Tuesday, February 09, 2016
Delayed decisions, rushed implementation, the story of our lives
Predicament at every company: a year from the time the project was conceptualized, the deal was concluded. Year-end pushed start of the project by another month. Everyone’s patience had reached a break point; the originally estimated project plan of 8 months was trashed with a view that it needs to be done faster. The business wanted it done in 5, the CIO was willing to push for 7; the vendor knew it will take 8 months realistically; having lost time no one wanted to accept reality thus putting the project to risk.
And that is how they got started on a project that was beginning to lose relevance after the elapsed time since it was identified as a business need. The project team was cobbled together with an eclectic mix and the vendor provided his best team at that time. The compromise plan of 6 months appeared achievable with the fine-tuned steps which required rigor thus far unseen with the team. The CIO and the function head wanted to stay involved but other priorities and fires competed for their attention.
Customers had embraced the new offering of which competitors enjoyed the benefits, being early in the market. Demand was at its peak and the company wanted to regain some of the lost ground and recover loyal customers; so they pressed on with the effort. Like all projects this one did not get off the ground with ease, the baggage of the delay was too large to discard. The first fortnight saw slippage of a day which was deemed recoverable; but by the end of the month it had stretched to three days.
The second monthly steering committee had an uninvited guest who was pleasantly surprised to learn of the progress made; the CEO thus complemented the team for their commitment promising them a brighter future. With redoubled effort everyone applied themselves to the challenge as if it was the ultimate test of their skills and their existence depended on it. Passion hitherto unknown ran through the team with mini celebrations marking crossing of milestones and camaraderie that had the potential to become corporate folklore.
Moving through the project stage gates and two months remaining, the peak appeared to be within grasp; the team did not relax or let their guard down. Their perseverance and togetherness is what management books profess as the secret sauce to team effectiveness. The team was surprised by the random occurrence of the CIO and the business head for an impromptu review and words of encouragement; little did they know the deliberate design between the two to let the team discover their formula for success while they kept a watchful eye.
Finishing touches to the offering is what remained with two weeks to launch, cross checking and verifying results. The tension in the air was palpable, excitement infectious, the team bonding complete in their quest for glory. A couple of members had left traversing the tough terrain unable to take the pressure, few were eased out with their unwillingness to change polluting the team. There was no bitterness for these colleagues, the focus unwavering; other parts of the organization were taking notice of the magic.
Success was declared with one day to spare much to the delight of the team who had forgotten to breathe in their commitment to deliver. Everyone heaved a sigh of relief, congratulatory messages poured in from across the enterprise, the CIO put the team in front to receive the truly deserved accolades. The vendor had never experienced success of this type and was animatedly excited backslapping everyone around. The CEO and the Board commended the commitment and leadership of the two believers.
While decision delays on project initiation are normal, the recovery and delivery on committed time with quality is a rare occurrence. Over the last three decades in corporate life and sports, I have observed consistently winning teams’ exhibit synergistic and symbiotic relationship between team members, accepting diversity and complementary skills. They stay cohesive with invisible leadership thus giving opportunity to each team member to take charge as the situation changes discounting hierarchies and titles.
Have you experienced such magic before ? Share your story …