In my first work role, I remember struggling with the views of a number of my colleagues. When faced by a problem on any improvement project, their answer was always to ask for more resources. This seemed to me to lack a basic understanding of organisations ie resources and finances are limited. My answer was to learn how to deliver outcomes from projects in ways that are deeper, better and quicker.
Having watched many organisations run change programmes I have learned that it is about resources. Rather than being about how to get more resources, it is about how to use what we have better. Almost without fail, organisations try to run too many initiatives – this kills the improvements, the operational delivery and the morale. Organisation leaders inevitably:
1. Have very high expectations.
2. Allocate critical experts to support both the operational activities and improvement hoping that neither will suffer.
3. Start too many projects, thinking that the challenges of starting mean that this is where the resources are drained. This is not so – the biggest stretch is always in implementation.
My advice to leaders:
1. Start where you will end up – making the hard decision on the vital few projects. Remember, the biggest drain on the project is never at the start.
2. Support these projects by allocating the necessary people full-time. If you can’t do this, don’t start.
3. Actively develop cover for the critical experts, not to do without them but to use them to best effect.
4. The people who will be stretched by the improvement programme from the start and all the way through are the leaders. Convince yourself about the criticality of the programme and then commit. Why not use this to develop operational cover for yourself?
5. Manage the programme and the projects but not the detail. Remember why you are called a leader.
As a leader, you have the most choices at the start of an initiative. Make sure you use that opportunity wisely.