Micro projects and the fostering of culture change


Many businesses have a range of smaller projects but limited project delivery bandwidth. Yet consultancies often focus only on mega-projects. I am interested in understanding how consultative skills may be better accessed for incremental changes, and how employee experiences with project efforts may be developed into a culture of ongoing enhancements.

Will Hogan, CAIA
10 months ago

2 answers


The best model I've seen for this is where there's an ongoing delivery pipeline that allows additional delivery capacity for incremental change. Companies that invest in the management of their ongoing change roadmap (via good PMO office and release management) can manage incremental change via multiple sources/routes as long as the business and solution architecture is maintained in line with business goals. I'm not necessarily an advocate of Scale Agile Framework (SAFe), however their model for a delivery roadmap and releases can be useful source of stimulus.

Juliet Eccleston
10 months ago

The challenge you have is twofold Will - finding the skills for approaching change in the way you want, and the market structure to access them.
On the skills front the incremental approach has a long history with various labels: continuous improvement, quality management, Six Sigma and so on. Those approaches are useful but have limitations - their very structured, technical approach doesn't suit everyone, and most implementations of them don't support more radical, systemic changes because they are focused on improving the here and now.
Mega projects are an attempt, from consultants and clients, to deliver that bigger, systemic change, but that too has it's limitations. It can work in specific situations, but often the 'mega' seems to apply to the effort required and not always to the benefits.
What you really want is a skillset that means people monitor how well things are working constantly, and enables them to flex across changes of all kinds. It's rare these days but not unknown.
In the 90's I worked for what was then Coopers & Lybrand, now PwC. We recognised this problem then and developed new skills in our partners and senior consultants in what would now probably be seen as a combination of process consulting and design thinking. I trained consultants and clients in these skills and have continued to evolve them, often combined with coaching to support the 'ongoing' aspect that you mention. Happy to discuss further if it helps.
So then the second problem is accessing the skills. The key for us was developing insight and flexibility in our teams (we called one of the programmes Acting with Insight). Most organisations train and reward people to be an 'expert' or 'specialist' and organise them in functional siloes; our consultants often turn up organised in the same disciplines. But change within disciplines isn't enough. Many problems occur at the interfaces between and across disciplines, so you need skillsets to be able to define problems and design solutions across those boundaries too. Expertise isn't enough - you need good people, facilitation and coaching skills - and that's not how the market is organised. I know from bitter experience - in my last two roles I was a client to many of the big firms. Not only are they not developing the skills fast enough, their financial models push towards the mega projects you describe.
That's what led me to get back out into the market again. My business - The Exploration Habit - is all about building those 'exploration' skills for business - simplifying the toolkits and focusing people on mindset and application. As I said, happy to chat more about this - nice to hear someone else asking the question :-)

Alan Arnett
10 months ago

Have some input?