Friday, 27. May 2011
I have worked with many practitioners of business, technical and organisational change who at some stage have held their head in their hands over late or ever changing requirements on their deliveries.
So what is the problem with late requirements?
Some cries I have heard in my time:
- The problem is, my business can’t make up its mind
- Don’t they realise we’re way too far down the road to make changes now?
- It’s always the same department / folk who keep us waiting on sign-off, they are holding everything up
Any of that sounding familiar?
Well, let’s take them one at a time and I’ll share with you the type of thoughts I have shared with my teams in the past:
1. The Business can’t make up its mind
Considering organisations that stand still generally die, rather than thrive, aren’t you reassured that your business is in motion? OK.
So knowing that your business (assuming it is somewhere between surviving and thriving) is constantly changing, you start to see how as a practioner of change, you can use your frameworks and governance to ensure you apply some controls (it’s your job after all) on the journey to a successful delivery.
Obvious tools: Initial sign-offs; Additional change request processes; Sponsor led quality gate reviews along your baselined timeline; Resource prioritisation discussions
Available options: Understand the change; Facilitate decision meetings between business departments; Park the project until key decisions can be made; Use your sponsor to focus / direct / negotiate a way forward
Where this may not help: Releasing the right resources to impact assess new changes during resource critical times; Your organisation laughs in the face of structure, so none of the above help, in which case, do call me for either a) help or b) just a shoulder to cry on
2. Don’t they realise we’re way too far down the road to make changes now
Possibly not. That might indicate a gap in expectation setting that is easily remedied. Equally, whose role is it to decide on what change to make? Now, there may be (I’m sure there are) consequences to making said late changes, and it is possible that even doing the assessment on the change will require reallocation of resources, with an associated knock on effect to other planned activities. But as the customer, they’re entitled to ask the question, surely?
Obvious tools: Additional change request processes; Resource prioritisation discussions; Regular governance meetings; Open and honest dialogue about any impacts versus benefits; Active listening on what is being asked for
Available options: Understand the change being requested; Conduct change impact assessments for review; Options analysis workshops where there is a strong driver for additional change; Use the existing formal governance structures and approvals before leaping to action / moving to next stages
Where this may not help: On the launch day; When the change comes from someone senior to your Sponsor, who is also flabbergasted by the request, although the above might help in such a case
3. It’s always the same department / folk who keep us waiting on sign-off, they are holding everything up
So what stakeholder management techniques are you employing? Do you understand the genuine barriers to sign-off? Is the potential delay logged as understood as a project risk?
Obvious tools: Solid stakeholder management techniques; Clear and regular communications to control risk of delay / escalate as required; Influencing skills; Active listening within the errant group
Options: Review and Report; Influence like a pro and strive to change the predicted outcome
Where this may not help: If it’s your boss.
In summary, I don’t believe there is a problem with late requirements that we can’t handle.
Anything is possible, thought there may be costs and consequences which result in the change not being taken forwards, but the change team add value by doing their best to quantify and qualify impacts, supporting the sponsor to make a final informed decision.
[Photo: Flickr - CP Srutland]