Implementing New Standards: Should We Push or Pull? | TechWell

Implementing New Standards: Should We Push or Pull?

Implementing New Standards: Should We Push or Pull?

No one likes process for process’s sake.  Most of us are naturally resistant to change.  Modifying standards or processes is an organizational change task.  How do we encourage people to embrace change?

A friend raised an interesting Organizational Change question the other day. His consulting firm is working to improve their project management game—an essential skill for a successful professional services firm. As with any proposed organizational change, some staff are skeptical:

  • Do these processes add value?
  • We have been doing fine with our current processes, why change?
  • Is this just more administrative overhead?

These are always valid questions, and they should be taken seriously. That said, on the continuum of project management rigor from the non-existent (“What’s a project?”) to the overly prescriptive (“We have detailed policies regarding the fonts to be used on status reports”), this firm has few agreements and minimal consistency about how projects are defined, planned, and managed. That lack of rigor negatively affects their profit margins, increases team stress, and sometimes harms customer satisfaction.

My friend has been engaged for two years in an educational campaign to provide project management training to staff with project management responsibilities. While there were conflicting views on some of the specifics, most of the firm’s project managers seemed to welcome the opportunity for improved processes, but some of their managers remain unconvinced.

We discussed how to roll out next steps toward the goal of better project consistency and outcomes. His organization values collaborative decision making, director autonomy, and decentralized control, so a “Push” approach—a mandate from the CEO saying, “These are the rules, if you don’t like them, leave” would be inconsistent with local culture.

Our conversation was about alternatives to the “Push” approach. How can he create an environment where some of the hesitant seek or “Pull” toward increased project management rigor and consistency?

My advice was to start with senior management. Educate and encourage senior management to ask for the value that project management provides, rather than asking for process compliance. I suggested senior execs begin to ask some basic questions about all projects:

  • When is the project currently expected to complete?
  • What is the currently projected budget to complete the project?
  • Are we on track to deliver what the customer is expecting?
  • Are we on track to deliver what the contract describes?
  • What are the biggest risks facing the project, and what has been done or should be done to address them?
  • What is the current assessment of customer satisfaction?
  • What is the current assessment of team morale?
  • How much overtime is your team working?

Project managers should be able to answer these questions about their projects. Answers can be tracked for consistency and trends over time. While some variance in the answers for any project should be expected, there should be conversations when changes are observed. There should be fewer surprises.

Everyone should recognize the legitimacy of these questions toward achieving the consulting firm’s goals. The only way to answer these questions with data rather than opinion is to have basic project management structures in place. If directors are asked these questions, they will look to their project managers for answers. Project managers striving to answer these questions honestly are likely to embrace sufficient project management practices to make their answers data-based and credible. I expect this will create a “Pull” toward better practices and more informed decision-making.

Up Next

About the Author

TechWell Insights To Go

(* Required fields)

Get the latest stories delivered to your inbox every month.