Kick-Off Projects on the Right Foot with an Effective Pre-Establishment Review


In my most recent article ‘powering up your project post-implementation reviews’ I outlined the critical behavioural elements that must be overcome to solicit an effective learning outcome. This is doubly complicated and more valuable in the establishment of a new project. Not only do you have to contend with the behavioural complexities outlined in that article but also predict likely adverse scenarios that may occur in the specific context of that project.

How is this different from a set up for success exercise?

From my experience, the set up for success process attempts to deal with compliance to defined standard project methodology to overcome the most basic of project failures. The risk assessment prepared (if it is prepared at all) outlines the things that basic project management protocols are designed to deal with. It is a redundancy if the project protocols are followed. Yet projects fail at a tremendously high rate and worse the organisation fails to learn.

An effective pre-establishment review is much more. It is similar to the TSC intensive post-implementation review process but facilitated to uncover and pre-empt the specific and more complex, underlying causes of failure. This is done in an interactive, facilitated, coaching session that puts the participants in a future projected state and able to observe things they would not normally think of. A “pre-mortem” attempts to achieve a similar outcome but is rarely effectively facilitated. The outcome is a typical risk matrix that brings no insight or reduces the risk profile of the project.

For example, even in a pre-mortem session, it is extremely rare for a group of people to identify that the project approach is terminally flawed because it has followed conventional project wisdom when a different posture is required. To be clear, this is not a debate of waterfall vs agile. See the article ‘let the project intent determine the project’s posture’. Blind faith in conventional wisdom needs to be overcome to identify the above issue and be able to effectively deal with the risks. By following the TSC approach this is teased out by our experienced practitioner and facilitator thereby help the project team design a project with a much higher probability of success.

Another example is living with the assumption that the project sponsor is a god to be faithfully obeyed when there is little justification to do so. How often is this risk considered and mitigated in a meaningful way? Again, the TSC method is designed to confront such things in a constructive, respectful, non-threatening way to mitigate this complex risk.

These are just some of the taboos confronted in the TSC pre-establishment review approach borne from decades of experience and analysis of success and failure in different contexts. The coaching construct applied empowers the project to not only understand the potential issues but to confront them in a constructive and supportive environment.

 It is time to get behind the project process veneer and deal with the underlying complexities in a pre-emptive way. Your thoughts and comments are welcome.

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