Thursday, 9 April 2009

Large scale change projects are seldom a linear process

In my experience any change process is a messy one where people are concerned. I can have a step-by-step guide to help me change a wheel on my car which is very useful. As the individual involved the guide can't really be designed to cope with my emotions following a flat tyre though fortunately the wheel, wheel nuts, jack and car itself tend to behave predictably and with a high degree of certainty - meaning the step-by-step guide is helpful.

Whether the project is small scale or large scale, there will be a varying degree of predictability and certainty when implementing projects within people-based systems. For large scale change where multiple projects will be run, the complexity increases. There are many different project management systems, some of which are specifically designed to cope with this messy process.

A linear version of project management assumes a sequence of steps, taken in a logical and predictable manner.

The diagram above gives an example of the stages and the effort over time. Reflecting on my own experience of implementing large scale change projects in healthcare I would plan for more effort in the conceptual phase and know that the time spent in each phase is not equal; it will vary according to each project and context.

While part of me would love to work with teams and organisations in an emergent way, to help improvement be revealed and new behaviours learnt and applied, I know that some project management is required when working within the structure of an organisation. One project management model I use is the following:

While this version starts to show some of the interdependencies of each stage in a project, there is always room to draw more lines. However, I like how this model shows the reporting / evaluating stage and how this feeds back into the planning stage. Namely this is an ongoing cyclical process rather than a linear step-by-step approach.

This model also works for me when the project is about implementing existing good practice in a different context. This model allows for the process and solution to be adapted so it work within the next context most effectively.

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