Q: How do you balance the managerial desire to set achievable, visible targets with the organic desire that all organizations have for refining and changing designs and definitions?
A: Your question underscores the importance of defining projects so that they deliver value in six to nine months. The organizational desire you refer to stems from the constant evolution of our perceptions and beliefs, based on changes in our environment and what we have learned from our previous actions. If we help the business realize value quickly, we minimize the impact of environmental changes and we enhance the success of the overall program.
Q: Your advice is good for the private sector, but how do you apply these principles in the public sector, where procurements often exceed the organizational attention span you describe?
A: Procurement in the public sector is a lengthy process because of the work involved with preparing an RFP (which includes the scope of work and requirements) and obtaining multiple bids. Robert Buse, deputy CIO of the Arizona Department of Economic Security, believes that if you plan ahead, the public sector procurement process should not be a barrier to fast-cycle development. He says that “every IT organization should build a working relationship with its procurement authority. You would be surprised how fast RFPs can be processed when you have taken the time and made the effort to partner with the procurement personnel.”
Q: How would a management-by-projects methodology be affected by this organizational physics?
A: Utilizing a disciplined project management methodology is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for project success because these methodologies do not ensure business sponsor accountability for results, real-world metrics and short-cycle iterative development.
Q: The context of your message seems to be saying that organizational strategy can be a shot in the dark, regardless of the capabilities of the IT group.
A: Strategy is not a shot in the dark. Strategy is not random because it’s formulated by leaders who have expertise in both the marketplace and the organization. It’s more like a series of shots at a fuzzy target. Even IT groups with outstanding capabilities will fail if they depend on long-cycle approaches that assume the world is certain and the cast of characters is stable.