Success is a journey, not a destination…

How often do we embark on a “project” with clear ideas on what the final outcome will be only to stumble when the going gets a little tough? Or perhaps we don’t know what we want yet but we sure will when we get there? The worst designed Change Programmes are a bit like that. And I am sure we can all cite ones with which we have been involved and wish we hadn’t.

A client of mine is great at theorising.  They can do it whilst asleep, in the bath, on the train, in the office…….. They can even remember what they has designed in his mind weeks ago and draw it out graphically using MS Visio and Excel and any other tool that takes their fancy.  When I meet with them they can always smell the roses but can they go and buy them, get them planted, water them, get rid of the pests(!), stake them back and then finally sit back and watch them blossom? You know the answer already – they don’t yet have a garden.  Each time we meet they will provide me with their ideas of what success will look like, but they cannot plan for their implementation.

This variety of client can be exhausting. Able to see what they want but blinkered by their inability to plan the journey they expect you to be able to click your fingers and make it happen – Harry Potter-like.

Well, you may be able to do that easily and perhaps it is a shortcoming of mine, but I do struggle with the whole hocus-pocus thing. I like to plan, to understand how my client got to the position of being able to see the destination in the first place (either it was a vision or they know areas of their organisation which need to change) and document it.  I then like to understand how my client’s peers feel about the project. It adds to my perspective – and ultimately to my success.

So how do we move clients round to thinking of the journey?

  • Ask direct questions about how this idea manifested itself in the first place – it could be that they have read it in a journal somewhere, it will look good on their CV (yes, sometimes it’s true: managers want to implement a successful initiative to bankroll that next move) or maybe they have identified a massive gap in their organisation and wants it filled.
  • Who else is going to be involved in this journey? Identify them, list them, meet them and document the meeting. If appropriate send them a copy of the meeting notes and agree the content is what was discussed.
  • Draw the current process flows – either on paper, or MS Visio (other tools are also available). Process flows concentrate the mind and allow us a glimpse of the potential scope and size of the task. For example, if you are to streamline the Procurement to Payment process don’t you want to know that there are currently 6 people involved in raising a paper purchase order and 14 steps to getting it receipted and paid (and I sincerely hope no one reading this really has 20 steps in their PTP process).
  • Try to find out how long you have to complete the journey. If no timescale predictions are forthcoming then factor one in to your quote/business plan. It can also be discussed with your client.
  • Document the route the journey will take – employ a risk strategy approach to demonstrate the pressure points along the way and take your client through it. You can call it a Delivery Plan, a Strategic Vision or goodness knows what else but make sure it is clearly documented and read by your client. Put an Executive Summary on the top of it and use that summary within the Business Case, Project Plan or any other Planning document you employ.
  • Finally, ask your Client to come with you on the journey – paint the rain, the insecticide and the flowering roses and make sure he knows that he will be able to smell the roses long after you pack up and go home!

As Arthur Robert Ashe Jr quoted:

“Success is a journey not a destination. The doing is usually more important than the outcome.”