This is the final of four posts based on my experience at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s Executive Education for Sustainability Leadership program that I took in November 2017, led by Dr. Leith Sharp, integrated with some of our GPM Global content where appropriate. The intent of these posts is to show some interesting research and recommendations by Harvard around sustainability that can be applied to project management. The intent of the program is to educate leaders to “learn powerful new strategies for enacting high-impact sustainability leadership that positions sustainability as a driver of organizational engagement, authenticity, agility, innovation, and change-capability.” I recommend others to consider this excellent program. This is a complementary offering to GPM’s sustainable project management training and practices.
The first post dealt with understanding the organizational ecosystems and the impacts of change on people and cultures. The second post provided background on how to identify two organizational “operating systems” that do not traditionally work well together. The third and previous post provides background on the strategy and research on new idea life cycles and the resulting model to analyze these project initiatives. This final post will deal with the strategy, tools and techniques, or method, of how to empower the two “operating systems” identified in the second post to successfully implement important organizational change and deliver the expected project outcomes and benefits.
The program provided valuable lessons, tools and techniques including an exceptional model for dealing with the different political landscapes and “operating systems” within organizations and providing strategies for how to use this insight to better implement change. Particularly multi-stakeholder and transformational change.
This post’s graphics and content were adapted from the Harvard University Executive Education for Sustainability Leadership November 2017 program presentations by Dr. Leith Sharp.
We have discussed that there are significant challenges for new ideas and new changes within organizational cultures and social structures. We have identified some key groups to work with, and we have developed some models to analyze new idea life cycles to come up with approaches to improve change initiatives. The key is to provide recommendations in a way that makes sense for stakeholders. The question we left the last post of with was, how do we present a strategy or model to help the two operating systems work together that has been demonstrated by research to facilitate success of new ideas?
The last post highlighted a Forward Idea Flow Mapping Template to record and analyze new idea life cycles.
Out of the research by Dr. Sharp’s team, one of the recommendations is the following method for approaching organizational change. This model encourages focusing on a timely Iteration between the two operating systems (arrhythmic).
So… lets start at the beginning. We will go through each milestone now in detail. For each organization, the Command and Control Operating System (CCOS) will already have a strategy and usually each initiative is strategically aligned. The Adaptive Operating System (AOS) is adaptive in its purpose and focus to get the job done.
So, when a NEW IDEA surfaces, each will engage based on its values and strengths as outlined in the second of these four posts.
Each of the identified milestones has a pivot point… they can go on or fail there.
An unfortunate approach in many projects at the initial stages is to use the project mandate as a “bat” to force engagement and participation. However, the mandate is a finite type of capital. It also has the annoying characteristic of causing more social friction and disengagement within the organization(s) when forced, so forcing the mandate actually causes more harm than good.
This use of mandate first as a driver almost always leads to the following sequence:
The Mandate & Fix It demand leads to the We Will Fix It, which then leads to the How do you Want Us to Fix It which then once again leads to the Mandate & Fix It demand which starts the cycle all over again.
The lessons learned from Harvard recommend relying less on the miss-perceived value of the finite mandate capital to force change. Rather, it has proven that it is better for the project teams to engage differently with the Adaptive Operative System (AOS) and Command Control Operating System (CCOS) to empower synergy.
Each Operating System is engaged to do what it does best, at the right time in the idea life cycle. Here we see the CCOS identifying that the NEW IDEA aligns with the strategy and is the right. It authorizes the Mandate, and gives permission to move forward. The AOS champions use the permission to engage with the organization to start to move forward asking questions such as what do you think and what, if any, are your concerns.
The AOS team starts to come up with possible ideas and requirements and options, for the NEW IDEA. These will have to be introduced to the CCOS Sponsors for consideration, advice and validation.
From the ideas some early adopters will come forward with some designs. These designs will need to be discussed and validated with the CCOS Sponsors to confirm that the organization is moving forward in the right way based on organizational priorities and resource, time, cost and risk constraints. CCOS will be working on it’s sensing, or engaging the stakeholder ecosystem enough during the next milestones.
All of this leads to the next milestones:
Based on the early designs and the feedback from CCOS, the AOS will start piloting some of the designs.
This provides a critical de-risking service for the organization. The key question for AOS to ask the CCOS is what risks to you see… what are the threats so that they can be mitigated and accepted by the CCOS? The CCOS needs this iteration to de-risk the design to become a viable solution. The de-risking process has to prove the idea itself is viable and prove that the CCOS can integrate the new idea into business as usual or the current ecosystem. Iterating between the CCOS and AOS surfaces all CCOS risks and generates the right evidence in the right format for the CCOS decision-makers.
At this point with the pilots and de-risking exercise to mitigate the threats and create more successful solutions, the AOS continues to engage in its peer to peer network to identify any more risks and engage people about the problem, opportunity and possible solution to get their feedback and involvement to make it more sustainable and scalable. If you consider the Prosci ADKAR model, this would be the ADK steps of the people and organization readiness for change. Awareness of the need for change, Desire to support the change, and starting to develop the Knowledge of how to change.
At the same time, as the solution becomes more acceptable to the CCOS, they begin to activate the decision making process so they know what is required from a governance perspective to obtain approval to move forward. Constantly iterate in and out of the Chain of Command Operating System to surface all risks, and identify and get all decision-makers on board by addressing all of their needs, and identifying the decision making process.
Once there is a solution that satisfies the organizational needs, is cost-effective, sustainable, scalable and risk acceptable it is ready for formal approval, scaling and rolling out. The AOS with their shared ownership will help with the acceptance, adoption and integration of the solution into the organization.
Using these techniques, the focus should be to reduce risk and build capital across the organizational ecosystem (and sometimes beyond) by iterating between the AOS & CCOS.
Organizational Design Principles for Idea Flow
- Design for enough sensing – engaging the stakeholder ecosystem enough
- Emphasize psychological safety and practices that enhance group intelligence
- Find your AOS champions & your CCOS sponsors as soon as you can
- Get the CCOS to signal permission/invitation for involvement in the idea life cycle
- Design for enough iterating between CCOS and AOS
- Iterate (where possible pilot) to resolve risks & generate evidence for the CCOS
- Create peer to peer influence to increase engagement through the AOS
- Match the moves to the operating system that is best suited
- Design ways for the AOS to reduce expenditure of mandate capital
(Dr. Leith Sharp, 2017-3)
Communication and Understanding Between the Operating Systems
Throughout the process there will be a requirement for an ongoing and adequate translation between the two operation systems:
A New AOS Mindset: Iterating to De-Risk
A New CCOS Mindset: Iterating to De-Risk
The AOS de-risks new ideas to digestible levels for the CCOS to scale/structure:
The healthy idea flow addresses the two different domains or operating systems synergistically. It is part of the process of retraining the CCOS to iterate with the AOS towards thresholds.
Healthy idea life cycles reduce uncertainty, reduce risk & ensure stability
Aligning the Method with the Sustainable Project Management Standard
GPM Global is the world leader in sustainable projects. GPM designed the first sustainable project management method PRojects Integrating Sustainable Methods (PRiSM). The PRiSM Project Life-Cycle and Phases are integrated into the New Idea Sustainable Project Life-Cycle Method.
It is also recommended to use GPM’s P5 risk mitigation tool to assess the sustainable threats and opportunities that may occur in the people, planet and prosperity sustainability domains while managing the projects processes and delivering the project’s products.
This four-part blog post series has dealt with:
- Organizational Dynamics Set the Stage for Change
- Understanding Organizational “Operating Systems”
- Discovering the Squiggle on Projects
- A New Idea Sustainable Project Life-Cycle Method
There was a lot of content and ideas, with background references provided. A characteristic of all projects is that they are all different. This means that the way they are dealt with and managed requires the approach to be tailored to the industry, culture, ecosystems, priorities, constraints, stakeholder needs and other factors. This means each project will be managed differently. These four blog posts have provided a lot of tools, techniques and a method that can be part of your tool-kit that can be customized to your situation, experience and capabilities.
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