Entrerpeneur’s Diary #68 – So How Do You Generate Projects?

A polemic approach …

This is another article inspired by Jens Hofmann’s post “Projects are Detrimental for the Health of Your Enterprise!”

Well, they just happen all of a sudden: the projects. Like the sun, the moon and the stars. But how are they generated? How is a project born? To me, it seems like the procedure in administration and business is often as follows:

Someone has an idea because he wants to improve something. Perhaps he wants to optimize a process. Save time and resources.

Get a better transparency or better control production. Or he wants to advance his own profile and add a few browny points to his carreer ladder.

As a general rule, the protagonists of new ideas are “leaders“ who are fascinated by their own ideas and can also fascinate others. Sometimes they know more, sometimes less about the technological details. But that is not the decisive issue.

Change is on the agenda. You have to do some re-structuring. You need new technology, a new machine. And almost always an IT solution. The protagonist becomes the “champion“ of his idea, develops influence and gives his idea some credibility in the “enterprise“.

This is how the idea turns into some sort of “model“. Said model is sometimes based on more or less bold assumptions. General certainties and fashions become part of the considerations. A concept is drawn up showing how much you can save and how much you need to invest. The profit is calculated and the frist plans are developed.

During a highly exciting proccess which is, however, hard to control, the model becomes an often (very) huge endeavour. The protagonist will look for allies, because you need to invest for the actual realization of your idea.

Assumptions and opininions become reality. Said reality is set in stone by writing a to-do list and supported by columns of numbers. Then it is all transferred to the board of directors. The directors, naturally, do not have the technological background to judge which of the proposed endeavours make sense. Sometimes they ask a few prudent questions, use common sense and follow their intuition. In the end, however, they will decide in favour of those projects that promise to render the highest profit, i.e. where you can save the most money and need to invest the least.

After the board of directors have given their consent, the project has to have an audit. It is subjected to a thorough inspection. No formal mistakes can be allowed. Due to the huge number of projects in a modern enterprise, the audits sometimes tend to turn into a conveyor-belt routine.

The budget will be authorized, A series of kick-off-meetings will be scheduled. Plans will be refined and methods will be discussed and selected. And finally, the deadline will be defined.

Then the project starts. The project wins momentum, it develops a life (of its own?). The enthusiasm of all parties concerned grows. And with some projects, so does the number of critical voices. Because some people will not believe that the endeavour is realistic and doubt that it will render the expected result.

The project control phase is initiated. Milestones are determined, then either met or postponed. And if a project turns out a success, then we all celebrate (with all justification, too). Measures to ensure quality, safety, information and data security accompany the whole process.

Unfortunately, it is nowhere near as easy as that. The project ignores the parameters it has been given. It breaks the cage that limited its deadline and costs. In many enterprises, the project signal is constantly on “RED“. Cost and deadlines are often massively exceeded.

After they have been installed, many projects are far from meeting the expectations. Then you have to do a lot of mending.

The IT sector is not the only field where that happens. Agile and iterative methods may sometimes improve matters. There is one advantage: errors made with respect to the goals are not implemented. Instead, they are discovered earlier and corrected. Consequently, new cultures such as SCRUM and KANBAN might well improve matters considerably. But they, too, will not be able to solve the project problem..

So let me counter with a utopian idea:

A truly continuous and mutually constructed improvement process borne by all the stakeholders of an enterprise. With all parties concerned working together as allies at eye-level in a manageable, small, inidependent and de-centralized team. And for this development to be nourished by ideas from the “bottom“. Through “empowering of people” for all employees of an enterprise.

Reality or Utopia? Or wiill it have to become reality in order for us to better understand our complex world? Because it will not be possible for us to endlessly live in luxury at the cost of nature and third parties.

(Translated by EG)
Almost all counselling stories tell us about such a concept actually functioning with KAIZEN (empowering of people). Where are the former Kaizen experts? Now that would also be worth a few articles, wouldn’t it?

You will find all my entrepreneur’s diary articles if you click here: Drehscheibe!

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