Managing an IT project has always been a tricky piece of business. Recently, Information Week ran an article (called “Project Management Gets Lean,” Feb. 13, 2012 issue) that made some important points that we – as folks who have to help clients manage IT projects ourselves – thought worth sharing.
In a nutshell, the question fairly asked of the victims, er, participants in any major technology project rollout is this: Do you feel like the project is happening to you, instead of feeling like you’re participating in a worthy cause?
The answer may explain why customers sometimes feel as if project management is not helping them. As the article points, you are about to move someone’s cheese when you embark on a significant business technology project. You’re changing the way people do their jobs. But if the various business units aren’t all “Hurry up and get it done – this is awesome,” then you’re doing it all wrong.
First, it’s important to understand that “IT” and “the business” are no longer two separate entities – they’re one. Or as Alex Adamopoulos, CEO of project management consulting firm Emergn says succinctly, “It’s one organism.”
So it’s not surprising that the underlying cause behind so many project failures is, simply put: resistance to change. Organizational change really just boils down to “how people feel.” That may not sound sufficiently technical to the IT gurus, but (as we so often find) it’s the hard reality of changing the business processes that govern the work lives of so many workers.
The technical staff think their “well-researched and well-written documents will be the magic bullet that will get change done.” But, sorry, no. Business process change is about people letting go of the olds ways. But too few IT types recognize that there’s a reason people are tied to the old way of doing things: they do it that way every day. There’s a personal connection and investment. And letting go can create something akin to a grieving process: anger, disorientation, confusion because people’s jobs are not what they used to be – or at least they don’t appear to be.
While setting clear goals and including business leaders at every step are all good, they’re not enough.
For the project to “truly get traction with the constituents who matter – the people who will be changing their way of doing things – all those goopy feelings have to be taken into account,” says article author Jonathan Feldman (IT Director of a city inNorth Carolina).
“Saying this is good for the organization without also saying what’s good for the people in the organization doesn’t convince people to change,” according to Mary Lynn Manns, author of Fearless Change, a handbook on organizational change.
In the end, it’s about compliance vs. participation. Next time you have a role in a project, especially if you’re the project manager, be sure to spend a few hours thinking about that. In the end, it’s not about the tools – it is, as always, about the people.