By Chad Sands, manager, P&C systems, State Farm Insurance Cos.
Large initiatives often fail to live up to expectations not only due to their size and complexity, but also due to the number of interested parties and competing priorities they tend to attract. Leadership decisions prior to the launch of a large initiative do more to establish its ultimate trajectory than perhaps any other factor. The following are three practices which can help ensure your initiative launches with the best chance for success.1. Limit the number of parties with decision rights.
There are times in the development lifecycle when parallelism of effort is key to delivery pace and success. Pre-project planning isn't one of them. A small, persistent, dedicated group of leaders with the authority to make foundational business and IT decisions will always outperform large or disparate planning efforts prior to launch. Allowing the group of business and IT decision makers to grow too big too fast contributes to undisciplined decision making and diffusion of accountability. Keeping the circle of decision makers small, especially early on, helps to avoid continual revisiting of direction by building organizational memory around the factors influencing decisions. 2. Eliminate "role creep" by establishing clear boundaries between direction and execution.
The launch of a new initiative is an exciting time full of opportunities to deliver new value and to "do things right this time". Often, desires to do things better involve efforts to bring more business and IT voices to the table representing all facets of the initiative. As healthy as this can be, it also injects the risk of "role creep" if the spirit of camaraderie and shared purpose devolves into unproductive meddling. Establishing and enforcing boundaries at the outset of a large initiative, particularly between direction-oriented and execution-oriented roles, provides a healthy level of constraint and helps maintain focus and accountability within a diverse core team.
3. Establish initiative "non-negotiables" and scope priorities prior to launch.
This is an obvious one, but so much easier said than done! Every organization has a set of pent up requirements just waiting for the "right" initiative to come along and deliver them. Announcing plans for an initiative of enterprise scale will make you the most popular kid on the block as departments descend to explain how their priorities are your priorities and can help make your effort successful. Consensus-oriented organizational cultures are particularly susceptible to allowing too many ideas at the table and failing to narrow down scope. Removing your initiative from the critical path of delivering everyone else's priorities is crucial to focused execution. Establishing the initiative's business and IT "non-negotiables" through effective enterprise architecture practices is the surest way to blunt scope creep...however well-intentioned.
About the Author: Chad Sands, CPCU, CLU is manager, P&C systems at State Farm Insurance. His responsibilities include P&C customer acquisition, underwriting, and policy administration. Contact the author at chad.m.sands.gh4i at statefarm.com.