(Format shamelessly stolen from Guy Kawasaki’s Blog “How to Change the World”, check it out!) Okay, so they're not dirty big “lies”, more like the white untruths, miscalculations, obfuscations and poor judgments that companies (we’ll call them “clients”) generally say just before starting on a large scale initiative. If you have ever been involved in an ERP system implementation or any other sort of project with a big organizational impact (As a consultant or a client) then it is likely that you have either heard or used these at one time or another. 1. Yes, we will make sure that all of the documents are ready for when you arrive Like most of these “lies” this one is very well intentioned; just wrong. The people making these statements have often never seen the technical documents, nor do they have any idea if they even exist, neither would they know where to find them if they needed to. The people who do know where they are often would not make these claims because they were lost years ago, or they are spread out in several peoples desks and offices or they have never been seen since Noah was a boy! Sometimes companies do have good technical libraries, but this is beside the point. Don’t take any assumptions about this one. If the project is planning to have these and doesn’t, it can upset the entire time line! 2. Providing office space and administrative resources for the team will be no problem at all. Correction, this will probably be the hardest thing you will have to do! There is almost never any free space, or if there is it is in an isolated part of the company’s estates that nobody has seen since the entire division was downsized. (And even then it will be a fight!) This is a good example of how project sponsors or managers tend to over estimate the importance of their project. (The operations, plant and maintenance managers) And when admin assistance is needed it is often some poor overworked clerical assistant or secretary who cannot possibly meet all the demands of the project and her day job! Get commitment first, and then work out how to deal with this one! It is easier to deal with this problem before you get a room filled with egotistical consultants and megalomaniacal project managers. 3. We will take care of the communications issues. Well intentioned and probably something that you thought you could do. My experience has been that when this is run wholly internally, meaning by the client alone without assistance from the consultancy, it often ends in tears. Why? Because of one small miscalculation, the people carrying out the communications and trying to change the culture of the company’s employees are often the same people that they have been working alongside for many years. So they have the same workplace culture anyway, they are familiar with each other and know each others faults and histories (not always great). Also there is a need to get very serious about this. The project is often in the millions, sometimes even in the tens of millions, and you want to entrust the change of workplace culture (and communications of these changes) to an ex-division manager who worked through a couple of big projects like this before. Okay, sometimes it works but we should be realistic. This can’t be amateur week if you are spending that kind of money. Cultural change is the bedrock that will ensure the success or failure of the initiative over the long term. Understand what the challenges are (really understand it) check out your options and if necessary spend the money to get it right the first time! 4. Don’t worry, if we tell them to be there for training they will be there! Um...no, they probably won’t. This is a standard sort of line that project sponsors and managers give. Why? Several reasons, they overestimate their ability to get things done (this is after all probably a big step both for the company and for this person specifically) or they have underestimated the workload that the sites and departments that have to implement this are already facing. Organizing training is a pretty intensive and difficult thing to do! What about:
- Turnaround schedules and when people are likely to be busy doing other things?
- Heavy vacation periods? (August and December for example?)
- Other initiatives that are on the go at present?
- Work rosters?
- Current workloads and the ability or otherwise of the department to spare that person for one to three days of training?
- Resources for training and their availability? (Rooms, projectors, flip charts etc)
- Are they even interested? (The people or the plants / departments?)