Erkka Puusti

Guidelines for modern implementation management


By Erkka Puusti

You have just spend the last 2 months doing as-is analysis with your trusted implementation partner. All 800 requirements needed for your digital transformation are now clearly defined and understood by all parties. The 1,5 year project, starting with a tight 6 months design phase is ready to start with the first set of process workshops scheduled right after summer vacations. What could possibly go wrong?

Well now days the constant and rapid change in modern technology and new disruptive business models are making new solutions a moving target and long projects with big upfront planning, long design and build phases produce end results what are already outdated once complete. Modern technology and business problems require a modern touch on managing them.

1. Adopt a new mindset

Everything starts with a change in the mindset of how new possibilities are approached. It is impossible to know the future so accept the uncertainty and forget long planning phases and deep requirements gathering. No matter how much time and effort you put in planning and defining the scope and requirements before hand, the one thing that still happens almost every single time is that something changes or something has been missed and there is a need to change the plan. And usually the later that need for a change is found the more it costs.

So if you really want to make change possible then the first thing to do is to forget extensive upfront planning and requirements fine tuning. Instead accept that you do not have all the requirements or the answers in the beginning and focus on getting the ball rolling and adapt based on findings.

2. Smaller problems

Uncertainty brings with the possibility to make mistakes and mistakes are an excellent way to learn, but if you do this too slow then you might spend too much time in getting to the problem and don’t have enough time to solve it.

When building innovative solutions start small and think big works better than going all in. Smaller problems give you room to fail fast, but more importantly solve fast. Failure is important and helps to learn and understand, but the focus still needs to be in the problem to be solved.

Instead of spending allot of time in long and large problems, break them to smaller pieces and try to solve them fast. This gives you allot of more room to operate.

3. Let go of control and say yes

Nothing kills creativity like too much control. With a detail plan it feels natural to ensure that everyone sticks to the defined plan so that nothing goes wrong, but when it does then only the man with the plan can… well change the plan.

The key is in autonomy where the book Drive, by Daniel Pink works as a great reference. Companies what are letting go of control and offering autonomy are outperforming their competitors. Best performance and results are achieved when people and teams have autonomy over what they do, when they do it, who they do it with and how they do it.

So when you stop doing extensive planning, you also need to stop controlling the work and admit that you do not have all the answers. The best thing to do is to just say yes and give the control and the responsibility to where it best fits. To the people who do the actual work.

4. Reflect

Even when moving fast it is important from time to time stop and reflect on the work what has been completed so far and on the problems what have been found. In a transparent way, together with people who do the actual work plan improvements based on what you have learned and try to build an environment where constant improvements are possible through regular inspection and experimentation.

5. Put your money where your mouth is

I think the old saying, put your money where your mouth is fits in the end quite well. There is no point in talking about innovation, creativity or agility if you do not actually invest in it. I mean how many disrupting companies have achieved what they have with as-is processes and investing in ‘industry standards’ and the known. Committed stakeholders and a budget to actually spend is an absolute must, so convince your stakeholders to actually reserve budget for innovative development. Even if the results and benefits might not be clear from the start, but with a small initial investment and fast iterations it can be quickly validated if an idea or a solution is worth investing more. You just might be pleasantly surprised with a better Return of Investment in the end.