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Change: going slowly to go quickly

1st November 2007

How are you? I’ve been very busy: writing articles and presenting at a conference last month. We’ve opened the Making Projects Work bookshop – have a look at the best books on projects, programmes and meetings that we can find:


Are your favourites there? Let me know so that we can include them too.

From ‘Slow’ to ‘Speedy’

A young, high-flying executive asked me this week, ‘Why does change have to happen so slowly?’

We’re designing a big workshop together to communicate the new vision for his organisation. With all the staff, we will work out what this will mean for the future. It’s a big change so we’re taking it slowly. The aim is to move forward together, with everyone knowing exactly what they are doing and why. At this early stage of change, it’s just what’s needed.

However, the leaders feel that it is slow. They’ve been aware of the vision for a long time and just want to get on with it. I’m sure that project and programme managers, and analysts, often feel the same way. I know that I have! However, I have seen that it is false speed to rush into change. Why is this so?

We are in the midst of constant change and so are the people we work with. The groundbreaking book ‘Future Shock’ showed this back in 1970 and life has accelerated since then. That’s the background, even before we throw projects into the mix!

Eddie Obeng bases his project management books on the premise that change is now happening faster than the rate at which organisations can learn.

Mark Winter describes 21st century project management as an ever changing flux of events, situations and complex issues. How does that sound to you?

How do people make projects work in this environment?

An effective way of tackling complexity and uncertainty is to get people together. They can build a way forward in a changing context. That’s why good meetings and workshops are so key in projects nowadays.

Earlier this month, I spent a morning with a group of experienced facilitators. We focused on where we had seen great facilitation transform projects and programmes. Most of these were early in projects – clarifying a shared vision, gaining stakeholder engagement, defining benefits, building the team, and identifying risks. I feel that these are a great set of proven ideas:

  • generating different ways of looking at a project
  • imagining possibilities
  • building the case for change
  • participatory planning (so people are more engaged)
  • help to understand what they want to do
  • listening to wide viewpoints
  • describing a coherent solution

Of course, facilitation was useful later on as well, for:

  • reflecting on how to improve
  • learning lessons
  • reviews.

What about you?

Are you going slowly enough at the start of the changes you lead?

How do you know? Do you allow enough time to build engagement with your wider project team and stakeholders?

How could great facilitation transform your projects?

© 2007 Making Projects Work Ltd., All rights reserved. You are free to use material from this Making Projects Work newsletter in whole or in part, as long as you include this attribution, including a live web site link. Please also notify me where the material will appear.

“By Penny Pullan of Making Projects Work Ltd.”

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