The COO of a large company (> 10,000 employees) calls, briefly describes the problem and invites me to an initial meeting. He is joined by the CEO and representatives from controlling and legal services.
For several months now, the CEO has been trying to get the company’s most important projects back on track after reports of the progress of the project had been glossed over (sometimes incorrectly) for a long time. Several attempts with well-known consulting firms have failed. Countless meetings, workshops, minutes and extensive reports have permanently annoyed managers and employees. Controlling forms have been adjusted, processes redefined, but the expected (and promised) improvement has not materialized.
The next day I send my future client a short written analysis of the problem together with an initial proposal for action.
In order not to lose any time, we agree on a pragmatic approach, ie concentration on the 7 most important projects of the company. After a brief study of the files, I verify the expectations of the management: what should be achieved with each project? The status of the individual projects emerges from confidential discussions with the project managers and other people. It is already apparent that some of the projects cannot meet expectations, even with the best management – why was it approved anyway? Initial feedback is given to the CEO. He decides on the basis of my applications, which I submit to him in variants (with advantages and disadvantages).
The next steps – again in personal discussions with those involved – are about aligning the projects with the will of the CEO and management, correcting mistakes and, in particular, rebuilding trust that has been lost. After the projects have stabilized to some extent, it is a matter of building up the necessary skills for successful project management within the company, since the company should be able to do this successfully without my support in the long term.
Results and insights
After the planned two years, the process will be completed. More than half of the problem projects could be brought back on track. However, we had to restart several projects because they had no chance of success from the start. Individual projects are still in a critical state today, but the chance of success can now be rated much higher than the risk of failure.
The success factors may seem banal: Committed people who are open to new paths. Capable project managers, deployed correctly and in the right project for them, “fight” for the project’s success. A simple, unbureaucratic but meaningful controlling (only crucial information) enables a targeted control. A fair error culture is demanded and promoted by superiors at all levels; this means there is less glossing over and lying.