Conventional wisdom says, plan your work and work your plan. Failing to complete a task is the antithesis of this.
However, in many organizations, employees are purposefully overloaded. By design, the organization puts more demands on employees than they can reasonably accomplish. Work comes in from customers, co-workers, managers and internal processes. The successful employees are not the ones who get it all done. That’s not possible. Finishing work will simply create more work. The successful employees are the ones who pick the right work to do. An implication of this is that work will ‘fall off’ your task list. But if all goes well, it’s the lower priority work that’s falling off, and the most impactful work is getting done.
The theoretical approach is to determine exactly what you can accomplish and reject other requests, but that approach, can take more time to set up and maintain than most people have, because you’re continually rebalancing for each request that comes in. In organizations with this overload culture and without formal planning, this model reflects the lowest cost process for how work is ‘managed’.
Organizational transparency is an important topic and one where technology can help. In an organization with paper-based systems and 1,000+ employees, there is no way for everyone to know everything. It would be a full time job, and you still wouldn’t get there. However, now electronic storage and powerful search means that though people still don’t have the bandwidth to know everything, they can keep tabs on everything relevant in their area of expertise, for example everything related to their customer, product or topic. They can now ‘pull’ the information they need, rather than having it ‘pushed’ to them, which is less reliable.
This matters for project and portfolio management. Greater coordination becomes possible. Duplication of effort can be avoided.
However, despite the technology, problems remain. Information fiefdoms are still a source of power in many organizations, often security trumps transparency and the required information can’t be assessed. Finally, human nature means information isn’t shared too broadly. Information doesn’t become public until it truely is complete and final. This means that interim draft and work in progress are hoarded on people’s hard drives, because they don’t want to share something that is in progress or imperfect.
So, there’s tremendous opportunity to make organizations transparent. Technology means we are almost there. Sadly, these processes aren’t yet fully adapted due to people’s unwillingness to share and publish. If they were the benefits would be profound.
Interesting post by PM Hut on the same topic here, and Sam Berrisford comments on “See Thru Business” here.
Project and portfolio management often require change. In thinking through the change process it’s easy to forget to the ‘what’s in it for me?’ for the participants. If you can create real momentum for change based on the enthusiasm of others, then you don’t have to drive it, as much as shepherd it, which is much more rewarding and less arduous.
Consider starting small, with a group that can demonstrate clear success from the change, so as to encourage viral support for the new initiative. Then your only role it to ensure the channels of communication are working well so that others hear about it. Far far easier than mandating change, regardless of how senior your executive sponsors are. How can you make change benefit others in the organization, rather than yourself?
“It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” Harry S. Truman
There is another perspective on change management here, stressing the importance of repeatition in communication. And a nice post here that draws on Kotter’s change framework. If you read one book on change management, then John Kotter’s is not a bad place to start.
If you’re interested in change management related to PPM, see my recent book.