In today’s business world, a senior leader’s success depends on the flawless execution of the business strategy. Research confirms that an organisations’ ability to execute on strategic projects and initiatives is dependent on breaking a code of silence on five astoundingly common, yet largely ignored, problems that contribute significantly to almost all project failures.
Jay Owens, Master Trainer at organisational performance company, The Human Edge, quotes research from international partner, VitalSmarts.
“The research contributing to the paper, Silence Fails: The Five Crucial Conversations for Flawless Execution, demonstrates that when even one of the five crucial conversations is unsuccessful, a silent crisis plays out in organisations that leads to project failure, dismal business results, poor employee morale, and even dismissals,” Owens says.
He further states that the research can help leaders identify areas in which they can refine their business strategy for the coming year.
“As we start a new year, leaders need to uncover the cultural barriers that have affected their past performance in order to refine and perfect their strategies and business plans for 2012.”
Understanding the problems
The five crucial problems affecting project success as identified by the study, Silence Fails are:
1) Fact-Free Planning: This describes the ways in which leaders often set project parameters without involving, or by falsely involving, project leaders and members. Schedule and resource estimates from project leaders are ignored, resulting in timelines, budgets and deliverables that are unrealistic from the outset.
“Fact-free planning, simply put, is bad planning behaviour on the part of a project team at every level, and if not addressed up-front can be the demise of an activity,” says Owens.
2) AWOL Sponsors: The second factor influencing success is the involvement of a sponsor who can provide strategic leadership and political support and clout for a project. In many cases, the sponsor has not fulfilled his or her responsibility, leaving the project team stranded and exposed without the firepower needed to implement the project.
3) Skirting: Stakeholders often skirt the formal decision-making, planning and prioritisation processes, demanding certain requirements regardless of the practical considerations. The results are often outrageous over commitment, disappointment and burnout.
Owens says skirting is one of the main drivers of battered team morale. “Projects are approved for which there are no resources and team members ultimately deliver a succession of disappointing results which does nothing for individual and group morale.”
4) Project Chicken: This crucial problem involves team leaders who don’t admit to threats to the project but instead wait for someone else to speak up first.
“We’ve all seen it in business and even personal situations,” says Owens. “Team members fail to report honestly on project risks and instead hope another group that has similar issues will speak up first. The result is that whoever speaks up first will be blamed for causing the delay while everyone is responsible for missing milestones.”
5) Team failures: The fifth crucial problem centres around the issue of cross-functional project leaders having far more responsibility than they have authority. Project leaders observe team members who don’t show up to meetings, fail to meet deadlines or lack the competence to meet ambitious goals, but in many cases these leaders feel powerless to address these issues and resort to ignoring these problems or attempting to work around them.
These five problems are common across organisations but Owens points out that there is good news.
Whilst this study serves to highlight the five crucial conversations that can predict and explain failure, it more importantly highlights that project leaders have the tools to influence success,” says Owens. “By creating a culture where the five conversations are held quickly and well, senior leaders can prevent failure of high-priority business initiatives in 2012.”
To access the full report, Silence Fails: The Five Crucial Conversations for Flawless Execution visit: http://www.vitalsmarts.com/UserFiles/File/pdf/Silence_Fails_Report.pdf