Just about every organization has projects or pockets of people doing exceptional work – with or without sophisticated project management tools. Here is one approach that has helped ensure we didn’t squash these efforts as we further improved project management in the organization.
In “The Toyota Way” the story is told of Chrysler’s great quality resurgence after they were bailed out by the US Government. Toyota, who had been leading the world in automobile quality, saw Chrysler as the first US company that had finally figured out how to produce quality automobiles. They were concerned by Chrysler’s potential to challenge them unlike any other US manufacturer. Luckily, in a sense, Chrysler was bought out and the new owners proceeded to squash their culture and let go management that had enacted the improvements.
How many times have we seen new management come in, take command, and in taking charge and initiating change, crush the good things that were going on? I’ve seen many of these. When I take on a new organization one key step I take is to specifically identify the pockets of excellence in the organization. I use these as examples of what we need to do more of in the organization and by being aware of them, there is less chance we will make a change that undermines their continued success.
Probably the simplest way to find these pockets of excellence is to simply walk around and talk to people. I knew an Air Force Brigadier General, who on taking command, set up a series of meetings with folks picked at random. In the meeting, which I had been randomly picked to attend, he explained why he had meetings like this. He said he remembers when he was a Colonel (the rank just below a Brigadier) and how he and the other Colonels managed the information that went to their Brigadier. He realized that his commander was making decisions on very selectively “cherry picked” information. He decided, when selected to be a general officer, that he would find a way to avoid this over-filtering of information by his Colonels.
Your pockets of excellence are often the source of your organization’s next great project or innovation. You may want to take action to identify and encourage these pockets to ensure they flourish and so they don’t get squashed by other improvement initiatives or changes.