As a thought leader, author, educator, and change leadership practitioner, I write a weekly article that benefits leaders who want to improve their organizations using elements of my Humanist Manufacturing framework.
My experience is there is a significant difference between the initial expectation of projects and the outcomes. Thankfully, I was never part of something to the extreme experienced by the Denver International Airport (DIA). The automated baggage handling system installation had over 2,000 design changes, was 250% over budget, and was 16 months late, only to eventually be deemed a complete failure. It was likely a strategic planning initiative that made good sense. However, it probably lacked an ongoing proactive review of planned targets.
However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results. — Sir Winston Churchill
Churchill would have encouraged the DIA automated baggage handling team to engage more regularly in an ongoing review of project progress, as the failed project ultimately cost the city of Denver $560 million. Organizations must ensure that planned targets are on track by regularly assessing and evaluating the objectives, milestones, and metrics.
Failure to effectively review targets makes it unlikely they remain relevant, achievable, and aligned with broader strategic goals. Here are some key reasons why a proactive review of planned targets is essential:
1. Accountability - Organizations must identify responsibilities, provide appropriate resources, and clarify and adjust targets in response to changes to ensure successful goal attainment. Then, the personnel with task responsibilities must be held accountable for their commitments.
2. Adaptation to Changing Conditions – Planned targets will typically change over the project's life due to external factors such as economic changes, technological advancements, and shifts in customer preferences. Our ability to efficiently and effectively conduct robust, proactive reviews allows adjustments to be made in response to these changing conditions, increasing the likelihood of success.
3. Alignment with Strategy – We must continually ask ourselves if the direction of a project continues to move our organizations toward the goals and objectives of our strategic plans. Shifts in the market, emerging opportunities, or other new challenges may require significantly altering or halting our original plans, which can be understood more proactively with regular project reviews.
4. Competitive Advantage – Ongoing monitoring of competitor moves in response to emerging market trends, and the ability to react positively and promptly is necessary to remain viable for our customers.
5. Employee Engagement and Motivation – When the leadership regularly reviews and communicates progress toward targets, it provides opportunities for recognition and rewards when milestones are achieved and helps identify and address any roadblocks to success. Focusing in public on what is going well and addressing issues with proper discretion in private will further enhance employee satisfaction.
6. Learning and Improvement – Throughout the lifecycle of a project, we must engage in it from a continual education perspective. The organization can share with others the successes and reframe failures as an organizational issue that is an opportunity for improvement to build up the company's overall capability. The outcomes will also provide valuable insight to inform future planning.
7. Long-Term Sustainability – As external and internal factors change, a proactive review of planned targets can help organizations ensure they are not overstretching resources or setting unrealistic workforce expectations. The ability to respond to the needs of the project as early as possible is more likely to occur with regular progress assessments.
8. Resource Allocation – Given the typical constraints of an organization, the ability to recognize them in a timely manner allows for optimizing resource allocation. If specific targets consistently fall behind or prove less important, resources can be reallocated to higher-priority initiatives to maximize efficiency and effectiveness.
9. Risk Mitigation – The sooner we identify potential risks and challenges associated with planned targets, the more promptly we can develop contingency plans and take preventive measures to mitigate potential setbacks.
10. Transparency and Communication - Reviewing planned targets with all employees fosters open organizational knowledge of success in achieving strategic objectives. It enables leaders to share progress and challenges with stakeholders, promoting trust and a shared purpose.
Organizations should establish a structured process with defined review intervals to conduct proactive reviews of planned targets effectively, involve relevant stakeholders, and use key performance indicators (KPIs) to track progress. The goal is to ensure that goals and targets remain relevant, achievable, and aligned with the organization's evolving needs and external conditions.
My experience is there is a significant difference between the initial expectation of projects and the outcomes. Failure to effectively review targets makes it unlikely they remain relevant, achievable, and aligned with broader strategic goals. Organizations should establish a structured process with defined review intervals to conduct proactive reviews of planned targets effectively, involve relevant stakeholders, and use key performance indicators (KPIs) to track progress.
I recommend following Churchill's advice and evaluating the outcomes of our most recent projects. Do so by walking through the above ten critical reasons for proactively reviewing planned targets. Then, based on the findings, put initiatives in place to develop a more robust project review process.
I am grateful for knowledge I can not attribute to a particular individual. Over the many years of my career, I learned that it costs a dollar to make a product change in the design phase, ten dollars in the pre-launch stage, and one hundred dollars post-launch. While the numbers are not exact, the concept of the importance of spending extra time in the planning phase was something I took to heart.
Next week's blog will shift to the essential element of common knowledge of the philosophy and mechanics of change management integral to becoming a humanist manufacturing organization.
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