How to reduce risks on important projects.

Background on Managing Risk on Important Projects

Reduce Risk on Important ProjectsIn the context of any strategic initiative involving a significant evolution in systems, process, or organization, risk is the chance that the effort will be less than a complete success … that it will be late, over budget, perform unacceptably when completed, fail to realize the expected business benefits, or even never be completed.

There are so many factors that can contribute to a less-than-successful project.  How is a project manager to decide which to focus on and how to address them?

Approach

Milt Hess, in his paper Reducing Risk on Projects, presents a strategy for deciding which risk factors deserve attention and for integrating risk reduction into the project holistically instead of treating it as a separate activity.  This strategy turns the traditional approach to risk management on its head.  Instead of thinking about all the things that can wrong, it focuses on what has to go right.

The strategy requires that a project first establish a clear definition of success – its success targets.  The paper describes concrete steps that the project can take to increase the likelihood of meeting the targets and the questions that senior management and sponsors should ask to ensure that the project stays on track.

Here are a few of the key elements of the approach:

  • Periodically develop a forecast of the expected outcomes for the success targets. If the forecast for a target is ‘I don’t know’, the project is at risk.  Include resources in the project plan to reduce uncertainty about the outcome.
  • Dependency on external events and agents introduces risk. Explicitly identify dependencies during the planning process, document assumptions, and monitor them regularly.  Include resources in the project plan to reduce uncertainty about the dependencies.

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How to make good decisions even in the face of unresolved issues.

Background on Tough Decisions

How to make good decisionsIn any organization progress can be stymied by unresolved issues.  It’s counterproductive to keep rehashing the same question from week to week, perhaps making a decision today only to have it reconsidered and undone tomorrow.  An organization needs both a reliable method for making good decisions and the willpower to stand by them once made.

Milt Hess’s paper, Decisions – It’s a Tradeoff, offers a repeatable method for making good decisions even in the presence of ambiguity.  (Sorry, but no help here with the willpower thing.)  It includes techniques for identifying the best options and the relevant evaluation criteria, and for objectively characterizing the options in terms of the criteria.  Since a decision almost always represents a tradeoff among competing objectives, the emphasis is on presenting the decision-maker with the basis for making a decision that reflects his or her priorities.

Key elements of the approach

  • When evaluating the options, avoid vague terms like Excellent/Good/Fair/Poor. They’re subject to variable interpretations.  Instead, treat each criterion as a continuum from best to worst, and select four points along the continuum that can be described unambiguously.

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How a top team spent a little time and took a big step to the next stage of growth.

Skills by stageBackground

Leaders of fast growing, early-stage organizations operate at a fast pace. Often the last thing there is time to do is assess the top team’s performance to determine how to prepare them for the next stage of growth.

Most team members know each other pretty well. They have a good idea what each other is good at, has contributed, how they have grown, and what each should focus on next for success. However, team members rarely have the time, energy, training, or nerve to share what they know in a forthright, supportive conversation with one another.

Yet there are serious consequences to not providing feedback when it is needed most. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal entitled “How To Tell If You Are a Jerk in the Office” (C-Suite Strategies, Journal Report, Feb 23, 2015), for example, highlights the importance of confidential feedback for executives. Not only are leaders and co-workers affected adversely by dysfunctional behavior but business performance and customer service can be damaged, often permanently, if poor behavior continues.

IntelliVen, a San Francisco-based organization improvement firm, uses a proprietary approach to help leaders and their top teams address top executive feedback head-on. Early this year, for example, IntelliVen worked with a rapidly evolving, $10M financial analytics firm serving Freddie Mac, US Treasury, and Capital One among other leading US financial institutions. The IntelliVen approach was used to assess the top team of senior executives relative to norms for successful organizations at a similar stage of evolution and to identify individual and team opportunities for learning.

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Six Power Skills to Manage Organization Politics and Make the Most Out of Any Job.

Organization GroupOrganization politics make a lot of people uncomfortable. The untrained hope is that if politics are ignored, and if a job is done well, then well-earned rewards will come. Things rarely play out that way.

Organization politics is defined as anything done at work to increase the odds of success that has nothing at all to do with the work itself. Master executive coach and workplace psychologist, Dr. Dory Hollander, presents three unassailable truths about how things work in organizations and Six Power Skills for mastering the art of career enhancement.

Three Unassailable Truths:

Truth 1 — There is Insider-Outsider Sorting

  • All organizations continuously sort people into insiders or outsiders.
  • There are things that distinguish insiders from outsiders among various stakeholder groups.
  • Insider/outsider status is subject to change.
  • Being an insider in one group is no guarantee of being an insider in another.
  • Leaders can help newcomers transition to insiders or let them struggle. The former makes more sense

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How one CEO decision pays off six ways.

Peer group iconEvery leader stands to benefit from the opportunity to meet monthly in a professionally facilitated session with about a dozen others in similar roles, in similar organizations, at a similar stage of evolution, and that do not compete.

CEO’s who make the one decision to join, as long as they show up, get six distinct benefits that are hard to achieve any other way:

  • CEO’s can be genuinely open to input and be vulnerable, even wrong, in front of each other; no need to put on airs or skirt around the hard stuff.
  • Peers really know and understand each other, personally and professionally, and the challenges each faces in meeting associated goals; feelings of loneliness and depression are less common among participants.

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Ten Lessons on Selling a Company

This article appeared on Strategic Edge
This article appeared in the December 2014 issue of Strategic Edge published monthly by the Association for Strategic Planning

Selling a company is a heady experience. The wise CEO knows, though, that many things can go wrong and that it pays to study what makes some transactions go well and others fall apart. Here are ten tips consolidated from personal experience on both sides of many deals that, while they may not guarantee success, if followed increase the odds of a good result:

  • Know what you seek in terms of price and role.  Do not be wishy-washy and do not get greedy; once you have what you want, take it!
  • It is a project to sell a company… staff, organize, and govern it well. It takes a team of internal (CEO, CFO, CTO, etc.) and external (corporate lawyer(s), employment lawyer(s), banker(s), analyst(s), investor(s), etc.) players. Assign a leader of the inside team and a leader of the outside team to coordinate with each other. Consciously, purposefully, and thoughtfully deploy yourself and others from both inside and outside the organization to cover all the bases.

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Why every organization needs its leader to try not to do anything.

Every organization has, or needs, a leader. And it is true that the power of one committed, clever person can make all the difference in the world. But no one individual, even the greatest leader, does anything of much significance alone. The simple truth is that it takes a team to lead an organization. The action motivated by this truth is for the leader to decide what kind of leader to be and then to attract, collect, and align his/her top team and collect followers.

The best leaders figure out that it is not all about them. It is about their organizations and the decision to either manage or lead is a false dichotomy. The one in charge needs to manage in order to lead and, indeed, can and should Manage to Lead his/her organization to achieve the stated vision. The top person’s job starts with managing his/her own self to lead. Continue reading

How an Executive Performance Assessment Process helped a COO become a CEO.

Self Knowledge - Populating Your Johari WindowLeaders of fast growing, early stage organizations operate at such a fast pace that often the last thing there is time to do is assess each member of the top team’s performance to determine how to prepare them for the next stage of evolution.

Most team members know each other pretty well. They have a good idea what each other is good at, has contributed, how they have grown, and what they should focus on next for success. However, team members rarely have the time, energy, training, or nerve to share what they know in a forthright, supportive conversation with one another. Continue reading

World Wide Strategy Week Conference Introduces the Seven Truths

The 2014 World Wide Strategy Week is about to begin! On November 4th at 9 am Pacific time, PeterD will participate in a three-person panel on The Role of Leaders in Strategy Success. This short video introduces Peter and the Seven Truths to conferees. Check it out and let us know if you like it.

IntelliVen subscribers, followers, students, and clients are invited to register to attend the conference at $20 under the public price by entering this special code:

 WSW-PDG 

to get an All Access Pass to the five fascinating webinars that anchor World Strategy Week if purchased before 10/24.

Follow these steps to register:

Visit http://www.WorldStrategyWeek.org,

Open the Buy a Pass page

Select the All Access Pass icon under the heading Member/Sponsor/Partner heading,

Enter promotion code: WSW-PDG.

How CEOs can use Accountability Boards and Subject Matter Experts to help their organization perform and grow.

Manage to Lead Board Development and Operations without survey questions - eBookEvery leader stands to benefit from the opportunity to regularly review with outsiders what s/he seeks to do, what has been done to do it, what has happened and what has been learned so far, and what s/he plans to do next.

It is harder to set up, operate, and benefit from outside help than it may first appear. Click on the image accompanying this post for a slide presentation of lessons learned and best practices that, if followed, will lead to improved performance and growth thanks to help from Accountability Board Members and Subject Matter Experts.