Thursday, 25 June 2015

Games playing and the 'non-available manager'

I've seen people playing politics in business and I rarely like it.  As a PM I see this all the time and although I accept that's how people often do business, it seems to me that it's much more destructive than helpful.

It always reminds me of the opening comments from one of my project management lecturers:

Him: (to class) "Hands up if you don't like politics"

(People gingerly put up their hands, not knowing if they should or not.)

Him: "If you've got your hand up, don't become a project manager."

I don't fully agree with this.  I don't like politics, but I make a reasonably good BA and PM.  I think that you need to be aware of politics, but you shouldn't get involved...if possible.  You should also discourage it in others.

There is a simple truth here.  People don't play politics all that well, but they think that they do.  Funnily, we're just older versions of the kids in the playground - sulky, bullying, stopping other kids having the toys - often just because it's possible to do that.  Is that you?

The worst part is that the BA/PM is you best ally in getting your business change delivered, but you constantly get fobbed off.  Why you'd go to the trouble of asking for something and then stopping it happening; or denying access to assets, people or knowledge; or refusing time to define the deliverables, just seems so odd to me.  You're paying for me, and the quicker things happen, the less you pay (or the more I can do).

If you don't know what you want, (and I suspect that's what the issues often are) then just admit that and I'll deliver that you do know as a agile prototype and not a "big bang" rollout.  Saying that you don't know often sets you free.

There are still some serious game players.  I've pretty much seen them boasting about this.  If you're one of those people, then please consider this:

"If you're playing games in business, you probably think you're some sort of strategic genius.  No, you're just confusing everyone and wasting cash." (@jugglingsand)

Honestly, I really don't mind travelling somewhere in order for you to cancel meetings or not show up, but you're going to have to do the meeting at some point, with me or someone else and you're costing the organisation a shed-load of cash for every second of my time that you waste.  Where there are benefits that justify your project, you're diminishing those too.

So, you can dismiss my 'big paper', 'sitting around on bean bags, debating solutions' approach as 'new age', but bear with me and I'll help you understand the changes needed, nail down the spec and reduce the chance of failure later on.  If not, just keep playing the games and watch as you take the flak for non-delivery.  Your move.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

The "Market Gap Effect"

I was invited to a meeting as a guest the other day, where some senior staff were discussing an issue they were having.  My purpose there was to give an update on some project work I was helping them out with.

Manager #1 - "Organisation X is trying to muscle in on something that we've always done.  That can't be right, it was always said that the key difference between Org X and us was that we did this thing and they didn't."

Manager #2 - "Yeah, someone ought to stop them doing that.  That's our remit."

I sat there, wondering at what point was best to interject.  After all, I was only an guest.  Finally I felt that I needed to speak.

Me - "So, are you saying that they're disrupting your business?  Trying to takeover your remit?"

Manager #1 - "Well, no...we stopped doing that thing some time ago."

Me - "I think that it's really important that you look at your business model here, after all, that's what defines what you do and how you do it.  E.g If you're a local village grocer's shop you probably shouldn't suddenly change to selling sporting goods and stop selling food.  If you've pulled the plug on something that you supply which they need, then you can't really blame them for filling that gap themselves."

There was a stunned silence as everyone looked from one to the other.  Did they understand me?  Were they going to kick me out?  I stared back at them.

Chair - "I think we'd better start doing that thing again"


I realised that I'd just stumbled on a practical example of what I call "The Market Gap Effect".  It's nothing particularly complicated really, it's just that if you're doing something well, and customers like what you do, then if you stop doing it, you're going to leave a gap in the market.  The effect of leaving this gap is that someone else will fill it with their offering and take a profit from doing it.  Not only that, but you alienate your customers because you've cut off something that they need.

Now you may ask why they'd stopped doing a key activity, one that people were happy with and needed them to do.  I'm not really 100% sure, but in my travels through business, I've often found that many organisations either don't plan their changes very well, or they just feel that a certain area of the market isn't where they "should" be operating.

In the case of business change, they know where they want to go, and they're so focussed on that, they forget some key things that they were doing well in the past and eventually the people doing those things forget to do them too.

Where there's a need and the organisation feels that it no longer wants to operate in that area, then that's a prime case for selling, outsourcing, sub-contracting or whatever you feel is most practical.  You can't really just stop doing it, because your business has value wherever it does something that someone else needs or is prepared to pay for.  By just stopping doing that thing, you're giving the value away to whoever spots that the need is there and is prepared to service it.

So, beware of "The Market Gap Effect" because those people who buy things from you will need to go elsewhere if you don't supply.  I'd be glad to hear your comments on if you've seen this happen in other organisations where you've been.  No names needed.