In the second part of this series of articles I took a deep dive into how we (and you can) quantified, identified and measured the size of our issues as part of the most common issue affecting mid-market leaders, holding them back from success. While presenting thorny issues to your leadership team can sometimes feel like crossing into a fog of uncertainty as to how they'll respond, as I'll highlight in this article, leadership teams can very very responsive. This whole series is also available as a download.
How the leadership team responded
As I presented the findings to rest of the leadership team, I highlighted that a number of additional tasks had creeped into projects, that had an alignment to key factors that didn’t align to the project. This had the unintended consequence of work being done with best intentions, just not at the right time, eating up the budgets and causing delays. Out of order work, and cross department resource "borrowing"... not disastrous and with good intentions... but certainly not a cohesive business working together on the bigger picture, more an inwards focus on individual metrics and concerns.
What I stressed as the most truly revealing finding though, was the relatively high number of items that had no alignment (with our perfect hind-sight of having finished the project) to the key driving factors. All manner of work items that were done because it: "was a change we'd always wanted to do”, “was on the back burner”, “we were in there at the same time" or similar. The death by a thousand cuts, that took only a few hours each, but added up, and more importantly had down-stream consequences on other teams and departments... all consuming more and more resourcing, resulting in key components to deliverables being dropped/removed.
It never really occurred to anyone; team leads, managers or the leadership team, that a non-strategic task could be in a strategic project, nor the impact that could have. The leadership team felt this alignment (or lack there-of) was a fundamental responsibility of our project and product managers. Our managers felt this was an issue of self-managing teams. Team leads felt there wasn't enough clarity in what was expected of them and feared the days of micro-management returning. The situation was tense.
As we collectively discussed "how is this so obvious to us now, but not picked up at the time?" the same reasoning keep bubbling up to the surface. The thinking all along had been "If a task is in a strategic project... it must be strategic." Our project and task management tools certainly had nothing to offer to mitigate this. It was our achilles heel. As we discussed this more, we admitted this wasn't just our achilles heel... it was pretty widespread. We'd all encountered this across our careers. I’m sure you have to.
There was a silver lining in all of this though; we now had the formula for a workshop, that our managers could use, to make sure this didn't happen at this scale again. We had the in-house skills and experience to nurture and build this new workshop.
The next article in this series covers how we transitioned to better, more modern leadership.