How large scale projects can work across multiple countries and thousands of employees.
We were approached to facilitate a mega project spanning multiple countries and timezones. It was a large project with great depth and complexity, and involved a global company of some 50,000 employees.
The CFO felt his company was duplicating their workflow and wanted it to be singing from the one song sheet. He approached our team to develop a vision and a set of values to embed within the company.
The scope of the project meant that the outcomes weren’t going to just impact the 5,000 employees involved in the project, but also the 50,000 employees who they delivered to as well.
How are large projects engaged?
Large projects require the shared vision of a leadership team. In this particular project, the leadership team gave their backing and support to the CFO, stating the need to piece together a project team.
The 20 people that comprised this particular project team came from different areas (and countries) from within the business. This variance within the group was important because impact needs to occur across all levels of the business, and not just from the top down.
My role was not only to make sure that we delivered the project, but also that we developed these individuals chosen for this team, as they were a cross section of employees who didn’t have the entire skill set needed for this project.
How commitment curves can help lead change.
There’s been a lot of work on how to embed effective change, and the commitment curve is one of these tools that can help unite a vision.
It was essential for the success of this project because at all levels, every piece of communication or meeting was centred around; Where do you think you are in the commitment of embedding this vision? Where do you think your colleagues are at? Where are we as an organisation? Do we need to assess ourselves here and what’s our commitment?
Obviously an individual’s commitment changes over time and people change as the curve shows change at different paces (depending on how people are feeling about the change and how committed they are to it).
Global communications and overcoming the inherent challenges.
International communications can be a challenge at times, but only when people aren’t committed to a project. Locations, time differences, languages, these can be irrelevant.
For this project, we had two global meetings in a day; one would be at a time frame that was suitable for one end of the world, and another would be for a time frame that was suitable for the other end.
There were also smaller meetings, as in each of the countries there were what we called “vision champions” or “vision representatives”, leading individual teams from within their country. People would be on calls at 11pm because they were so interested in and committed to what was happening to their organisation.
Creating collateral to build visions (and bottom lines).
These cultural collaborations and collateral were a big part of what made this project special.
There was lots of branding, lots of items across all the different languages that engaged people with the vision of the project: brochures, PowerPoint decks, webpages, notebooks, stationary, launch videos and teaser videos. These helped achieve this vision and contributed towards building commitment and embedding that sustainability piece.
We developed a big piece around a shared vision story book. This was a collection of stories highlighting employees working together to affect change and create a better organisation. And it wasn’t just the soft skill changes, it was also the hard core data as well.
Systems theory and how disrupting systems can lead change.
Systems theory helps leaders navigate change which means, for example, when we look at nature, we have different ecosystems: air, water, plants and animals. Each individual component has its place, its own part to play for that entire ecosystem to function as a whole. That’s systems theory.
However, for it to work you need to disrupt the system and work at it from different angles in order for it to be successful. So rather than just working from one angle, work from all.
When we talk about systems theory in relation to a project involving 5,000 people, we are referring to working with multiple countries, multiple cultures, multiple languages, multiple functions and reporting lines on an individual level. However, as a collective, they work together to make the project function.
How the micro affects the macro.
One thing we need to be careful about when we’re making change is to not be too mechanical about it. People fear change as they think it can be messy. At times, yes, it can be, but sometimes we need to disrupt and deconstruct ways of working in order for a new way of thinking to work.
If you’re looking at it from a big picture it may appear messy on the surface, but in fact there is design in your approach and what you’re trying to achieve. We don’t have to throw systems away if they work, but if we can look at things in a new light, perhaps we can evolve the project for the better.
Always remain in touch with your own business.
I think remaining true to the core values of your business is something we do well at Keogh. We practice what we preach, and that’s making sure our culture and values align throughout the business.
For instance, we make sure to stay connected and have fortnightly team meetings and get together as an entire team at least once a year. We also make a point of trying to check in and talk to at least two colleagues a day.
It’s also important to make sure we’re keeping our development up to speed, and celebrating our successes, birthdays and anniversaries.
All of those small things really add value and help contribute to a united team.
How defining scale can define success.
Scaling can have teething issues. I absolutely believe that the business has to come to terms with what it takes to effectively scale, in order to determine whether you’re successful.
What’s really important is the need to involve lots of key people and foster an atmosphere of co-creation – diverse voices getting together and creating together. If you don’t have the right people in the room, there’s no point in continuing on.
Always have a clear strategy in mind. Know your budget and get the execution right. And it’s okay to disrupt the system. Again, this can scare people at times, but keeping communication channels open so that people know what’s happening will help keep everyone united in the cause, and the project will be a success because of it.