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Tipping Points in Project and Performance Management Improvement

January 18, 2008

In the previous blog on tipping points, we covered the idea that when introducing any new system you reach an adoption tipping point.  That is, a point of question or controversy, that if navigated correctly looks like a clear cut-over from one system to another.  If there is not a clear cut-over from old system to new system, no tipping point is reached and in fact the adoption of the new software or system is compromised.  Navigating successfully requires replacing the old with the new.  There is no such thing as “peaceful co-existence.”

Let me summarize with some recurring observations:

·         The tipping point is predictable, it happens every time you’re introducing a new software system to replace an existing or legacy process,

·         Given the inherent conflict between new and old systems, there’s inevitable tension and affiliation controversy around the tipping point,

·         Many people in management are discomforted by the conflict and seek to avoid it (placate, not address, make allowances, go around the issue), and miss the tipping point, and ultimately securing the value of a successful adoption of a new system.


Having outlined that, let me move on to something that you need to know when introducing project (task) or performance management software.   You could say it this way, “There are tipping points and then there are tipping points.”  Yes you could have a tipping point over moving everyone in the organization from one phone system to another; or reports done in a wide array of formats, to one specific template in Excel.  I would consider those small tipping points.  They represent changes, but may not generate dramatic, much less measurable, improvement.  They probably represent processes you don’t measure currently anyway, e.g. if moving to a new phone system, it’s probably for improved convenience and new features, but there’s often not a pre and post measurement of dropped calls or some other metric that’s driving the change.

Let me put this more simply.  Any introduction of project or performance management system will have impact on two core business systems: specifically how email is managed and how meetings are conducted.  Those are major tipping points in every organization.  If in fact the introduction of those systems does not directly impact email and meetings as they touch those areas, you’ve missed the tipping point and have compromised the value of the new system.

Let me give you an example.  Let’s say you introduce a new project and task management system.  Everyone’s supposed to enter and update their tasks in the new software for improved organization and visibility… but

a) In meetings you don’t use this system for tracking tasks; it’s all done verbally, by memory and memorandum

 b) People still assign tasks through email correspondence, of which only a fraction get into your project and task management system.

Guess what happens to the value of the new system?  It’s reduced, it’s compromised… it’s not good.  Some information is in the new system, some is managed in the legacy systems.  The potential for details slipping through the cracks, duplication of effort, lack of coordinated work effort is all heightened.

Fundamentally, if you really intend to drive performance, you need to address the systems and tipping points that are core to two areas:

1. How you manage information around the processes that are key to generating business value and

2. How you manage information in the process of managing the business.

If you introduce new software to manage projects, tasks or performance, there will be a tipping point, or stated another way, there will be a conflict that is essential to win, in one or both of these two areas.  And you must win it (e.g. consistently enforce a cut-over) to win the battle of improved results. To your success in winning the battle.

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April 16, 2008 10:50 am

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