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Beware the knowledge gap

Mind The Gap
This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY

There are many things that can derail a systems improvement project, from under-budgeting to time slippages, to lack of communication. However, one problem that can be a challenge from the very start is the knowledge gap between you, as the CEO commissioning the project and those who will be managing it or using the finished product.

All the power, no knowledge

Anyone commissioning a project clearly has different objectives to those implementing it, and this manifests itself in a different approach to completing the project, as well as implementing the processes along the way.

For example:

  • Unrealistic deadlines – With no real understanding of how long different aspects of the technical project will take to complete, it is possible to impose unrealistic deadlines to suit your own business agenda (to increase productivity and profitability to please the shareholders for example).
  • Lack of resources – Without taking into account the current roles and expectations on staff, the additional work of the project could put great pressure on them to complete both roles, resulting in long hours, stress and poor motivation.

Additionally, the current work force may not have the skills required to complete the project – and assumptions could be made that the staff can handle it. This can result in no budget being allocated to outsource or get contractors which can mean a bodged job by unskilled people.

  • Unrealistic Budget – With no true understanding of the different components of the project and what needs to be done, the budgeting can sometimes be unrealistic. If there is a capped budget this can lead to the wrong suppliers being engaged, substandard equipment being purchased, or a massive overspend.
  • Lack of understanding – The success of a project is hinged on whether at the end of it there is a product that does what is intended for the people it is aimed at. So, without understanding the challenges the team faces before creating a project to solve those challenges then the end product will not be successful.

Avoid them and us

This knowledge gap between senior management and the project team shouldn’t actually create any problems if it is addressed early on. And the key is continual, honest communication.

Also appreciate that there will be people on the project team who have a better grasp of certain technical aspects of the project than you do. For the project to be successful, their ideas and experience need to be acknowledged and listened to and where appropriate incorporated into the project brief.

Everyone involved in a project has valuable skills and knowledge which can make the project a success if only everyone is prepared to be honest and to keep talking – even if some of the reports are not what you want to hear.

Solving these problems before the project starts is preferable as fundamental flaws in the brief (like budget, skills and resources) will not smooth out as the project progresses. They will only get worse, potentially derailing the entire project.

However, this isn’t often the case, and it is only halfway through a project that it is clear some help is needed before the entire project needs to be scrapped. This is where Brandon Cross can come in, as we can act as the independent reviewer and the translator between the project managers and the senior management. We can help identify where the challenges are as well as the best way to get the systems improvement project back on track to success.