Lisa Anderson (56)
In my 20+ years of experience as both a former VP of Operations of a mid-market manufacturer and as a business consultant and entrepreneur, I’ve yet to see as significant a skills gap as is emerging in today’s new normal business environment. Companies must have top talent in order to meet the increasing complexities associated with growing the business profitably. Project managers and program managers are no exception. Top talent is scarce.
Those companies that find a way to select the best talent will thrive while their competition will be left in the dust. There are several tips and strategies to achieving this objective. Thus, the top 8 strategies are as follows:
As we approach year-end, we start thinking about how we can squeeze the last bit of profit out of our projects. Of course, most companies are championing year-end sales and cost reduction projects. Although they aren’t poor choices, I’ve found that a sometimes surprising year-end priority can be a hidden secret to success – data cleanup.
I’ve yet to find a perfect company when it comes to data integrity; however, the best sail past their counterparts in the long run. In today’s information-overloaded society, big data, business intelligence and other data-related topics permeate the news. Yet, few executives accomplish tangible results with dedicated project teams focused on these topics. On the other hand, a concentrated effort to improve data integrity can set your company up for success in the New Year.
Data integrity is akin to the foundation in your house. Without it, there is no point in thinking about window coverings. On the other hand, it can be a key design element that affects the rest of the house. Thus, data integrity has a direct impact on the performance of your operational performance and your ability to successfully complete projects. Garbage in. Garbage out. In essence, if your data integrity isn’t solid, you’ll undoubtedly spend the majority of your time fighting fires instead of achieving project milestones.
Volatility is the new norm in today’s new normal business environment. Complexity increases with each day – supply chains are more complex, risk and security issues are prevalent, natural disasters and political strife is commonplace, new technologies drive enhanced functionality and business models (such as e-commerce) yet create new complexity and the list goes on. In order to survive, companies must become adept at managing volatility and complexity. On the other hand, those companies who thrive will simplify!
Of course, project results are more vital than ever before for those companies focused on profitable growth. Yet we are in a new time. Thus, it is critical that we throw out the old paradigms, starting with the need for complex project timelines. I’ve yet to run across a client who doesn’t get enamored with complexity – it can be fun to untangle the complexity web. However, in my experience as a global business consultant and former Operations and Project Management Office executive, I’ve found that simplicity delivers bottom line results. So what are the keys to thriving in simplicity? 1) Start with the people. 2) Develop a simple project timeline. 3) Follow-up is your friend.
I’ve yet to partner with a client who didn’t have several projects going on at any one time but few achieve the intended results on the expected timeline. Why do so many projects go awry? Since one of the reasons my clients hire me is to make sure “results occur”, I pay close attention to what derails projects. I’ve summarized the last 12 months of project derailment causes and found that the 80/20 rules applies. 80% are due to communication type issues, and 20% are due to technical issues. If we can determine how to avoid these pitfalls, we’ll have a much greater chance at increasing revenues and profits – certainly seems worth our while!
Keeping to the causes of project derailment which occur most frequently, let’s start with the “communication” related causes:
As a global business consultant serving multiple industries, I have yet to find a company that doesn’t have project management challenges. Project success is vital to the company’s success. For example, since project management typically cuts across functional departments, the projects typically are critical to the company's sales revenues (such as a product line introduction or marketing implementation), operational costs (cost reduction projects, freight program implementations), cash flow (inventory reduction programs), or the profitability and/or business viability (merger, acquisition, new business opportunity, etc.). What could be a more important topic!
Managing traditional teams will no longer be enough! Instead, in order to thrive in the new normal business environment, learning how to master virtual teams will be a necessity! The new normal is characterized by volatility, lacklustre sales, elevated customer service expectations, and a shortage of talent, increased global requirements and an information-overloaded workforce. Thus, teams will have to collaborate across functions, sites, oceans and organizations.
Unlike typical teams, managing virtual teams will require a different process and managerial style. Yet it will be vital to professional success as more and more teams are moving towards virtual. In my experience across countless industries and globally, there are increasingly more virtual teams than standard teams. If you take a step back and think about your project teams, I’d venture to guess that you have at least some element of virtual teams already underway. Thus, the question is how well we are optimizing virtual teams.
To start, we brainstormed the most common virtual teams: 1) Cross-functional teams. 2) Cross-sites/ facilities. 3) Collaborating with customers. 4) Collaborating with suppliers. 5) Collaborating with trusted advisors such as bankers and CPA firms.
There’s no need to be concerned with your project’s leadership UNLESS you want to ensure success! It seems to be more challenging than ever to find excellent project leaders yet it is one of the most critical periods of time for delivering bottom line business results. Since the recession, competition has been fierce; thus, standing out in the crowd in terms of service, products, margins etc. is tough. Project results can deliver the difference between success and failure. What type of leader do you want in charge of your project?
Although unemployment remains higher than pre-recession levels, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find high-skilled resources such as project managers. Should we “make” or “buy” project leaders? Both – since project leaders can deliver results outside of the norm, it makes sense to pursue as many paths as possible. What are we searching for as the top qualities of a project leader? What do the best leaders do differently than the rest? 1) Clarify objectives. 2) Translate into plans. 3) Focus on results.
What company doesn’t have at least several projects going at once to try to support essential objectives? In my 20+ years of experience as a global business consultant and operations executive, I’ve yet to see one! As projects are commonplace in organizations, it becomes critical to figure out how to ensure success – delivering the intended results on-time and on-budget. Unfortunately, it is often far from a no-brainer to make this occur.
Interestingly, my clients often are looking for that “magic” solution which they often think relates to implementing the latest fad which seems to be getting positive attention in the news such as lean manufacturing, six sigma, etc. Yet they often fail to achieve sustainable results. Thus, they call me in to look over the situation and determine the optimal path forward to rectify the situation. 80% of the time, I find that the projects will deliver results if they “go back to the basics”: 1) Project leadership. 2) Critical path. 3) Exemplars. 4) Follow-up
Volatility is the new norm in today’s business environment. How often does your supplier decide to close up shop? Or, does your 20 year customer decide to go through a rigorous selection process? Or, does natural disaster cause a disruption in your supply chain? How about political strife? Are you planning a new ERP system implementation or upgrade? Undoubtedly, if you want to succeed in the new normal, you will learn to thrive amidst change!
Although change has always been around, it seems to be one of the most challenging roadblocks my clients face. How do you give your employees, customers and suppliers confidence to successfully navigate these ever-changing times? You must find out; otherwise, you’ll likely spend the next 20 years hoping to survive. Who wants that sort of existence? Thus, a few strategies for success should come in handy: 1) Leadership. 2) Exemplars. 3) Modeling. 3) Trials. & risk.
In my 20+ years of experience as an operations executive, a global supply chain consultant and a non-profit trade association leader, I’ve found navigating culture change is a requirement for success – no matter the initiative. If your company isn’t merging cultures, embarking on a major change initiative such as an ERP implementation or dramatically changing the business to ensure top notch customer service in today’s volatile new normal environment, you’ll probably be left in the dust. Thus, those who thrive in this chaotic business world learn to be proficient at culture change.
My clients who cover diverse industries (from aerospace to consumer products to healthcare products) unanimously find culture change to be one of the most challenging obstacles to overcome. Successful culture change is not dictated. It isn’t a one-time event. And there’s no formula for success. Thus, a few strategies for success should come in handy: 1) Strategic clarity. 2) Give it a boost with enthusiasm. 3) You get what you measure. 3) Make it visible.