Friday, October 23, 2009

Organizational Silos - The Enemy of Project Execution

So how are projects working out for you? I ask this question frequently, to just about everyone I talk to in a professional setting. And the most common answer is – “We are doing OK”. If I take the same question and pose it in a fashion such that the focus is in a different functional area from the individual I am asking, the answer is entirely different. Apparently there is much more to say when talking about how project execution is going outside a person’s sphere of responsibility. Translation – “We are doing OK, but those people over in ______ need to get their act together.” This is human nature, although amplified by the organizational structures in place today.

Consider that collaboration blockages flourish through the functional silo based organizational configuration. Even though matrix project teams are widely used, allegiance of each individual remains within their organizational unit. Why? Loyalty naturally rests at the source of performance reviews, personal objectives, raises and functional area workflows. An individual on a matrix team will primarily be measured, directed and rewarded based on solid line organizational reporting. However, the business success depends on the effectiveness of the temporary matrix reporting within a given project. This is a major disconnect!

Who is ultimately in charge of a projects success or failure - where is the accountability for a project? Project execution responsibility typically rests with the project manager, however they are often lacking the full breadth of authority to carry through. Additionally they are generally not fully skilled and/or sanctioned to gauge and direct the sub-flow details within each of the silos. The functional area towers have the skills for the detailed sub-flows, although they typically lack the formal project management skills or motivation to properly assess and plan a sub-project. This is a system that is ripe for finger pointing, blame, collaborative blockages and ownership issues.

Fact - the current project system is not providing the full spectrum of results businesses require. The organizational silos believe they are doing OK, while the businesses experience an element of unpredictability; leading to surprises and delays on the path to new product revenue. Given this, it may well be time to step back and take an honest look at the mechanics of current project delivery. Business success dictates that we engineer a system that promotes accountability and collaboration, addresses individual project skill gaps, and measures/rewards contribution based on enabling project revenue success.

The current project management strategies have been in place for greater than 15 years and have provided significant benefit to new product development. Advancing to the next generation of project delivery will require that the walls of the organizational silos come down and a structure based on project execution be constructed, collaboratively stitching the functional areas together. Are you in this race to win, or are you in the race to hang with the pack - Isn’t it time for change?

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