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Focus on Efficiency Phase 3: Implement and Prepare for Change

A previous post laid out the Focus on Efficiency Framework: Plan - Decide - Implement - Review - Repeat. If you’ve reached this stage, you’ve decided to implement your project.

Implementing means just that: Implementing the plans you made back in the Planning phase. You’ll implement using traditional project management techniques like PMBOK or whatever makes sense for your organization. There’s been a lot of information written about project management (and you have your own experiences), so I’m not going to go into a lot of detail here. If you want detail, Google it and you’ll find detail galore.

Let’s say you plan for a pleasant evening of family-friendly entertainment. After talking it over, the family decides that you’ll go see the latest Pixar movie. You need to get in the car by 6:30, drive to theater by 7:00, buy tickets and popcorn and be seated by the 7:15 start time.

As you’re implementing your project, things will change which will have an impact on your projects’ scope, budget, and/or time-frame. Again, there’s a lot written about the impact of change on scope, budget, and time-frame, so go take a look.

On the way to the theater, the car gets a flat tire. You put on the spare, drive to the theater and arrive at 7:50, buy your tickets and popcorn, and are seated comfortably by 8:00.

What’s missing from most discussion about change is that change may also impact the benefits that your project has set out to achieve.

The kids are now noisily complaining that they have no idea what’s going on in the movie, you have no idea what’s going on, and the people around you are making disapproving faces in your direction. Your family is not entertained and the evening is far from pleasant.

Because change will impact the benefits or your project, it’s important to not work-around the change, but to return to the planning phase. Now, it’s an understatement to say most people don’t want to do this. We get caught up in the whirling dervish of project implementation, and the momentum is there to work-around and continue. But when we work-around we’re often not on the same path any more. Change often forces our efforts to become unaligned with the benefits we are trying to achieve. And because we need to return to the Planning phase, we'll also have to pass through the Decide phase again, because we may never get there from here. Remember, benefits that support your mission are the desired outcome, and those benefits must be the ultimate measure of project success.

Back in planning you identified benefits that your project set out to achieve. Does the change impact those identified benefits? Will the benefits continue to support your mission? Or, has something fundamental about the identified benefits or your mission changed that should cause the project to be stopped all-together?

When the family went to the movie, the flat tire probably wasn’t this kind of change. But, what if something went terribly wrong on the way to the theater? [Insert your own dark scenarios here, just don’t involve the kids.] Maybe a pleasant evening is no longer possible, and entertainment is no longer important.

When you planned, you identified the required enabling and business changes that would lead to successful project implementation. What impact does the change have on those plans? Are they still possible? Will they cost more? Will they be delayed? And, what impact do those changes have on the benefits that you set out to achieve?

Let’s say that rather than going to a movie that already started, the family decided to buy tickets for the 9:00 movie. The kids are bored as they sit around waiting for the movie, and they end up falling asleep half-way through.

Back in Planning you identified risks and dis-benefits associated with a project, and you identified actions for minimizing risk and dis-benefits. What impact does the change have on those risks and dis-benefits? What new risks and dis-benefits materialized as a result of the change?I

Driving to the movie theater on that spare donut presents new risks.

When you planned, you built consensus for the required investments and changes required for successful project implementation. To ensure continued consensus, it’s important that the same stakeholders participate in this change discussion that participated in the planning.

In getting to the movie theater late, you decide that the family will go see the latest horror movie instead of the latest Pixar movie. As the chainsaws start your family is left wondering, “How in the world did we get here!?

Change not only impacts our projects time, cost, and scope, but often forces our efforts to become unaligned with the benefits we are trying to achieve. Because of this, it’s important to return to the Planning phase and evaluate the impact the change has on our plans to achieve benefits to support our mission. It may even be necessary to abandon a project when the change means that the project's benefits no longer support the mission, or the project has little (or no) chance for success.

For more about efficiency visit focusonefficiency.com.

About

Focusing on Efficiency is based on Benefits Management research, processes, tools and techniques developed and presented by John Ward, et al. at Cranfield University School of Management (many of which can be found in the book Benefits Management: Delivering Value from IS & IT Investments by John L. Ward & Elizabeth Daniel); Lean Six Sigma; Project Management Techniques; a great many other readings; and my own thoughts and experiences.

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