How to agree real targets, stay focussed and avoid scope-creep.

By Seema Sharma

Frustrated that after all the effort, time and resources you’ve put in, your change project is still not on track? Well, you’re not alone.

Throwing more money and resources at the problem, or simply having yet ‘another go’ at tackling the problem, are likely to lead to disappointment.

To illustrate this, let’s look at a manufacturing business, who a few years ago needed to take steps to tackle cyber security threats. An unwieldy process had been designed and tested, and roll-out had commenced – every supplier was required to answer 1500 questions.

Within days, valued suppliers had escalated severe issues with the process to the executive team and were threatening to leave in droves.

The whole programme was halted in its tracks and, with no solution in sight, the company continued to face huge financial and reputational risks against increased cyber security threats.

So, what could be done to bring the programme back on track?

Setting a 100-day goal to agree the strategy and achieve stakeholder buy-in

Due to the high-risk nature and reputational impact of the programme, it was placed under new leadership and an ambitious goal was set – one hundred days to agree the new strategy with the steering board and show proof that suppliers would be willing to use it!

With such a chequered history, even the most seasoned project lead would be forgiven for thinking “how could this possibly be achieved, when so many smart people have worked so hard, for so long and not been able to deliver?”

The key is to go back to first principals and start building from there.

Here are some tips for achieving success with your business-critical change project:

  • Focus on the WHAT

What is it you’re trying to achieve as a whole organisation? What are the targets you need to reach, to know you’re making progress? Identify and agree on the top priority that would have a catastrophic impact if not resolved.

In the case of the cyber security project, too many expert groups had their own agenda. No one had previously taken the company wide view and identified the suppliers capable of causing the most damage.

  • Get the data to inform your decisions

Gather the key facts so you know what you’re dealing with and before making key decisions. For example, how many products or markets or suppliers are involved? How much resource is needed? The data doesn’t have to be perfect but good enough to set realistic targets.

In the case of the cyber security project, basic facts had not been gathered, such as total number of suppliers and time taken to assess each supplier.

  • Say NO – it’s the hardest thing to say

Whilst it’s tough to say no to our colleagues, its crucial to avoid distractions and to focus 100% on the top priority and nothing else.

Taking the cyber security example, this meant that until the top 100 suppliers had been fully assessed, there would be no ‘scope creep’. That’s how the previous programmes had been derailed and important lessons for future projects needed to be learnt!

If you’d like some help with planning an expansion or bringing a project back on track or a chat to bounce off some ideas, please do contact us.