Saturday, August 20, 2011

Engagement Model - Resolving the "too many cooks in the kitchen" problem

The McKinsey Engagement: A Powerful Toolkit For More Efficient and Effective Team Problem SolvingLately I am involved in mobile and social computing at work.  I am working with our agency's communication departments, and internal IT groups like: IT infrastructure operations, email, mobile device acquisition and provision group and IT solutions development group.  Understandably these organizational business entities need to be involved however there is no clear cut role on how these organizations need to operate.  It's a classic case of "too many cooks in the kitchen spoil the broth"; however in this case, "too many organizations destroy a IT business function".  I am not saying that a specific organization is at fault since the are not however this clearly shows that there is a lack of guidance in the engagement side of this effort.

I am sure there are multiple organizations which face this problem.  How do you deal with this type of problem?  The biggest complain I hear that there is no executive sponsorship or even if there is then there is no executive guidance.  In an agency where I work, which is an extremely large and bureaucratic government agency, no one is going to give strong sponsorship or guidance. Rather than complaining about it, I realize it is a reality and I have work with it.

In an ideal world, the organization or organizations, who are responsible for a specific effort, should have an engagement model (internal and external).  The internal model is called "organizational governance". The ideal world has a strong Program Management Office (PMO) which runs programs with an iron fist.  Unfortunately US civil servants who are grouped in IT departments usually don't have that luxury since government agencies view their IT departments as a support function.  The PMO paradigm may be implemented more now because of the current fiscal crisis with my employer.

As a program manager, how do you deal with this type of issue?  If you are not an enterprise architect (like myself) then you either hire a bright enterprise architect or work with your counterpart in enterprise architecture program.   Here are few steps that I can think of:

  1. Ask the architects to decompose the business functions of the organizations and then map them to their role in your program.  
  2. Present to the program stakeholders and see if they agree on it
  3. Develop projects and appropriate RACI charts that map different organization roles to it
  4. Develop program charter and plan
  5. Present to the program stakeholders and see if they agree on it
  6. Develop a communication plan which should be the basis for the engagement model
By going through a rigorous approach where stakeholders sign off on the plan and their responsibilities, you  can develop a concrete plan and manage your stakeholders.  Before I got into project management, I thought managers sit in numerous meetings and not do anything.  There are project and program managers who sit in meeting and like to strategize however their projects and programs don't have any valuable outcome.   I have learned that every work product being produced in a project or a program is a critical artifact to manage your team's and your stakeholders' expectations. After all most of project management is about managing and having a formal or informal engagement model.  

No comments: