Wednesday, 29 March 2017

The Absolute Lack of Urgency

Those of you who know me will know that I have rarely, if ever, displayed a sense of urgent panic in office. In fact, there were days when I found a team member sitting late at their desk and asked them why. They usually responded with something like "Nidhi this needs to go out today." And have usually heard something like "Why? Who will die if this doesn't? " I cannot describe the look of absolute shock on their faces.
Here is something that everyone may not know. In the 10+ years that I led project delivery, most of the projects have been on or ahead of schedule. Rare as it in the IT world, in the ERP world, its even more rare.
So, am sharing my learning of how it was possible to make people go home at 5, and still deliver on or ahead of time in the very dynamic, very slippery world of ERP delivery to large clients.
It was actually, quite simple. In Hindsight. Here goes:
  1. They are not consultants. They are project managers.  
Every consultant was expected to prepare and update their own delivery plan. Obviously, this was different from projects where the most a consultant contributes to the project plan is contingencies and effort estimates. And obviously it made my work a lot harder, as I took in the various plan formats and made them into a coherent whole for the client to review. But it allowed people to take and keep ownership of their work, and more importantly, it taught them project management, so I did not have to do so much of it. It cut out the escape route, because with power comes responsibility.

2. De-glamorise the "Late Stayer"
Yes. One of the most powerful things we did was to make it negative to stay long hours as a matter of course. When someone stayed late, I called them the following day to ask which part of their work plan had failed, to force them to stay late. If they tried to tell me that there was too much work, I asked them whether they created a project plan for 8 hour work day or 10 hours work day. If they had budged for an 8 hour work day, why was a 10 hour work day necessary. Just this one step of de-glamorising the late stay, allowed us to send people home at reasonable time. I learnt this from the leader at SAP GD when I joined.
However, I also actively communicated why it was important for them to go back and sharpen the axe, how their personal time contributed to their in office productivity, and how, in insisting that they plan for, and deliver in the same time, they were training to become better leaders and role models of people in the future.

3. Active Risk Management
Most of us view Risk Management as a set of templates and formats that need to be filled in. But I am a strong votary of Risk Management because I have seen the miracles it is capable of. We entered Active Risk and Opportunity Management in the internal reviews, in the leadership decks, in everything. Just keeping an eye out at all times helped everyone immensely. That's why, one of the first disciplines I wanted to create in the non profit world, was Risk and Opportunity Management. The common sense variety. Not the template and format variety.

4. Templatise, Templatise, Templatise
I cannot count the number of times team members have come back and said, "The requirements are unclear." and the number of times they have heard, "No. You did not ask the right questions."
Using all those years of experience, esp in HCM, I created question templates that were in the language of the client. We used those to get requirements, and we found that when we asked the right questions, we got the right answers. If the client did not know the answers, they at least knew which questions they needed to answer and why.  And that took away the biggest risk to ERP delivery - "Changing/Unclear Requirements"

To conclude
I think the biggest change we need to make is in ourselves - as client and delivery leaders, in believing that it is possible to create productivity without urgency. With that, the rest of the change happens, as it were, in a Domino effect.

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