Filling Execution Gaps

Filling Execution Gaps Book Cover

by Todd C. Williams
ISBN: 978-1-5015-0640-6
De G Press (DeGruyter), September 2017

Project alignment, executive sponsorship, change management, governance, leadership, and common understanding. These six business issues are topics of daily discussions between executives, middle management, and project managers; they are the pivotal problems plaguing transformational leadership. Any one of these six, when improperly addressed, will hex a project's chances for success. And, they do—daily—destroying the ability companies to turn vision into value.

Without the foundation of a common understanding of goals and core concepts, such as value being critical to success, communication stops and projects fail.

Without change management, users fail to adopt project deliverables, value is lost, and projects fail.

Without maintaining alignment between corporate goals and projects, projects miss their value targets and projects fail.

Without an engaged executive sponsor, scope increases, goals drift, chaos reigns, value is lost, and projects fail.

Without enough governance, critical connections are not made, steps are ignored, value is overlooked, and projects fail.

Too much governance slows progress, companies cannot respond to business pressures, value drowns in bureaucracy, and projects fail.

Without strong leadership defining the vision and value, goals are not set, essential relationships do not form, teams do not develop, essential decisions are not made, and projects fail.

Image of the Gaps

This hexad (see image on left), in unity, is critical in translating corporate strategy and goals into project success. It is at the heart of transformational leadership. Organizations continually struggle, however, at implementing these component elements effectively. For instance, they may start by implementing a change management process. When they find their projects still not being adopted, they decide to focus on another gap, say governance. Their energy directed toward change management wanes as governance is the new shiny ball and projects still miss their value targets. Maybe they see some gains from adding rudimentary process and decide, “If some is good, more must be better!” and bureaucracies are born. If they focus on educating senior managers on how execution connects to strategy without ensuring the rest of the organization has a common understanding, the gap remains. It has to be a holistic effort. The secret is not ensuring any one of these items is covered; the solution must encompass all of them.

Disregarding any of these areas create fatal execution gaps. Part of every manager's job is finding and filling these gaps. Their nightmare is missing one that causes the organization to stumble. Unfortunately, research and experience show the nightmare is justified. When companies fail to meet their goals, a set of these items has inevitably been neglected, creating unforgiving gaps that suck projects, and even careers, into an abysmal black hole.

Filling Execution Gaps' goal is identifying and filling these six common gaps enabling repeated successful project execution. Being at the core of transformational leadership, this is a high-interest topic in today's business. Achieving this allows the organization to be nimble and adjust to market pressures quickly, efficiently, and effectively.

When filled, these six gaps become success factors. It is critical, though, that each person in the organization understands their role, from executives to the project managers, to project team members, to end users. Although senior executives do not need to know the intricacies of change management; they need to assign someone who does. Senior executives, though, do have specific change responsibilities (such as being the change champion) and often need to be accountable for the change.

Equally, project managers do not need to know how executives build a corporate vision, but they need to understand whether their project is in line with the strategy and, if not, how to fix it.

Without this, projects miss their value target and fail at alarming rates; some estimates are as high as 70% of projects fail to meet their goals. Numerous books cover rescuing these failures (including the author's Rescue the Problem Project), others address technical project issues, and others address single-point issues like leadership, organization change management, or achieving corporate goals. None have researched integrating these actions to prevent the failure as Filling Gaps in Strategy and Project Execution does.

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