Do You Have A Mission Statement? Mon 17 Sep 07

62043main_footprint_on_moon_4 The other day while surfing on CNN I came across an interesting article, CNN Heroes: The men of Apollo about the documentary movie "In the Shadow of the Moon".  The movie is about the Apollo astronauts and their memories of the Apollo missions.  From time immemorial, man has looked at the moon and wondered what it would be like to walk on it.  I've always kind of envied Neil Armstrong for being able to be the one.

What caught my attention in the CNN article is when they used one of my favorite President Kennedy quotes:

"I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth."

What I've always admired about this quote is that is one of the best examples of a mission statement that I've ever seen.  I like its clarity.  It gets right to the point.  It succinctly tells us what we are trying to do and when we need to have it done.  You don't see that very often anymore.

Over at Man on a Mission blog they list mission statements from quite a few companies.  Frankly most of them aren't very good.  Typically, they're too long and written more as advertisements and leave you wondering about what it is exactly they are trying to do.  Take a look at a few of them.  If you read some of them without knowing what company they are for you might have a very hard time of figuring out what they are trying to accomplish.

Arguably, Kennedy's statement may not be comparable to all these company mission statements since it is not the mission statement for the government but for a single project.  Writing a mission statement for a project should be simpler since the mission is so much more focused than the mission for an organization.

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Are Your Projects "LAME"? Fri 30 Mar 07

LameI'm a big advocate of Lean methodologies as a way to improve a company's operations and therefore I follow a number of Lean related blogs.  Jon Miller in a recent posting, Here are 4.5 Signs that Your Lean May be L.A.M.E. at Gemba Panta Rei talks about Lean is getting a unjust reputation due to poor implementations.  Miller refers to Mark Graban at the Lean Blog who coined the term L.A.M.E as "Lean As Misguidedly Executed".  In essence, the problem isn't with the concept of Lean but rather how it is implemented.

The same holds true for many of the IT related projects we work on.  Our projects start out with a lot of hope and great expectations and as time goes on people become disillusioned and disappointed with the outcome.

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Conquering Organizational Change Mon 23 Oct 06

All the various business related projects of any significance that IT gets involved involve organizational change to some extent. Pierre Mourier and Martin Smith, Ph.D. have conducted some research on change efforts of all types, including projects with IT aspects and report in "Conquering Organizational Change: How to Succeed Where Most Companies Fail" that "About 70 to 75 percent of major organizational change efforts fail to meet the expectations of key stakeholders". That is a shockingly high and disappointing number.

Some of the positive factors their research found were correlated with project success were:

  • There was visible support from the sponsor throughout the project
  • People understood what they had to do in order to make the change work
  • The change was kept small and manageable
  • There was a detailed plan
  • The change was explained to everyone
  • Progress toward the goals was tracked and publicized

Some of the negative factors their research found were correlated with project failure were:

  • The goals seemed vague
  • There didn't seem to be a plan
  • No one seemed to be in charge
  • People didn't understand the reason for the change
  • The change clashed with the way things are done in the organization
  • There was no attempt to keep people informed

When I first saw these lists they struck me as a BFO (Blinding Flash of the Obvious). After all, haven't all of us participated in informal post-mortems of failed projects and cited many of these items as the reason the project failed.

Fortunately, they do provide more than just formally codifying the positive and negative factors (which is helpful). In Conquering Organizational Change they also provide some straightforward and easy-to-use tools that you can use to do a quick "health check" of your project along with some corrective actions depending on the results. Using these tools at the beginning and throughout the project should significantly improve the chances that you will have a successful project since it will keep you focused on accomplishing the factors that positively correlate to project success. I highly recommend this book.

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