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Why Do Projects Succeed or Fail? Getting a Grip

project management

Mark Woeppel - October 14, 2014

I recently gave an introduction to the Execution Maturity Model in this blog post. This week, I will introduce the first principle of the basic level of the Execution Maturity, Collaborative Execution.

Basic Collaboration

The objective of the Basic Collaboration level of the project execution maturity model is to increase task velocity. In order to achieve this level of maturity, it emphasizes transparency, communication, and collaboration. It strives to kill the biggest source of capacity loss and delay, multitasking.

With achievement of Basic Collaboration, all of the work in the system is firmly in hand. Project teams have a clear view of the project or portfolio work, its status, and the most important issues to address immediately. Local teams have the same view of status and action requirements. They know what they need to do and no one can hide. The right problem solvers are promptly deployed to the right problems.

In order to achieve foundation level of competence the team is focused on:
– Improving collaboration skills and activities to improve problem solving and task synchronization
– Ensuring everyone on the project team is working towards the same goal
– Ensuring everyone receives the same priority signals
– Identifying and controlling all the work in the system

Achieving maturity in basic collaboration produces:
– Greater accountability for results
– Significant increases in task completion velocity
– Shorter project durations
– Productivity improvement of >10%
– Improved visibility into project status and risk

This level of the Execution Maturity Model is employs four processes or principles of execution:
1. Collaborative Execution
2. Functional Goals Alignment
3. Priority Control
4. Control Work in Progress

Collaborative Execution

When your project contributors lift their heads from their work and trade individual cubicles for the conference table, what gets accomplished? Are your team’s meetings a constructive part of advancing your project, or a discouraging exercise in placing blame? Simply put: is the team focused on the past or the future?

We know that in projects lacking visibility, issues are identified very late, and communication is delayed. The right problem solvers are brought in too late to prevent the problems, and additional work — putting out fires — is then added into the workflow. Capacity becomes short, the project is delayed, and costs go up.

Superior execution requires informed collaboration, where both managers and team members can see beyond the limits of their individual tasks into the overall direction of the project. There can’t be any disagreement about the status of the project, or its priorities. The roles and accountability of each team member have to be clear — and everyone needs to know what has to get done now, rather than dissecting what happened (or didn’t happen) in the past.

Collaborative Execution kills much of the multitasking by addressing its most fundamental cause: lack of visibility. That lack of visibility prevents the team from forming a clear direction and establishing accountability for action. As we know, this makes project progress painfully slow.

The Collaborative Execution process answers the most basic questions about your project:
– What is the status of the work?
– Are we making progress?
– What do we need to do to move forward?
– Who is going to do it?

Successful collaboration is not an accident; you must establish a structure that facilitates the best kind of teamwork. The rewards are great. You’ll find that:
– People communicate regularly, as a routine part of their work process. They won’t just talk over coffee, but communicate deliberately around the work to be accomplished.
– Teams are focusing on what needs to get done for the project to move forward, instead of harping on the past.
– The team is engaged in everything, including problem solving. When challenges are encountered, the entire team pitches in to overcome them. Team members recognize that their individual roles and goals may need to take a backseat to ensure the success of the team.
– There are no “heroes,” and you don’t need them.

Collaborative execution is not an accident. By setting up the collaboration structure with simple rules, you can synchronize work, identify problems early, improve team communications and make your work go faster — with far less drama.

(For an excellent example of Basic Collaboration implementation, read this case study here.)

In the next few blog posts, I continue to identify the elements that drive effective project execution excellence, giving you a measurable means to assess your status, to target areas of improvement, and to make meaningful progress in the way you deliver projects. Get a preview and learn more by reading our free eBook “Why Do Projects Succeed or Fail? Discover What Really Makes a Difference.”

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