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Syncresis Limited

Reducing Unforeseen Project Risk

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Decision time

  • How to love an old ERP system
  • Just enough project management

Thinking out loud

  • Why learning from experience isn't
  • How to succeed by accident
  • The deep reasons behind project failure

Change Process Support

Syncresis can assist organisations with many aspects of complex change initiatives, including:

  • Establishing effective ways and styles of working, across all groups involved in achieving change
  • Ensuring that the best use is made of all available knowledge and skills
  • The effective anticipation and resolving of risks, issues and obstacles
  • Promoting constructive engagement with change

To do this, we take an approach based on recent thinking from a number of perspectives.

The problem

Only a minority of major change projects result in the intended benefits. Surveys of the success of various kinds of change project over the last 25 years mostly indicate success rates in the region of 25%-30%. There is a puzzle in all of this. We appear to know a lot about how to create successful change. The management sections of bookshops are full of the stuff. Although the emphasis varies between different gurus, there is a consensus of sorts. You do not get much difference in advice between most consultancies, and at the core, very little of it is new. The role of participation and involvement has been recognised since the late 40's. So why hasn't the world been transformed?

The following are among the major causes:

Underestimating business diversity

For understandable reasons, decisions involving major change are often based on an simplified view of what will be involved in implementation, and make little allowance for the resulting uncertainties. This is particularly true in complex international organisations: attempts are often made to standardise processes, across countries and divisions with different business drivers, local practices and cultures. Up-front commitments on budget and timescales are made on this basis.

The conflict between control and empowerment

Senior managers and project managers may set out to follow good practice in facilitating the changes, but without making allowance for the implications. The commonest example relates to empowerment: senior and project managers are expected to be in control, but you have to control less in order to change more. This results in hidden inconsistencies in the approaches adopted by people at all levels in the change initiative.

A critical point is often reached when the assumptions underlying the budgets and timescales are challenged by practical issues encountered during implementation. Resolving the issues, in a way which ensures support and understanding, will take time and money which has not been allowed for. With the best of intentions, managers fall away from the styles which would minimise the long-term risk.

The difficulty of learning

We have to learn from our past troubles in order to improve. However, learning from past experience is much more difficult than people think, particularly in an organisational setting. For a number of natural human reasons, we tend to form views of past events which leave out important aspects. As a result, the obstacles to new proposals are often under-estimated.

We believe that, by taking these factors into account, organisations can very significantly increase the certainty of major benefits from change initiatives, through a process which takes realistic account of project risks, and maintains positive momentum whatever difficulties are encountered.

 

Syncresis Ltd. Company no. 3548391. Registered in England and Wales. Registered office: 14 Wolverton Avenue, Kingston upon Thames, KT2 7QD. Vat No. 711 0818 74

All material on this page is copyright of Syncresis Ltd, 2005-2009, unless otherwise stated.

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