I’ve recently been involved in a few business initiatives, both with client companies and within my own consulting firm, that started out strong, then fizzled out. We’ve all seen it happen: great ideas turn into complex initiatives that get launched with everyone excited in the beginning. Then, somewhere along the way, momentum mysteriously vanishes and the project stalls or disappears. A year or two later, you ask yourself “Why did that happen? Where did all the enthusiasm go?”
As I’ve looked at this, from what I can see, rarely is budget the problem. Rather, the idea loses momentum because of a combination of factors, most of which fall into the category of “human error.” Take a look at my Top 10 to see if you recognize any of these common “initiative derailers”.
- Everyone likes the idea for the initiative, but there is no clear ownership by a Sponsor. Initiatives generally need a “team captain” and hopefully, a coach. Sometimes teams can coach and monitor themselves, but without a captain, the ship isn’t going very far.
- Sometimes there are too many Sponsors, and so, like with “too many cooks in the kitchen,” role clarity, authority and decision-making are muddled which slows the initiative momentum down considerably. I’ve been involved where team decisions were supposedly made by one or two players, and then someone overturns that later with little or no communication. That can also lead to hurt feelings or interpersonal conflicts (see number 7 below).
- There is no appointed day to day “Champion” or Project Manager for the Initiative. Or even if there is, this initiative is an “also do” part of their job. Thus they lag behind on deliverables, and often the “What’s in it for me?” benefit of their contribution isn’t that clear to the individual who is relied on for keeping the project on track.
- Due to poor/muddled project management, the initiative goes over budget, stalls or both.
- The Vision, driving force, or key objectives for the initiative are not clear, so people approach the initiative with different intent. When this is the case, you don’t see that swell of enthusiasm that comes when all agree and are in alignment.
- Someone higher up in the food chain swoops in and asserts their view, their power, and derails the rest of the team, or causes confusion and rework; and again, loss of momentum.
- Interpersonal conflicts go unresolved. There are frictions between key team members (for any reason), and no established way to work through conflict. This can cause some team members to lose interest, drop out, delay their deliverables, do “work-arounds” or sabotage decision-making.
- Someone who is enlisted as part of the initiative has their own personal problems or ‘an agenda’, and their participation is poisonous. In short, you have a luvv killer on the team. An acronym for KILL: Knowingly Inhibit Living Luvv. The person can kill the idea in numerous ways, which often includes emotionally “wounding” others on the team. People get hurt feelings, may shut down and then turn off. The initiative starves to death once the “idea luvvers” have withdrawn their energy.
- Trying to please the crowd. 1,000 opinions don’t make one truth! If you try to please everybody as you attempt to move an initiative along, you’ll get paralyzed at some point in the process. Stay focused on number five above (the Vision), then execute towards that.
- The idea gets abandoned along the way due to any combination of the above. Sometimes the person who really had the ‘juice’ for the idea gets eliminated from the project for some reason, and there’s just not enough passion and commitment to keep it going.
If you see your own initiatives described in the above hurdles, take a moment to step back and analyze what you can do to eliminate or at least minimize that obstacle. Awareness of a problem and its root cause can go a long way to turning things around for you and your team. It’s hard to change things until we have that full awareness or understanding. So, keep looking and learning!
©2018 Marie Moran