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Opinion Bad Project Management: You're Fired

  • June 04 2013, 1:24pm EDT

Watching a recent episode of “The Apprentice,” I was struck by how completely disorganized they all were. I realized that it didn’t matter who the PM was on the “team”, they all suffered the same problem – there was never enough discussion of goals and objectives, never any discussion of needed responsibilities and the roles that would carry them out, no clarity on ownership of those responsibilities (trust and empowerment).

Instead of a consideration of what is needed, there is a rush to action … as though just starting will get them to the goal sooner.

As a result, there were always people standing on the sidelines wondering what to do – always people trying to lord it over others, always errors of judgment, missed opportunities, lack of transparency, and a complete failure to meet the goals and objectives (set by Lord Sugar).

Doesn’t that sound familiar?

So many businesses are similarly disorganized. While most organizations struggle to balance a wide range of issues – the differing demands of customers, the need to cut costs, ensure compliance, respond to the actions of competitors, etc. The point is that without an integrating architecture these conflicting challenges spawn weak execution and organizational thrashing (just like the teams in “The Apprentice”). The culture in these organizations focuses on appeasing the leaders of the silos, with little thought put into what is needed to achieve the ultimate goals and objectives. And for most commercial businesses it’s the outcomes delivered to customers or external stakeholders that suffer.

I often talk about the difference between applying Band-Aids and opting for a wellness program. Typically, silo-driven organizations apply Band-Aids in an attempt to fix their organizational woes, when in fact they need to move beyond the cost cutting, reductionist philosophies that pander to the needs of one silo or another. Instead, they should adopt an outside-in wellness program starting with the needs of the customer or external stakeholder and works backwards into the service propositions of the organization, and onto the capabilities, processes and applications that are brought together to deliver that great experience (every time). Too often, folks work hard to improve what they've got, not what they need. 

How to construct this “wellness program” is the central thesis of my keynote/sessions at the upcoming rash of conferences I am speaking at: PegaWorld this weekend  (June 9), our own EA Forum (delivering June 11) and then later in the month, at our Customer Experience Forum in NYC.

It always seems obvious when you are an external observer, as I was watching “The Apprentice” and you see all the wrong moves, disconnects and opportunities lost.  Of course, as a member of the audience, I couldn’t do anything. But the question is what will it take to change this Band-Aid behavior in our own firms – and more importantly, what is our opportunity in helping change this behavior?

Do you have any war stories or success stories where this change of behavior happened? What was the trigger to get people to step back, and think things thru from the perspective of the customer’s outcomes?

This blog originally appeared at Forrester Research.

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