Program Management

Building and Maintaining a Culture of Innovation

By Nicole Morrow and Omoefe Abugo

Establishing a lasting organizational culture of innovation takes time, dedication and encouragement. During a recent staff meeting, our very own Bob Etris made a statement that resonated with me. Etris said that reaching our desired state requires “creativity, patience and having a view of the long road ahead.”

Just as Rome was not built in a day, cultures of innovation are not established overnight. It is something all members of an organization must be committed to. It is a desired state that will come into fruition when all members feel empowered to contribute meaningful, positive ideas and actions to the organization’s mission.

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Foster inclusiveness

Organizations must include all members to spark collective confidence. They must spark collective confidence to bring about repeated meaningful change. They must bring about repeated meaningful change to establish a culture of innovation.

Through our organization-wide training program, Evans University, we work to provide all staff members with a full package of tailored and agile training opportunities to meet their unique needs, and prepare them to handle all challenges or opportunities that may arise. Through out Discovering Individuals Styles of Communication training, staff members become more self-aware and continue to seek new, effective communication techniques based on their distinct traits. Our Strengths Finder Assessment has been a hit in the office. Through this assessment, staff members learn their five core strengths and are then provided guidance on how to develop, promote and use those strengths in the workplace and with our clients.

The Evans University stands as an invaluable tool in ensuring all members of the Evans Family reach their full potential every day.

Design is everything. It is all aroundEncourage failure

Freedom to fail is the freedom to flourish. We learn from our successes, but we often times learn the most valuable lessons from our failures. Disappointment hurts, but it is crucial to not dwell on the negative aspects of our mistakes. If harnessed, our failures can act as springboards for growth and advancement.

When employees do not fear failure, they act boldly and creatively. We saw this at Evans during The Challenge, an internal competition rooted in building relationships, sparking creativity and rewarding innovation through social media engagement and online content building. The competition did not focus on a right way to participate. It encouraged staff members to channel their creativity toward an organizational cause. We did not fear failure or missing the mark. Instead, we boldly sought out new channels to express our individual and collective expertise.

Celebrate success

We learn from our failures. We analyze. We adapt. We grow. Our collective and individual growth leads to the pivotal successes all organizations desire. As we continue to make breakthroughs and experience success, it is important to recognize the individuals who led the initiatives, braved the elements and saw to it that the race was won.

Our very own Iliana Alvarado outlined the importance of celebrating the successes of individuals in an organization. “By understanding what drives each person—and celebrating these drivers – I am able to discover their unique talents, skills, and interests,” Alvarado said. “This allows me to align them with the right role on our engagement and keeps them motivated to be successful.”

Nurture creativity

Creativity has no bounds. Organizations must realize this, and work to foster environments that nurture and encourage creative solutions to complex problems. Organizational leaders can accomplish this in various ways. Providing a workspace optimized for ingenuity plays a major part in the collective creativity of any company. Evans’ open concept office enables employees to easily collaborate with each other and explore various solution channels. When it’s time to hunker down and get the juices flowing, our staff members migrate to our closed-off meeting rooms.

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Workplace environments should never inhibit creativity. Instead, the environment should nurture ingenuity and innovation. However, we must know when to rest, refuel and return to work recharged. Working to our highest creative potential involves constant renewal. Spending time away from work not thinking about tomorrow’s tasks allows us to come to the workplace with fresh perspectives we can use to tackle the day’s undertakings.

In a recent TED Talk, Harvard University professor Linda Hill reminded us of the power of creativity. To spark meaningful innovation, “you have to unleash the talents and passions of many people, and you have to harness them into a work that is actually useful,” said Hill. Unleashed creativity creates innovative solutions. More importantly, unleashed creativity spurs a collective organizational confidence.

Emphasize design

Design is everything. It is all around us. It shapes the way we see the world. When working with clients, it is important to design with the client’s end in mind. One of the major tenants of Design Thinking is implementing human-centered problem solving. All innovative solutions must be tailored around the needs the client. This enables you to understand your clients, recognize their strengths and weaknesses, and build a solution that meets them at their needs.

The call for innovation is tremendous, but it is not something that can be developed at one’s convenience. We must focus on what is important, prioritize our goals and focus on delivering products and services of exceptional value. Most importantly, we must realize that it is a team effort. Once everyone is on board, an organization can move confidently toward its desired state.

Portfolio Change Management

The State of Constant Change

Organizations are increasingly moving from environments where temporary business transformations occur every so often to states of constant change and the associated chaos that never-ending organizational transformation entails.  There are many contributing factors to organizational environments where change is a constant.  One primary cause is the ever increasing rate of IT obsolescence, where organizations are faced with an endless cycle of new solution implementations.  Another major factor includes increasingly austere fiscal environments where organizations are constantly looking for opportunities to achieve efficiency gains to cut costs through reengineered business processes, organizational realignments or the adoption of new policies and procedures.

With the pervasiveness of organizational transformations, one must assess whether the changes being undertaken are too many in number or too great in complexity for the changes to be successfully implemented, sustained and deliver a solid ROI.  One must also consider an organization’s recent change history and planned changes for the near future in planning new discrete change programs.  Undertaking too many complex changes in an organization can have a massive impact on the ability of staff to balance their support of new initiatives with their daily organizational responsibilities.  Even worse, poorly managed transformative change initiatives can have major costs by detrimentally impacting the professional well-being and job satisfaction of a workforce, thereby leading to increased rates of attrition and loss of institutional knowledge and talented personnel.

Assessing Change Portfolio Health

Every change program has its own associated risk related to change readiness.  Risk can stem from a variety of sources, including knowledge gaps, poor institutional support structures, inadequate resources, or weak leadership support for an initiative.   Depending on the nature of the program, the risk may be quite high, but manageable, because adequate change management resources are in place and the program was designed with a vision and executable plan for managing complex change.  While it is absolutely critical to assess the risk of individual programs from a change management perspective, executives and managers must also take a more holistic perspective of all the changes affecting their organizations, their people and their organizations’ cultures.

In order to assess an organization’s ‘Change Health’, we recommend analyzing the risk associated with an entire portfolio of change programs being undertaken by an organization.  Such an assessment should not only look at planned change programs that will be happening concurrently in the near-term, but it must also analyze an organization’s recent change history and other planned initiatives for the future to gauge the risk associated with a Change Portfolio of programs.  When reviewing the portfolio, it is also important to assess different facets of the organizational capacity for change by taking a portfolio view to analyze the degree of overlap of change initiatives, potential sponsor overload, timing, and the associated impact on respective organizational units. 

There are two primary lenses for assessing the relative risk of a portfolio of change programs.  The first lens assesses the relative complexity and organizational impact of an organization’s change programs.  As a rule of thumb, the greater the complexity of a suite of individual change programs, the greater the risk to the organization.  The second key factor that must be evaluated is the degree to which the organization has the capacity to absorb changes.  The two-by-two in Figure 1 below illustrates how an organization undertaking a host of complex change initiatives in an environment where the organizational capacity to absorb and sustain the changes is low can result in a Change Portfolio in poor health.  A portfolio with such characteristics can pose a litany of organizational risks that could have a major detrimental impact on its people, organizational culture and business environment. 

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Figure 1 – An Illustrative, Poor Health Change Portfolio  

Evans offers a proprietary approach for assessing program risk and organizational capacity for change – whether for an individual program or a change portfolio of programs.  We also offer customizable approaches to improving the health of your change portfolio by identifying and successfully managing the risks associated with you organization’s change programs.  If you would like to learn more please contact us!

Jim HeadshotJim Wright is a Program Manager with Evans Incorporated’s International Practice who provides management consulting services to international financial institutions and U.S. Government clients.  Jim has managed or supported a range of business transformation efforts during his consulting career including budgeting, portfolio management, activity-based costing and business intelligence solutions for clients including the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.  Recently, Jim’s focus has been on applying Evans’ Change Method – CAARMA – to improve aid effectiveness and optimize the realization of targeted development outcomes for Evans’ development partners.  He is a Certified Government Financial Manager (CGFM) and serves as the VP of Membership and Development for the International Consortium on Governmental Financial Management. 

No Time To Plan Just Get It Done

Do any of these sound familiar?

  • There is NO TIME to plan.  We need to make changes NOW.
  • The more attention and involvement there is from executives, the more pressure there is to just move it forward quickly.
  • Why plan?  It’s outdated as soon as we document it.
  • No one follows the plan anyway; it just sits on the shelf.  Why waste our time?

Have you heard any of these on your projects?  Perhaps even SAID some of these yourself?  It can be a challenge to plan projects.  Pressure is high to demonstrate results, causing us to want to rush into executing, which creates an imbalance between planning and execution. Continue reading

Change Management Fundamentals for Successful PSM Reform

There is widespread agreement on the need to improve public sector efficiency and effectiveness and, for the most part, the tools and the brainpower to do so are extensively available.  So why are Public Sector Management (PSM) reforms so hard? The primary reason is that the process of implementing reforms implies not only developing their technical aspects but also changing the behavior and culture of key actors to adopt new policies, procedures, processes, systems – and not the least of which – new mindsets.  The adoption of new ways of working and thinking can be accomplished through effective change management.

So what is meant by change management?  For the purpose of this blog, we adopt a simple description:

Change management is the process of helping people understand the need for change and to motivate them to take actions which result in sustained changes in behavior”.

The change management perspective is that people don’t resist change – they resist being changed[1].  The reality is that people want to participate in change, some resistance is natural, and individual resistance can be reinforced or diminished by group or organizational culture.  Figure 1 shows the stages that individuals go through when they are confronted with change.

The goal of a successful change management approach is to help people let go of their current work patterns and behavior to embrace and advocate for the new approaches and behaviors that support the reform effort.  Evans applies the following high-level heuristics to its approach to change and to the process of managing change to ensure that impacted stakeholders are committed to PSM reforms.

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MANAGING CHANGE…

1) Change Starts and Ends with the Individual:  People must know where they are going and why, and leaders have a responsibility to re-define the norms and priorities, live by them and inspire others to follow.  This involves on-going clear and consistent communications with active listening and periods of reflection.  Everyone must clearly understand their unique role in the change.  Effective change management serves to disarm change resisters by managing stakeholder expectations and clearly communicating the implications of a reform on the individual and the way they work so that the reform is not feared – it is embraced.    

2) The Broader the Impact of a Reform the Greater the Need for Effective Change: Reforms that cross multiple organizations, multiple levels of Government and entail numerous technical solutions are inherently more risky because the number of impacted individuals and potential points of organizational resistance are so high.  Complex reforms require an engineered change management strategy and tactics that are commensurate with the level of organizational chaos and upheaval associated with a broadly and deeply impacting PSM reform.

3) Trust is the Key Enabler of Change:  The primary deliverable of any change is demonstrated changes in behavior.  To successfully bring about behavioral change, individuals driving change must engender trust.  There are multiple dimensions to trust, but at a minimum contractual trust needs to be established. This deals with an individual’s faith in another’s integrity and ability to keep agreements.  As such, individuals need to understand the boundaries and expectations of them and see consistency in word and action from those leading the change.

4) Benefits and Change are Inseparable:  To fully realize business value, change and benefits are inseparable – benefits cannot be delivered without change and change cannot be sustained without benefits.  Just as the explicit articulation of benefits is part of every reform, dealing with the ‘human factor’ is fundamental for success.  As such, change is not an event but a human-centered process that must be managed. To expect people to behave differently, change must be facilitated and rewards must be aligned with results and expectations associated with behavioral change.

5) Leave the Organization more Resilient.  We target long-term change capability by building competencies in dealing with change, rather than restricting the focus to the assimilation of a single change effort.  We take a holistic approach that considers all the impacts, including the cumulative effects of multiple changes occurring concurrently or in quick succession.  Sustainable change is about accepting and being prepared for resistance, removing barriers and building both organizational and individual resilience to change.  It is also about building organizational capacity to assess their own change management capabilities and manage their own change programs (meta-change capacity).

Managing the Process of Change…

6) Apply a Diagnostic Approach:  There is no “one size fits all” process for change management.  By characterizing the organization in terms of its reform scope, pace and focus (internal behavior) and the government and donor intent that drive a reform (external behavior), we aim to build a change risk footprint that covers both the current and desired state. Analysis of this ‘change corridor’ helps build a “pin-point” plan of change interventions designed to best deliver the “required state” capability to achieve targeted outcomes.

7) Integrate Change Management within the Reform Effort:  To be fully effective, change management cannot be run separately from the reform effort.  It also requires dedicated and sustained support throughout the lifecycle of the initiative. Consultants and the human resource department may provide training, coaching and support, but the change sponsors and change agents must consist of leaders and managers whose own behavior is expected to change.  They thus feel and demonstrate commitment to the change and are in the best position to engage with other staff to enlist their support.

8) Sequence Change Management Programs to Align with Technical Phases of a Reform: The decisions around the sequencing of technical reforms generate significant attention.  Equally important, though, is the sequencing of change management programs so that the timing of change activities, interventions and communications can be executed in alignment with the phases of accompanying technical reforms.  Change programs must be broken down into manageable ‘chunks’ to effectively manage anticipated and unanticipated pockets of organizational resistance that may surface at various stages of a reform effort.

 9) Recognize and Reinforce Change Successes:  The best way to get commitment to a change is to demonstrate that it is successful.  Therefore, it is important to demonstrate that the change is being implemented; it is happening with frequent incremental improvements; and, the stakeholders involved have bought into the new way of working and are reporting on the benefits.  Quickly demonstrating change impacts or ‘quick wins’ shortly after the start of a PSM reform effort is also key to the overall success of a reform effort and can have long-lasting, positive impacts on the perceptions of impacted constituencies.

10) Mitigation for Human-Centered Risks:  When the program plan for the reform effort is built and the risk analysis is complete, for every risk that is associated with people, it is the change management program that will mitigate or remedy the human-centered risks.


[1] The Dance of Change – Peter Senge (1999)

Richard Resume Blue BackgroundRichard Hudson has over 30 years’ experience in management consulting focused on ‘structuring change’.  He has managed many large change projects, including virtual teams spread across multiple continents.

For the past eight years, he has worked on projects involving international donor financing agencies working with The World Bank, The Global Fund, UK Department for International Development (DFID), Asian Development Bank, and the International Monetary Fund.  He has lived and conducted projects in a number of countries around the globe and these experiences have provided him great insight into the unique challenges of implementing projects in developing countries and the significant benefits that be derived from well-structured and managed change projects.

The Colors of Project Management

Author: Iliana Alvarado, PMP

When it comes to project management, most government and private organizations strive to reinforce the latest edition of the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBoK) Guide, using tried and true tools and methods such as the Work Breakdown Structure and Earned Value Management. With seemingly unlimited project management tools available to ensure project success, why do so many projects fail? According to a recent survey from the Project Management Hut, project failure is due to bad communications 57% of the time and 39% is due to lack of planning1.

Statistics aside, the nitty gritty of it is a lack of maximizing the talents of individuals comprising a project team. With much of the project focus on tasks and outcomes, project managers often miss the opportunity to realize the full capabilities of their team. Of all the resources available to project managers for team development and improving project success, one of the simplest tools to utilize is the color personality test (adapted from the True Color Personality Test2). With this survey, team members are matched to four different personality types, identifying their most prominent characteristics and preferred working environments. While this tool may seem rudimentary and maybe even trivial, the applicability of matching employees to their desired project activities is critical to project success.

The four personality types are summarized as:

  • True Blue employees are compassionate, imaginative, sensitive, prefer encouragement to completion, and react very negatively to rejection
  • Curious Green crew members are analytical, conceptual, logical, problem solvers, and need constant mental stimulation
  • Solid Gold contributors are dependable, loyal, thorough, punctual, and prefer to handle details and organization
  • Action Orange are the charming, spontaneous members who are bold and restless and thrive on independence and freedom

As reflected, each personality type brings unique strengths and talents to the project team. In future posts, I’ll discuss how to utilize the color survey to best utilize a human-centered approach to project management.

1 The Project Management Hut “Project Failure Statistics”, www.pmhut.com/project-failure-statistics-and-facts

2 True Color Personality Test, www.TrueColorsTest.com

Avoid Becoming a Victim of Scope Creep

Author:  Robert Etris, PMP

Background

Successful scope management is a core attribute of an efficient and effective project.  Managing scope means more than just asking for a change order or creating tension with your stakeholders.  It means upstream recognition of the change, managing the change, and recognizing new opportunities.  PMI’s Process Management Body of Knowledge defines project scope management as “the processes required to ensure that the project includes all the work required, and only the work required, to complete the project successfully.”

Understanding the Market Need

You can surely recall projects in your organization that have experienced delays, run over-budget, or failed to meet all of their objectives.  Failed, or more commonly flawed, scope management is the most common cause.  Uncontrolled scope creep – expansion of your original project scope definition – is often at the very top of the list of issues IT project managers struggle with.  Mismanaged scope hurts your bottom line, diverts resources unnecessarily from your primary business operations, and can create more inefficiencies than gains.

Keys to Successful Scope Management

Project scope management addresses what should and should not be included as part of the project.  The cornerstones of successful scope management hinge on the following attributes:

1- A robust project scope management plan. The project scope management plan is a tool describing how the project team will define the project scope, define and develop the work breakdown structure (WBS), and validate and control the project’s scope environment.  The plan examines the organization’s culture, market drivers, and policies that influence how the scope should be managed.  A good plan is often, if not typically, based on best-practices from past engagements.

2- Well defined project scope statement. The project scope statement, drafted after the development of the scope management plan, defines the project boundaries, performance and milestone targets, deliverable and acceptance requirements, assumptions, and other detailed characteristics that, together, form the whole of your project.  Downstream issues, change requests or proposals, and approved change orders can all be benchmarked against the project scope statement to inform strategic decision making.

3- Scope verification conditions for all project deliverables. Scope verification is the process by which project stakeholders formally accept and approve completed project deliverables.  Though this process holds its own importance, the systematic use of codified conditions streamlines the verification process.  Often these conditions appear as part of the scope management plan, though sometimes they can be managed separately.  Rejected deliverables should be documented (along with their conditions for rejection) and inform the occasional review of the verification conditions in light of changed altered environmental factors.

4 – Scope change control procedures to systematically manage scope change.  Invariable things change in your project – organizational direction shifts, stakeholders change, budgets shrink, and business drivers evolve.  Scope change control procedures empower your project to react to change in a managed and predictable way.  Risks are identified, alternatives analyzed, and informed decisions made.

Assessing Impact Reaps Rewards

No matter how well you plan your project, change happens.  Good or bad, internal or external in nature, forces descend on even the best laid plans to disrupt the planned flow of events.  The keys to proactively and positively managing these events rest in your ability to get full information from the outset, effectively use this information to evaluate the change, and then understand the impacts associated with your decision.  The impact analysis is critical key to successful change control.  It illuminates both the positive and negative risks to other areas of your project, potentially leading to unintended rewards and mitigated (or, even better, avoided) pitfalls.

Implementing for Success

Managing scope is difficult in today’s business environment in which so many projects want to “check the box” and maintain progress, focusing on the path that lay ahead.  In many organizations, effective scope change requires a significant mindset shift, understanding the value in taking the time to analyze a situation that could be otherwise spent on delivering project outputs.  Successful scope management will help you deliver a product that meets the business need (by accounting for changes in the operational environment), satisfies your customers (by thoughtfully managing their change request) and your managers (by efficiently managing obstacles in the path to production).  Implementing these four principles in your next project will put you on a path with a much stronger probability for success.