I previously described the benefits of educating and preparing the end-user team for their various roles on an IT systems project (“Preparing the Business Team to Perform” and “Emboldening the Business Team”). When the project begins, what is often forgotten is that the IT consulting firm, or the organization’s internal IT professionals, have done this before. It’s what they do. However, the end-users typically have not. Educating the end-users with regard to the initial requirements for their new system, and preparing them to interact with the IT team – even before the project starts – gives them a “leg up” when they begin the project. Such instruction can get the project off to a running start.
On several projects on which I have participated, I noticed another phenomenon that is often overlooked. Even though the business organization offers its “brightest and best” staff, this staff is seldom empowered to make decisions on behalf of business while contributing to the project.
Here’s how this phenomenon is often manifested on the project. When a decision is required by the IT facilitator – say, in a detailed requirements definition session – the business team member in that session will defer the decision to their management. Because management is typically not in the session (after all, that’s why they loaned their staff to the project), a parking lot item is created. The business person must then get a decision outside of the session.
My experience has almost always been that those business staff in the sessions know the business, and they know how the requirements must be defined for the system. They have the skills and the judgment to make the decision without deferring to management. Alternately, they have the skills and judgment to know when they must escalate to management. But without empowerment by management, decisions are delayed, requirements sessions take longer than required, and the entire project timelines can be put in jeopardy.
From my many years of consulting, one such example stands out for me. I was brought on by a large government organization to develop the initial high-level requirements for a major IT system. The business team was assembled. At our kickoff meeting it did not take long to understand that I had a rag-tag team of individuals with no idea why they were there. Their management had not prepared them. Many of them pontificated well – and left me with that sinking feeling that they would just “invent” ideas as they went along.
One woman caught my attention. She was quiet, measured in what she said, spoke from a sense of thoughtfulness and good judgment, and had clearly prepared herself for the task. (I later learned that she had quietly lobbied for a position on the business team.) I saw in her someone who could offer leadership to her peers on the business team that I, as an outsider, could not readily do. I approached the organization’s executive, asking her to empower this woman in a leadership role.
We were not disappointed. For the duration of the project, she grew in that leadership role and became the “go-to” person for both the business and IT teams. If I could pinpoint the major contribution to the project’s success, it was the empowerment of that business staff member – who in turn empowered her staff to decide and to act whenever decision and action was required.
Project success requires empowering those entrusted to deliver.
[If you’re looking for an upbeat keynote speaker, an experienced seminar leader, an on-site project management coach, or an expert in project oversight and IV&V, you need look no further. Contact Merv to help guarantee your project delivery success.]
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