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I'm aware that this question has some similarities to one that has already been asked but my position is slightly different I feel and therefore hopefully justifies asking for some advice.

The organisation I've recently started to work for has something of a methodology for projects, PRINCE2 is perhaps the most comparable methodology to liken it to.

Despite there being a number of checkpoints throughout their methodology e.g. initial business case for a proof of concept followed by a review of tangible benefits and in theory either shelving it, re-working it or submission of a full business case from then. Set stage checkpoints where the project should be reviewed and approval to proceed or close is sought and tolerances on set metrics to name a few.

I manage the development team and a large part of my daily role is to provide a bridge between the development team and non-technical project managers who are in charge of the wider project deliverable's outside of the code we develop or systems we are looking to procure.

And so now onto my problem, there have been multiple occasions now where we have communicated quite clearly that the proposal is either not feasible or will not deliver the anticipated benefits at various stages throughout the project such as those I mentioned earlier. Unfortunately these don't seem to be making much of an impact as in all instances they have persisted with the project. Obviously this has a host of implications for the organisation, not least in terms of the money spent to deliver a poor quality solution.

From an entirely self-serving perspective I'm concerned about the negative association between my team and the wider organisation, recent releases of procured software that we've been involved in (despite our recommendations that it not be purchased or that the project be reviewed at various stages) have not been well received by the wider organisation.

I was initially concerned that perhaps the reporting lines (me communicating with the appointed project manager) was the issue i.e. our reports not being heard by the decision makers. To address this I now attend all the individual project boards in a Supplier capacity and yet again the recommendations and our feasibility studies are swept aside with barely any consideration given.

Does anyone have any advice on how to get an organisation to adhere to it's own prescribed methodology?

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It sounds like you are doing everything you are supposed to do. Not seeing your reports and recommendations, perhaps the language and presentation you are using need to be more compelling. Or, have you established the credibility and trust, yet, that would make your report more compelling. Perhaps try another messenger? Other than that, your scope ends at the recommendation.

Organizations, project sponsors, CEOs, and ordinary people who are hiring a contractor for house work, have the right to continue down a path that is seemingly absurd. Your role, as the advisor, is to present your findings, banged up against their established criteria, and provide a recommendation from several alternatives, which you did or are doing. Notwithstanding the established criteria, they--the sponsors, CEOs, etc.--are within their right to deviate from that and make another subjective assessment against whatever criteria are in their heads and choose to continue.

Regarding your risk that it will be your team and you who get scapegoated and have reputation decay, yes, that is your risk. Politics. Someone will get blamed. Document well, but not in a CYA_I'm_not_part_of_this_team way. Be political, too.

  • You raise a good point in terms of the credibility of our recommendations, there has been significant organisational change recently which has resulted in an increase of the development team and the creation of my role. Admittedly we're also dealing with something of a legacy of poor development practice which could be influencing opinions. I'll revisit the language we're using in our reports and continue to document where we have made the recommendations. – Clair Jul 2 '14 at 8:18
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Identify Motivations and Use Influence

Does anyone have any advice on how to get an organisation to adhere to it's own prescribed methodology?

An organization is made up of people. Questions of the form "How can I make X do Y?" are invariably answerable in just a few simple ways:

  1. You can't actually make anyone do anything.
  2. You can engage someone's enlightened self-interest through threat or inducement in order to get them to behave in desirable ways.

In other words, you will need to motivate your steering committees through influence if you can find a better motivator than whatever is behind their existing decisions. There is always something behind those decisions—the trick is figuring out the intrinsic motivator.

Your Role Is Not "Scapegoat" or "Nanny"

As a department manager, your role is to manage your team through the organizational authority delegated to you. Within the framework you describe, you have a professional responsibility to raise valid personnel and business concerns, but the success or failure of a project is the responsibility of your steering committee.

Line managers and project managers don't usually set strategic objectives. That is senior management's collective responsibility. If you've identified legitimate project risks, documented them, and presented them to higher management, you've done all that can be expected. The decision, and the consequences, belong to the decision-makers.

Document the risks that you're identifying, and keep a paper trail of your reports to senior management. That's really all you can do to "CYA." If you feel like that's not enough, then you're likely in a toxic organization and might need to explore other opportunities.

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I think you are doing what ever you can. But I think following points might answer your dilema.

  1. The recommendations you gave are probably not the only criteria for selecting a software of vendor for that matter. There are other implications like service record, cost, relationship etc. which you are not aware of

  2. Probably you dont see a bigger picture and hence are worried. May be the same vendor might be giving a better deal in other department which might offset the negatives which you pointed out in your recommendations.

  3. People making decisions have already made up the mind and asked for your recommendation just to complete the formality. In this case you just need to shut up and make sure you have documented your recommendations in clearest way possible.

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And so now onto my problem, there have been multiple occasions now where we have communicated quite clearly that the proposal is either not feasible or will not deliver the anticipated benefits at various stages throughout the project such as those I mentioned earlier. Unfortunately these don't seem to be making much of an impact as in all instances they have persisted with the project. Obviously this has a host of implications for the organisation, not least in terms of the money spent to deliver a poor quality solution.

You do not indicate that you provided an alternative. Providing an alternative and a comparison of the original proposal with the alternative could make the difference. There is some need the proposal is fulfilling. Without an alternative, what your issues are really saying is that the need will go unfulfilled. That is not likely to get much traction.

Also, does your organization have a formal risk management process? Is there a tracking system that provides visibility of risks? You might be able to get your issues more attention by making them risks. In a good organization that should result in getting help to mitigate the risks.

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Be careful that you are not "crying wolf" too. Sometimes there will be products / development tasks that are literally impossible to provide within any reasonable timescale, but it's rarely the case.

Make sure that you clearly distinguish the "This will not work" from the "It could work but will be difficult and we don't have expertise in the area". Developers, (disclaimer: I am one), will often say something can't be done if it is difficult.

If you're recommending that they scrap 75% of plans then they have probably stopped listening because your department always complains. Maybe even something as simple as a traffic light coloured headline from your team could work to highlight this sort of "impossible / tricky / fine" concept.

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