Leadership Communication

December 11, 2019 by Scott Palochik

Trusting Your Team To Make The Right Decisions

Your senior management team has just assigned you a large strategic project. Maybe it’s the addition of a new product line, building a new plant, or implementing a new ERP system. This project is an excellent opportunity to shine. After the initial excitement, it begins to set in that there is also a lot that could go wrong. You realize that your success is almost entirely dependent on the decisions and actions of the many people who will work on delivering this project.


Project management classes tend to focus on the mechanics of project management, like schedules, risk registers, RACI charts, etc. These tools will certainly be useful in delivering a successful project, but we all know of projects where these things were all done, sometimes even done well, but the project still failed. You don’t want your project to fall into that category.


One rarely taught principle on large projects is that people outside the project team make most of the decisions impacting the project. I led one project where, at the peak, we had about 800 professionals working on the project. There where engineers, designers, buyers, quality professionals, production supervisors, plant managers, HR managers, marketing managers and so on. Many were employees of the company; even more, were suppliers. We had 200 suppliers producing new parts and components for this new product. Each person was making decisions that impacted the success of our project!


As the program manager, I came to realize that my success and the success of the project required trust. I had to trust that the professionals around me would make the right decisions.


However, success was dependent on all of those decisions being aligned with the objectives of the project. The question is,  how do you build confidence that your extended team will do the right things? This cannot be a simple exercise in delegating decision making. You must give folks a framework for making the right decisions.


Several tools in the project management toolbox help a lot. The scope and requirements documents are essential tools here. But do they give people a sufficient framework for making trade-off decisions?


We found that that it was beneficial to build a compelling story that made the purpose of the project or program clear. This purpose statement deepened people’s understanding of the reasons behind requirements and scope. To build a compelling story for your project or program, be sure to keep it simple and short. You want people to remember it. We, at espi, help clients build their compelling stories with four key elements:


  • Situation: Where are we and how did we get here?
  • Gap: What is it that we want that we don’t currently have?
  • Solution: How are we going to close the gap?
  • Future state: When we’re done, how is the world going to be a better place?


Compelling stories built with these four components help tremendously in aligning teams. By understanding the “, Why” of the project is motivating and guiding. It helped 800 people make decisions that led to a great new product!



About the Author:
Don Ortner – Don joined espi with over 7 years of consulting experience collaborating with C-level teams and functional management to implement changes leading to improved revenue and profitability. He has guided teams to successfully develop and deliver new processes for building strategies, delivering innovations and improving operations. As an executive with over twenty-five years in strategy, innovation and new product development, Don has led dozens of teams through every stage of innovation from discovery through development and commercialization.

In addition to consulting, Don teaches MBA level courses in project management and international strategy at DeSales University. He has earned the PMP certification and is an active member of the PMI. He has served on the board of a non-profit and currently holds volunteer leadership positions on the Innovation Leadership Forum.



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Question #4: What is your “As-Is” status?

May 9, 2016 by ESPI

Before you can determine if a new information system is the right path for your organization, you need to assess where you are today. In the systems application industry, this exercise is called an “As-Is” analysis and it will be the cornerstone of your system selection process.

What an “As-Is” analysis should reveal:

  • Who has access and what do they do?
  • What are the workflows and processes?
  • How much time is involved in tasks?
  • What causes delays?
  • What information is actually in the system?
  • Does information exists outside the system on ancillary spreadsheets, databases, books, etc. and why?
  • How does the information get shared?
  • What is the quality of data?
  • How often is this information entered?
  • How is it verified?
  • Where is the data stored?
  • How is it backed up?
  • What are the benefits?
  • What are the drawbacks?
  • What are the measurements and key performance indicators?

Can this be done internally? Sometimes, but many small to mid-sized companies usually do not have the capacity or skill sets to address what system(s) are right for them. Larger companies usually do have an IT staff but they may be too entrenched with the current processes to review them objectively.

This is often a point when companies will bring in an outside systems application expert who has no vested interest in a particular information system or vendor. They will give you unbiased recommendations based on your needs and criteria, not based on a sales quota. By employing this partner in all initial stages of the evaluation process you can leverage their expertise and knowledge towards the final selection and eventual implementation.

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