Following on from my blog last week, I’ve had a few conversations with colleagues around the ‘projectisation’ of corporations, a ugly but appropriate phrase which Thomas Martin uses to explain the next stage in corporate development. If you remember, what I tried to address was the perfect storm convergence of a disengaged and therefore unproductive workforce, a increasing pace of change and a significant uplift in complexity.
So, how to deal with this. Well, it won’t surprise you that I think the solution lies in the discipline and structures of programme and project management. What are the key aspects of this discipline which will help to deal with these new challenges? I can think of three but no doubt you’ll have others:
- The discretionary and discrete delivery based focus of a programme of work enables highly diverse (geographically, demographically, and functionally) teams to work together on a common goal. When performing at their best, teams form, execute and dissipate quickly and efficiently. There is built-in flexibility to counter the pace of change.
- From a cultural perspective, decisions are made at the point of knowledge..rather than always escalated as a result of a hierarchical structure. This creates a culture of personal accountability and responsibility which is attractive for more corporates. It also corresponds with the pace of change
- Risks are managed locally but also across programmes of work…the risk management processes in projects are proactive rather than reactive, risks tend to be viewed in a positive way which enables sensible and realistic mitigation and if that’s not possible, proper financial and business based planning. This starts to address the need for flexibility and the management of increased complexity. (As an aside whilst the risk management focus in most corporates has increased significantly in the last 10 years as a result of external challenges and in some cases, regulators, the tendency has been to centralise and therefore manage risks at an unrealistic level…by which I mean, one which uses too little applied information, and is often too influenced by legal as opposed to business based understanding)
- From a productivity perspective, the single purpose, potential for mastery and autonomy create an environment which generates high levels of engagement and productivity.
How will this change take place? Rather than think of a complex conversion or projectisation of organisations through some process of change, the change will take place as what is currently peripheral becomes mainstream. This may seem semantic but in my view it’s not, primarily because that kind of wholesale change is extremely difficult and unlikely to succeed in an existing structure where there are so many vested interests.
Most corporates already have parts of their organisation that are project based. Their characteristics are often as follows:
- They are newly formed or at least quite young.
- The task that they are engaged in is singular…ie, they have been formed to deliver a single product or service
- The latter is potentially disruptive and certainly challenging to the status quo of the rest of the organisation, hence their separation from the BAU part of the business.
- Their population is often a voluntary one by which I mean that both the leadership and the employees have elected or asked to join.
- There is a strong sense of purpose which unifies the organisation and creates a dynamic, change orientated and enthusiastic culture.
Over time, it is the proliferation of these little businesses under a corporate umbrella which will create the project based organisation.