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I have been involved in a couple of project for the past year, and I have been lucky to work with the brilliant team. I noticed that in each of these project there seem to be one or two persons who always have great ideas. One of them is what I like to call the technology champion "Hey, why don't we use technology X to speed up certain processes or task in the project?"

The other one is what I like to call a process champion; they will point out insufficient processes in a project and propose new ways for improving it. For example, our test team had a difficult time doing regression test, and he proposed to automate some of the repetitive test task.

We really see the value in their ideas, but somehow selling them to the upper management can be very very difficult. Are there any strategy that you like to use to obtain support from the organization for supporting innovative ideas?

5

It is said that it's better to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission.

Every now and then, we believe we can't make decisions and are asking for permission and get rejected. The reality is we often can make these decisions as long as we take full responsibility for them. We can use technology X but if it ends up adding more mess to the project we should be ready to take bullets on our chest. When I say "we" I mean both: project leaders and project champions you ask about.

This approach is like alcohol -- it should have "use responsibly" message attached, but it works very well. Senior managers most likely won't make many decisions on level you point in your examples unless directly asked. If you ask, don't be surprised you sometimes hear "no" as an answer.

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    Very well said. We have been in the situation that you described – zfranciscus May 25 '11 at 23:01
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Documenting Lessons Learned in projects is part of our organizational process. Its purpose is providing historical examples of innovative ideas that worked in projects and on the other hand ideas that turned out to be bad and caused problems. Process engineers (or may be PMs or relevant persons in your organization) meet regularly to discuss the lessons learned in all projects and share them. If they agreed they may even chose to make some of the idea a standard in the organization. If you introduce the idea of Lessons Learned in your organization, it will make what you want to do automatic and will relief you and the others from feeling that someone is imposing ideas into their projects and the resistance that may occur.

  • Thank you for the response. Putting together a lesson learned is great on the outset of fulfilling the project management documentation. However, getting them to see that what we put in the lesson learn is valuable can be a whole different exercise altogether. – zfranciscus May 25 '11 at 0:54
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    The documentation is just the first step to get the others interested. After that comes demos to show what was accomplished and then training to the other teams to apply. – M.Sameer May 25 '11 at 1:06
  • That's really impressive, scheduling workshop to show the rest of the organisation how good the idea is one way to go about it. Do you use any hard/soft (putting pressure, sharing the idea on intranet, etc) influence tactic to get them to come to the workshop ? – zfranciscus May 25 '11 at 1:18
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    Sometimes the pressure on PMs comes from the developers who see other teams working smartly with intelligent ideas. They get jealous and ask for sessions to learn. In this case as a PM I only need to show the other PMs the benefits and impact on effort and/or quality from high level and his own team will do the rest ;) .. The other way is to demonstrate to the senior manager which is the common manager of all PMs in our organization and he will ask other PMs to apply the new techniques. I usually give the SM a brief in the progress meetings. – M.Sameer May 25 '11 at 17:41
  • We never see the situation from this angle before. Interesting approach indeed. Thank you =) – zfranciscus May 25 '11 at 22:59
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Build a better relationship with upper management.

These kind of situations often depend on trust, history and personal credibility, rather than techniques and numbers.

Find opportunities where people can get to know yo and where you can get to know upper management. It can start slowly and with your direct manager. Over time you can build up a reputation as someone who performs and has innovative ideas or, what can be more important, as someone who can cultivate and bring out innovative thinking from a team. That is a very valuable skill in an organization.

1

There is a difference between ongoing incremental capability improvement and a material transformation. The former is typically reserved for a mature (BPM Maturity Model) organization whose culture and current capabilities support this type of approach. Metrics are captured and aligned to strategy and quickly show where these minor tweaks can occur.

The latter comes down to ROI. Build a case for change: measure your current performance, compare it with where it should be as evidenced by perhaps industry benchmarks, identify the gap between the two and the potential value capture for the organization, identify the required investment to get there, and finally calculate ROI. This should resonate with any competent business person.

  • Interesting comment David. From our observation mature organisations often have established their own rules, which often does not leave enough wiggle room to squeeze new processes. People have established their own comfort zone, and they will show great retaliation when we want to modify their comfort zone. I guess "culture" is the key here. If the organization does not support ideas, then there is no point of pursuing innovation. – zfranciscus May 25 '11 at 23:06
  • When I wrote "mature", I was specifically talking about the Business Process Management (BPM) maturity model, not organizations that have been around a long time and set in their ways. – David Espina May 26 '11 at 13:06
  • I strongly agree with David's comments. The key thing in my view is understanding how to bring about change - specifically by establishing a need, painting a vision, providing the resources, generating a plan, and making sure that this all adds up to something that is greater than the resistance to change. – Iain9688 May 26 '11 at 18:56
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I would try to get your Senior Management to recognise your project as a Business Process Improvement (BPI).

Business process improvement initiatives are frequently key projects within an organization – regardless of the size of the organization or, frankly, the size of the business process improvement initiative. Even if a business process improvement initiative is targeted at an individual department, the impact of the change will be organization-wide. By ensuring that the initiative is managed as a strategic project, there are increased opportunities for success.

I am currently the PM of an initiative that would support and improvement in the operational structure and performance of a department with offices across the globe. It has taken me few months to get Senior Management attention but now they love the idea and support this project.

A good argument to sell to your management is that Process improvement is a strategy and a tool to help an organization meet its long term goals and objectives. One key goal for all organizations is to meet the demands of their clients – both internal and external. Clients’ needs change – whether due to economic factors, new product introductions, mergers or acquisitions, expansion or contraction. Continuously reviewing processes for potential improvements and efficiencies enables companies to adapt effectively to their clients’ changing needs.

You will need to document your idea and, ideally, present it with clear and simple diagrams of the current status and the potential future status.

  • thank you for the advise. I assume that the organization where you work has established a different type of project that falls under BPI category, and your organization encourage proposal from the employees to accept their project as a BPI. This is definitely a process that we can propose to the top management. – zfranciscus May 29 '11 at 4:12
0

Here is my strategy based on experience only. Sometimes my team has a few innovative ideas that could be implemented, but they need to be approved by the upper management. When this situation emerges, I usually ask for the team to collect evidence and successful cases of this idea working flawless in other companies and/or projects.

The second step is to create a nice document (and presentation if needed) and arrange a meeting with the upper management, telling it's about something that will make the process faster/better/more lucrative, etc.

The chances are, if this new "idea" is really good, the upper management will approve it. And, of course, you should credit your team/someone for having this idea, promoting the "project champion".

  • what if the idea has few evidence? Maybe your team have a really new idea, will you follow it through? – Hoàng Long May 27 '11 at 6:52
  • @Hoàng Long: If an idea has few evidences, then it should be tested in some cases simulating a real-situation. If the result is positive, then you shoud proceed to the next step. – astro11 May 30 '11 at 14:11
  • well, it's nice if we have a place to test. I mean, it's a nice idea, but depends on the environment. Sometimes the environment is bad – Hoàng Long May 30 '11 at 17:13

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