Institutionalizing PPM: The Human Factor - Page 1

Apr 16, 2007

Jeff Monteforte

As the axiom goes, “Any good idea can be implemented poorly!” Despite all the analysis, use of best practices, and diligent planning—even a well constructed PPM process—can produce detrimental results if not implemented properly.

As I’ve stated in previous columns, the PPM equation follows the 20/80 rule: 20% percent of PPM success is getting the process aspects right and 80% is getting the people or human behavior aspects right.

Like any deployment of a new or revised control process, your PPM method introduces change in the lives of people who must participate in it. As we all should know by now, the natural human response to change is to resist it.

This resistance comes in several forms and it is essential that you are aware of them and can recognize them. Moreover, there are techniques that you can employ up front that help avoid, or at least, minimize the behavior of resistance.

Overcoming Resistance

Let’s begin by understanding the primary emotions behind the different behaviors of resistance. For executives and senior managers, the introduction of PPM causes the emotional response of “loss of control." Where they once knew that if they screamed loud enough and long enough they’d get the attention of the CIO and the IT department.

The structured discipline of a PPM process is designed to quiet the “squeaky wheel,” thus eliminating the executives’ tried and true method of getting their IT projects worked on.

For middle managers and staff personnel, the introduction of PPM creates the feelings of “incompetence” and “lack of confidence,” because they now are required to follow a new process, with new forms, new responsibilities, new contact names, and the like.

So, let’s discuss how these emotions present themselves in the form of actions and behaviors and learn what tactics we can take to manage them.

Generalized Criticism

While accurate, well thought out critical feedback can improve a situation, generalized, broad-brushed criticism can be very damaging to a new idea being introduced inside a company.

There is always a subset of people who look at the introduction of a new idea as “open season” for sniping remarks. Most times these folks do not voice their opinions in open forums, but in private conversations in their cubicles or at the lunch table.

They attempt to build support by generalizing potential issues, such as, “This is just more bureaucracy. This is just another impediment to getting the work done.” Many times they sound so convincing and sure of themselves, they are rarely challenged to support their critical statements with facts.

The best way to manage these generic critics is to anticipate that they’ll appear as soon as your idea is introduced to the organization. The best way to head this off is to work with HR and senior business leaders and treat this issue as the larger organizational and cultural issue that it is.

Plan many public forums where critics can come and vent their frustrations. As critics appear, you must address them one at a time and make them accountable for their words. At every opportunity, challenge the critics to back up their statements with facts and be prepared to counter what they say with the facts that you have on the topic.

Welcome criticism, but shun unspecific and generalized disparaging comments and do it in public forums as much as possible.

The Agnostic Manager

Every company has their “wait-and-see” managers. These are managers afraid to take risk. Some might call them “survivors” because they always seem to avoid being in the cross hairs of upper management.

Their longevity is a direct result of their ability to avoid commitment to anything that is not readily accepted as the norm. In short, they do not rock the boat. Unfortunately, they don’t help row the boat either.

Their lack of commitment translates into a lack of active support and participation. Your job is to establish the environment that will not let these agnostics abandon their roles as change agents.

Similar to managing generic criticism, this behavior needs to be treated as the larger organizational and cultural issue that it is. So, prior to launching the new PPM process, work with HR and senior management to put the proper organizational mechanisms in place that no longer tolerates the do-nothing, agnostic manager.

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