I like to focus on the positive. I’m the person who skips right over the headlines about attacks and shootings to get to the stories that make me feel good. I figured out a few years ago that if something was really important and world altering, somebody in my family would tell me about it at the dinner table. So, articles about death and destruction? Nope. Stories highlighting reunited families and local heroes? Count me in.

If you do some searching online, you’ll see lots of negative statistics about project success. I was recently looking at figures related to process changes inside of companies. Numerous sites claimed that 70% of change initiatives fail. That’s pretty scary, and certainly a statistic that most of us would like to change.

As I thought about the number, I decided to follow my typical positive take on things. I asked myself, what about the 30%? What are they doing right? What key things contribute to their success?

I took a look back at some of the projects I’ve worked on over my career. Earlier in my career, I directly participated in a number of process improvement efforts. More recently I’ve served as a consultant or mentor to BAs working on process improvement projects. I want to highlight two key questions that successful teams continually ask themselves:

  • Why are we doing this?
  • Is this the right solution?

In our Business Process Analysis class, we look at a framework for process improvement. It looks like this:

I think most project teams succeed in a number of these steps. Specifically, we do a good job laying out the current process (the “Understand” step) and identifying what’s wrong with it (the “Challenge” step).  We’re also typically pretty good at constructing and deploying solutions (the “Implement” step). Teams in the 30% also successfully navigate the “Select” step and “Improve” steps.

So I challenge you to become part of the 30%. In today’s post, I want to address things that successful teams do in the “Select” step that help them understand “why”.

1. The 30% knows what success looks like

My (least) favorite project charter is the one that simply says, “Go improve this process”. I’ve even had this one phrased as a compliment – “We’re empowering you and the team to create the best process you can. We don’t want to impose any limits on you – shoot for the stars!”

Okay….but what does the customer really want? Let me give you an example of the dilemma this creates.

I recently talked to a group of BAs who were working on a process. It had two basic flaws. First of all, there were lots of errors being made and corrected. Second, it was taking too long. So, which problem should the team fix?  Making the process error-proof would cause it to take even longer. Shortening the cycle time would not reduce any of the errors being created. Unless you know what is most important to your stakeholders, you may propose process improvements that don’t meet their (often unspoken) goals.

Beyond that, it’s important to have specific measures. “Make it as efficient as you can” does not count as a measure J  Is a 20% error rate acceptable? 10%? Something else? You have to know this in order to propose improvements that will get you to that goal.

The 30% works with their stakeholders to develop measureable objectives, KPIs and/or metrics for their projects so that everyone knows what success looks like.

2. The 30% identifies its stakeholders

Speaking of working with your stakeholders, to be in the 30%, you need to identify and engage all affected stakeholders. Remember to look for:

  1. Upstream customers/processes
  2. Downstream customers/processes
  3. Regulatory, compliance and oversight teams
  4. Implementation stakeholders

I’ve been on a project that missed a stakeholder – and it wasn’t pretty.

3. The 30% never stops asking “why?”

Capturing the “why” for a project is not a “one and done” step. Organizations change, and our projects may need to change as well. The 30% regularly reviews and reaffirms its goals to ensure they’re on the right track.

Join me for more in Part 2 of Be The 30% as I share how the 30% ensures that they’re delivering the right solution!

Happy Improving!

–Kathy

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