projects are customarily developed by a series of teams working along
parallel tracks. If managers fail to anticipate everything that might
fall through the cracks, those tracks will not converge successfully at
the end to reach the goal. Take a company-wide CRM project.
Traditionally, one team might analyze customers, another select the
software, a third develop training programs, and so forth. When the
project is finally complete, though, it may turn out that the
salespeople won't enter in the requisite data because they don't
understand why they need to. There is a way to uncover unanticipated
problems while the project is still in development. The key is to inject
into the overall plan a series of mini-projects, or "Rapid-Results
Initiatives," that each have as their goal a miniature version of the
overall goal. In the CRM project, a single team might be charged with
increasing the revenues of one sales group in one region by 25% within
four months. To reach that goal, team members would have to draw on the
work of all the parallel teams. But in just four months, they would
discover the salespeople's resistance and probably other unforeseen
issues, such as, perhaps, the need to divvy up commissions for
joint-selling efforts. The World Bank has used Rapid-Results Initiatives
to great effect to keep a sweeping 16-year project on track and deliver
visible results years ahead of schedule.
When a promising project does not deliver, chances are the problem
wasn't the idea but how it was carried out. Here is a way to design
projects that guards against unnecessary failure.
Harvard Business Review, September 2003
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