Friday, July 12, 2013

Transparency is your Friend in Strategic Planning

The more I speak throughout the world, it is becoming more clear that there is a growing fear when it comes to strategic planning.  There is a general fear in transparency.  Why is that?  I meet with many project managers across the globe that emote a general apathy.  Frustration is the most common emotion due to what they feel is a series of mandated dates, misunderstood requirements, and most of all, over-utilized staff.  Executives that I meet with are most frustrated because they are constantly hearing that projects are on track until the last minute or by the time they hear of an issue, the project is too far down a path for a course correction.  They all state that they want a solution.  The solution is simple:  transparency.
First, let’s analyze the myth of the mandated date.  Most project managers feel that almost every project that is received comes with a due date attached.  This creates panic, frustration, and many times poor quality as corners get cut to meet the mandated date.  Most Executives that I meet with tell me that while a date is attached, it is only done in order to provide a guideline.  It is not mandated and can be changed if proper data is supplied as to why the dates need to be altered.  They would be shocked to hear the measures that their staff is going through to meet the dates that many times are arbitrary.  Why is there such a disconnect and frustration all around when seemingly everyone wants the same thing?  The answer is the filtration process.  There is a huge filter between the Executives and the workers called Middle Management.  This layer is often needed, however, it can be the most damaging layer to the timeline, data, productivity, and ultimately the bottom line.
There are a few examples of this layer.  There was a company trying to change their core product to a newer generation product where this type of filter was on display.  This organization’s number one initiative continually failed to even come close to its production date or budget.  It missed its target by years and millions of dollars and the production date was reset multiple times.  The organization wanted to focus on improving its project management practices and hired an outside firm.  It was clear early in the consulting engagement that transparency in the reporting process was needed.  It was evident that the prioritization, resource management, and project reporting processes were all lacking and continue to be filtered by the middle managers.  The organization that was hired to change these processes brought in software to bring transparency to these processes, sell the executives on the need to do it, signed project scope statements, and even held town hall meetings to sell the entire organization on why it was necessary.  There were two key departments that were responsible for most of the resource constraints and missed dates.  Many of the other department leaders commented and wondered how these departments would react to the views and direction that was being shared in the meetings.  When it came time for the controversial meeting, one of the key stakeholders who had attended all of the meetings gave conflicting directions and made it seem as if the project team did not have a clear plan of implementation.  The manager even gave conflicting timelines and completion dates.  This left the impression that the agreements made by senior management and other levels earlier in the project were not set and the momentum of the project was quickly halted.  After that meeting, questions about scope and direction of the project were raised even though a signed scope statement and agreed project plan had been clearly laid out.  It was clear that the stakeholder did not want the software, or better yet, the transparency the software would bring to the organization. Perhaps that middle manager was looking for some job security but instead, it was obvious that the man in the middle was part of the problem.
Another example is when CA debuted the new CA Clarity Playbook.  It gives the Executives the ability to drill directly from their strategic plans to the project performance easily from their iPad®.  It is truly amazing and transparent.  The early feedback is fantastic from all the Executives and project managers that I have met with.  There is one group that I could see getting a bit nervous and it is the same group that everyone already knows.  It is the group that I identify as the “spinners” or Middle Management.  The ones who do not want the transparency.  The teams that like to massage the data or change all of the reds to greens.  These are the ones that may be afraid of this technology.  I can tell you this, transparency is your friend.  Time and time again, it is 3% of the organization that is causing 90% of the issues.  We all know who they are.  We all know where it is coming from.  If I asked you, the reader, which department is most responsible for delaying projects and then polled the rest of your company, it would be no surprise to you. It is the same people who complain about how busy they are, however, never seem to produce any results!  What I do not understand is why we consistently cater to this group.  Why business continues to punish the 97% of the organization that does work extremely hard and does do the right thing only to allow the 3% to continue to not be transparent?
This is part 1 of a 5 part series where I will be exploring why transparency is your friend in strategic planning.   I will be walking through all phases of strategic planning including what Executives do with their plans, how often should plans be revised, as well as accountability, and whether or not organizations should be measured against it. Any thoughts or comments or items that you want me to address, please leave them here or on twitter @rickamorris.
No Day but Today,