Today’s global companies are driven by projects. Projects to implement new processes; projects to implement new systems; projects to outsource; projects to insource, you name it and they will be doing it. The challenge that they often face is how to access the implementation skills to ensure that the project is delivered on-time and in a relatively pain-free way.
If Leaders are asked to take on this role as part of their day job it can be very challenging for three reasons:
- The pace and needs of an implementation project is very different from that of business as usual leadership. Getting the style, approach and finding the energy to do this alongside running the day job can be very demanding and it is frequently under estimated.
- Implementation by its very nature often means stepping on someone’s toes. If Leaders are uncomfortable causing ripples they can shy away from having difficult (and usually long overdue) conversations with other parts of the organisation to address areas of blockage.
- Implementation requires a fair degree of honesty to address inefficiencies that you the Leader may have turned a blind eye to for a long time. This may involve upsetting trusted and favoured employees as their roles and responsibilities are tested or changed by the implementation project.
So how can Leaders continue to stay focused and have the energy to continue to lead implementation when the going is getting tough? Some things that will help include:
- Self awareness is key: Be aware of how change affects you and others and how to support people through it. There are many models that can help with this such as The Change Curve (below) which explains simply all of the different phases that we go through as we undergo change. Nobody is immune from it, but self-awareness and acknowledgement goes a long way to mitigating the issues. Understanding where you are in the process can help you to recognise the signs and the stages that your team are at and know how to respond to them.
- Belief is essential: We have all heard the phrase ‘Failure is not an Option’ but that could be turned into a far more motivating phrase such as ‘Success is our only option’. Even if there are private moments when the leader has a loss of faith in the implementation program, publicly they should always be encouraging, motivating and upbeat with their team.
- Responsive trumps planning: The plan is only the best guess at the time of what is required to implement successfully, but the key to success is in how to respond to the roadblocks along the way. Modern mythology tells us that the US Moon Mission in the 1960's was off-plan 90% of the time What the team became very good at was ‘on-the-job’ problem solving. So whilst we are not saying that you don't need a plan (Fail to plan, plan to fail - right?) as a leader, you need to rely on more than the plan. And the more is the role you can play to create the kind of collaborative team environment where problems can be raised, discussed and solutions created by your team. This is both skill building and deeply motivating for your people whilst in the midst of heavy-duty Implementation.
Have you some implementation experiences that you would like to share? Do you have other tips of what makes implementation a success? Please do share them here. Or if you would like to hear more about our experience of implementation – contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org