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How to Avoid an Overcommitted Organization

by Richard Lynch, on Nov 21, 2017 12:42:57 PM

Focus During ChangeI was struck by the juxtaposition of two articles on the front cover of the Sept-Oct issue of Harvard Business Review. At the top of the cover is GE CEO Jeff Immelt’s article on leading transformation – by all accounts a daunting and messy business, often with mixed results. The feature article below it is about the “overcommitted organization.” It overwhelms the page. 

When business models change, as they do in many industries, a lot must happen to reinvent the business. Without a clear, compelling and consistent strategic focus for prioritizing projects, leaders can overload the organization with unnecessary projects and burn out its “precious resources”— the key talent in the organization.

The Overcommitted Organization

Authors Mark Mortensen and Heidi Gardner capture three transformation megatrends that, when combined with rapidly changing business models, rip the very fabric of organizations.

  1. "Organizations must draw on expertise in multiple disciplines to solve many large, complex problems. They can’t rely on generalists to come up with comprehensive, end-to-end solutions. They must combine the contributions of experts with deep knowledge in various domains." An unintended consequence is that these precious resources are stretched thin and are subject to burn-out.
  2. "With crowded markets, reduced geographic and industry barriers, organizations now face greater pressure to keep costs down." Teams are forced to multitask and sacrifice learning and development time.
  3. "Organizational models are moving away from hierarchical, centralized staffing to give employees more choice in their projects and improve talent development, engagement, and retention." The implications of this shift falls heavily on project leaders.  Not only do they have to keep pace with the hard skills (new platforms, technology, Agile PM, etc.) they must become versed in the the soft skills (e.g., cognitive or emotional empathy and  time management) so that employees stay engaged and are productive. 
Avoiding the Overcommitment Trap

The lessons below capture Jeff Immelt’s advice on transformation efforts, to combat these three megatrends, alongside how Accelare’s WorkFit tool can assist the  Enterprise Program Manager Office in organizational transformation:

Lesson 1

Transformation requires discipline and focus. Leadership’s role is make sure initiatives are interconnected and they connect the dots for everyone in the organization. WorkFit, Accelare’s S2E tool, allows leaders to connect mission and vision to strategic goals which can be linked to the corporate, growth and business strategy strategies. These drive the future capabilities required for transformation. Project Managers  can then align resources on portfolios, programs and projects to close prioritized capability gaps.

Lesson 2

Leaders need to be curious and contemplative as they absorb important trends and developments (and how it impacts strategic timing). Workfit helps to  focus decision making in the right time span. A shift in strategy is not in the scope of daily scrums. Periodic (quarterly, semi-annual) alignment of the investment roadmap assure learnings (new technology, new competitors, etc.) are absorbed and are addressed in the right time frame.

Lesson 3

Leaders should be all in; half measures are the death of transformation. Accelare's Next Gen Portfolio Management services  make project execution accountability tangible, measurable  and transparent.

Lesson 4

Transformations require staying power; they take time. They require grit and risk taking. WorkFit's  S2E investment roadmap and Scaled Agile techniques keeps things in focus and moving ahead, while creating victories along the way. Jim Collins in Great by Choice, calls this the 20 mile march."

Lesson 5

Be willing to pivot based on what you learn. WorkFit lays out productive course to execute strategy but allows PMs to navigate through a series of course corrections.  The use of agile project management and Scrum of Scrums to coordinate efforts (both within and across teams) promotes learning, engagement and adaptability.

Lesson 6

Embrace new talentWorkfit aligns enabling functions like Talent Management and IT to the future state model. This ensures new competencies are identified quicker and new talent is blended into the organization so that business value is delivered quicker. 

For more information on Scaled Agile and our EPMO services visit our service page.

For more information on how WorkFit can connect the dots for everyone in you organization contact us for a demo below!

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