Projects used to be separate efforts in an organization carried out by a selected partner or vendor. As the complexity of companies’ ecosystems increases, so does also the number of vendors, dependencies, technologies, cultures, required competences etc. Whether the initiative is the outsourcing of processes or IT, developing digital services, automation or robotics, you will have several business units within the customer company and several technology or service provider companies working together.
The analytics is there, the technology challenges can be worked in a pretty straight forward manner. The toughest part is getting the people to work together towards a common goal. Forming international organizations causes friction as people want as many of their own country men in power roles as possible. Steering groups and management teams have challenges finding common ground due to cultural differences. Technology and service providers want to excel over each other and ensure add-on sales.
While it is heart-warming that people are loyal and committed to their employers, this same loyalty can destroy a project. Hiding information, not sharing findings, people under-performing – even burning out – in a toxic work environment, will impact schedules, costs and quality.
As the customer’s program or project manager in development initiatives, service manager in outsourcing engagements or organizational change manager in business transformations, I see time and again, people coming to a meeting table with an “according to our contract, our scope of work includes only . . . “ attitude. The challenge is that most of the time we know what issue we have at hand, but we do not know what causes it. So, time and again, I tell the representatives of the different companies around the table: “Let’s now put the contract behind us for now. Let’s all together analyze the issue at hand and try to find the root cause and the cure. Trust me, I will not ask any company to work outside the scope of their agreement or work for free. If the solution to the problem requires work outside the scope of all parties, I will make a separate order for the work.”
The toughest task for a project manager today is to get people across boarders, what ever boarders they may be, to work together as one team towards a common goal. I find myself repeating: “None of your companies have succeeded, if the project doesn’t succeed. We either succeed together or we fail together”. People management skills are a key competence for a project manager.