Six reasons projects and change initiatives fail

arrow_crashThere is nothing more common in business than launching a new project or change initiative. That’s how companies strive to remain competitive and adapt to changing market conditions. It’s how companies tweak current systems and build new ones to improve productivity and maximize resources. New projects and change initiatives must occur for a company to remain vital and relevant. However, the other most common occurrence in business is the number of new projects and change initiatives that fail.

As a coach and consultant, my job is to help companies achieve the right outcomes in what I call “The Four Business Outcomes”: Productivity, Profitability, Employee Retention, and Customer Loyalty. To achieve different and more desirable outcomes, new projects and change initiatives must occur. If the company is in dire straights, its ability to execute change with a high sense of urgency is put to the test. Unfortunately, it is the company’s inability to execute change combined with a low sense of urgency that causes it to be in dire straights in the first place.

Here are six no-compromise reasons why new projects and change initiatives fail:

  1. Contaminated culture: Projects and change initiatives are at the mercy of a company’s collective thinking and behavior – better known as the company’s “culture”. It’s a beautiful thing to see a structured, disciplined, team-driven, and passionate culture embrace and execute new projects and change initiatives. On the other hand, it’s painful to watch a fragmented, contaminated, and dysfunctional culture attempt to accomplish much of anything at all. Contaminated cultures succeed in little other than creating drama and casting blame. If your company can’t get new projects and change initiatives across the finish line, you need to fix your culture now.
  2. Launch button mania: So, your team is already juggling six important balls and you throw in a couple of bowling pins. Now they’re struggling. Bam … you have a great idea and you throw in a flaming torch. Bam … you have another brilliant idea and you throw in a chainsaw. Your team runs for cover and the whole mess comes crashing down. There is no plan. There is no time to adjust to ensure new initiatives hit their intended targets. The leader just keeps hitting that launch button, frustrating the heck out of everyone, and new projects and change initiatives keep crashing and burning. If your team ever says, “We tried that before and it didn’t work,” it’s a sign that you may suffer from launch button mania. It’s time to shift from reactive mode to proactive mode.
  3. Launch button phobia: On the opposite end of the spectrum, fear of change and rocking the boat by hitting the launch button on new projects sends open invitations to a host of ugly consequences. Companies can’t grow when stuck in a holding pattern. New projects and change initiatives are so rare that staff push back on anything that interferes with status quo. Interestingly, launch button phobia stills brings about change by feeding frustration, discontent, and indifference. If this describes your company, it’s time to rock that boat.
  4. Just do it: “Just do it” may be a great slogan for the Nike brand, but in your company, “just do it” is a short-sighted attempt to bypass clarifying outcomes. If a new project or change initiative is important enough to launch, it deserves the time and effort to be planned out. You may see it clearly in your mind, but your team needs to understand the whys, whats, hows, and whens that are integral with every new project and change initiative. “Just do it” sets employees, leaders, and companies up for failure. A leader’s job is to get things done by thoroughly clarifying outcomes so everyone is set up to win.
  5. Pick eight: Consider beginning each year with just eight new projects and change initiatives. Eight may not seem like much, but it means launching two initiatives per quarter. That’s a big undertaking for any size company. If you only launch six of the eight, and those six are executed brilliantly and generate the right outcomes, that’s pretty darn good. Given this, what’s your list for the remainder of 2013?
  6. Connect the dots: These days, everyone’s plate is full. Email boxes are overflowing and there just aren’t enough hours in the day to keep track of everything. It’s even harder to keep everyone on that elusive same page. At Strategies, we use a simple, powerful, and very affordable online project management system called Basecamp. Projects are initiated, defined, and shared among those responsible for getting it done. Every project has an owner and a deadline. Every to-do is assigned and has a due date. All correspondence, notes, files, pictures, etc., stay with that project. Everyone connected to that project receives notifications when any updates are made. There’s a master calendar for all projects, deadlines, and due dates for the next six weeks so everyone always sees what’s coming. Warning: Basecamp only works if you and everyone else is committed and disciplined to use it. Try it for 60 days free. Go to basecamp.com.

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