These real stories illustrate how a CEO successfully builds a project-based organization. The first story is about persistence.
Projects at a high tech manufacturing company were missing schedules, blowing budgets, and not delivering expected benefits. Worse, management wasn’t finding out about project surprises until just before the projects were supposed to deliver. They asked me to help them find out why and guide them through improvements.
During the subsequent two years of changes, the plant directors were excellent executive sponsors. In that time we doubled the on-time completion rate of projects and reduced serious project escalations by 75%. Long-term, persistent involvement by the executives paid off. But then there was a shuffle in the executive ranks, and these sponsors moved elsewhere.
Takeaway – Persistence and Commitment
Moving a project-based organization to the next level of maturity takes extended commitment from leaders – a year or more. The executive sponsors at this company were a constant presence, supporting project leads and teams with gentle coaching, clear and steadily increasing expectations, and firm accountability. But when the sponsors disappeared, improvements slipped away as the organization fell back into old habits. As organizational change pioneer John Kotter says in Leading Change, “Until changes sink deeply into a company’s culture, a process that can take five to ten years, new approaches are fragile and subject to regression.” When you start an initiative to increase your project capability, commit to long-term involvement by senior leaders.