating the obstacle course were not difficult enough already, it is now also plagued by a merciless traffic jam, and the momentum in many companies' development activities is alarmingly close to zero.
They are usually absolutely right, and the reason is precisely because of the invisible traffic jam on the obstacle course, where one superhero project manager stands on top of the other and draws on the same resources.
But development activities have by their nature not been tried before and they only need to be done once. Therefore, they are the opposite of familiar, predictable and repetitive. They work completely differently from the enterprise’s operational activities, and therefore they must also be managed in a different way.
And this is where hidden opportunities lie, by simplifying the organisational obstacle course of well-intentioned but mismatched governance mechanisms. A systematic review to ensure that the mechanisms are appropriate to the activities they manage will both lead to better governance and, more importantly, it will free up significant amounts of time and energy that can instead restore momentum. A good place to start is the budget and planning processes or the processes for approving new development projects.
I have yet to find a company that cannot reap great benefits from simplifying their development management, and it all begins with a shift of perspective. That means moving from trying to strengthen change management and project execution and instead making the organisational obstacle course easier to overcome.