Ensuring Project Success after the Consultants have left

‘Successful delivery of projects after the consultants have left is largely dependent on the set up before they arrive’
This was the theme of Gary O’Sullivan’s talk for CIMA Ireland at the RDS on Tuesday 5th December. Gary is Partner and Head of Business Transformation for Pathfinder.
Understanding the factors that lead to a good outcome rather than a bad outcome can be difficult to observe especially when running projects may not be a core ‘business as usual’ (BAU) competency. Even in situations where it is a core competency, it can be difficult to remove oneself from the impact that programme decisions invariably lead to or require.

The take-home message conveyed during Gary’s talk is that a poorly constituted programme is the leading cause of poor delivery outcomes where the client or ‘business’ is left recovering from a damaging experience and where the consultants are no longer engaged. Ensuring that the project delivers successfully afterwards is directly linked to how it is being delivered from the start, and importantly, before the consultants even arrive. To illustrate this point, he highlighted a few key areas that contribute to this.

Constituting a project outside of BAU can be detrimental to it’s success. Identifying it as a separate entity from the day to day running of the business will demand that you spend much more time on-boarding people, managing handovers, and transitions. The process is more seamless if it is at the centre from the beginning, and the change is being managed in BAU.

The three key players required to constitute a project are the Sponsor, Business Owners, and the Programme Team. The interaction between these parties must be set-up to create a positive but tangible tension. As Gary put it, each player is “individually accountable, while jointly responsible”. This approach creates the tension required to ensure all parties are clear on their individual and collective responsibility to deliver the outcome, rather than a situation where blame for an unsuccessful project is assigned to one party by another.

The involvement of those who brought the concern or problem to the table must be at the centre of designing a solution to address it. The people with a vested interest in the outcome of the project will drive momentum and keep the focus on the original concern giving a much better chance of success.

Projects often become too focused on the solutions and benefits. In this scenario, project success is often measured by the delivery of the solution rather than addressing the concern that sparked the need for the project in the first instance. Losing sight of the original problem can mean you are addressing the wrong concern, or a concern that no longer exists. Ultimately, this can result in wasted energy, time, and resources delivering a solution that may solve the wrong problem or worse, a problem that no longer exists.

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