Planning and supporting the implementation of initiatives across regions is difficult. In complex project environments, the implementation of initiatives across multiple regions requires an understanding of:
- Regional differences
- Environments where the initiatives will be implemented, and the
- Regional competencies available (or needing development).
Three domains need to be evaluated and understood to support cross region initiatives. When working together these competencies support an agile and adaptive approach that is informed, engaging, and methodical. Inadequate support or development in any of these competency areas can have an impact on the initiatives performance.
For some members, many of the deliverables will represent ‘low hanging fruit’ that has either already been achieved or is near to current performance. For other members the deliverables may represent ‘stretch goals’ that almost defy imagination, producing anxiety and fear of being left behind or being found lacking in key areas.
It remains crucial that the project manager take these different performance levels, and levels of readiness, into account when identifying the approach to:
- Stakeholder engagement
- Risk management
- Role development
- Benchmarking & metrics
The challenge before the project manager is to find the best process and structure for engaging the different stakeholder groups in the pursuit of a shared goal. The more tangible and practical the goal is perceived the more likely engagement and interest will follow.
Cross regional initiatives are often mandated and championed by individuals or groups in positions of authority. Although more funding is often not tied to the success of a cross regional initiative it can be particularly useful during the first development stages to insure engagement. What is more often the case is the mandate to ‘do more’ with ‘the same resources,’ straining the partnerships ability to deliver. The project manager needs to take these different scenarios into consideration when identifying the pace, or velocity, in which work is scheduled.
Planning and supporting the implementation of initiatives across regions needs to be able to engage the different members simultaneously while supporting each at their levels or readiness. This is no easy task and requires a skilled facilitator to achieve. The above model provides a generic outline of how a cross regional planning initiative could be structured.
In addition to this generic structure there remains a wealth of business and strategic tools available to support cross regional coordination. A robust ‘domain 3’ (see graphic above) is crucial to being able to leverage and support the business and strategic tools needed to deliver value across the regions. Leadership’s responsibility to insure the necessary training and support is available to consistently use these tools remains central to the cross region initiative’s success. This is why, in some projects, deliverables are identified for the cross systems level and the rest are ‘owned’ at the regional or program level.
Planning and supporting the implementation of initiatives across regions also often use journey mapping and the world café model to engage stakeholders, improve communication and planning, and increase alignment. Strongest when conducted face to face, these tools can also be used with groups that are located remotely. With the advances in technology leadership teams can easily join planning discussions through tele and video conferencing.
Relationships are crucial and need to be considered from the project beginning. Each step of the framework discussed earlier involves answering questions and engaging stakeholders. Leveraging the knowledge, experience, and motivation of the initiative’s stakeholders will help to set the foundation for the rest of the project. The following “Planning and Support” canvas identifies some of the questions and issues that need to be addressed at each stage of the model.
Answering these questions becomes more difficult with turnover in the primary stakeholders. When there is a change in project managers it is the responsibility of the project sponsor, including corporate leadership, to insure the foundation is firmly established before taking the next step. Many projects have failed when the leadership team has decided to replace a project manager, or change the primary components of the project structure well after the first planning stages have passed. Project managers are well advised to consider the foundation of the project before accepting an assignment mid-stream.
Planning and supporting the implementation of initiatives across regions requires:
- A proactive approach to risk management,
- Continuous stakeholder and relationship management,
- Continuous environmental scanning to identify best practices rolling forward, and
- Adequate structures and consistent processes to maintain focus and momentum
Cross region initiatives require continuous environmental scanning to quickly identify and respond to risks as they surface. Each solution introduced into a complex project environment will often result in another problem that needs to be solved. This is particularly true in environments that experience:
- Changes in priorities
- Changes in leadership
- Inconsistent engagement or communications
- Different regional capacities
- Inadequate structure or inconsistent processes
- Poorly planned or arbitrary milestones/ schedules
- Inadequately defined requirements, etc.
The risk of each planning misstep heightens as the project’s complexity, scope, and size increases. Developing a formal structure for executing the planning stage, and mapping out the processes and strategies that follow, will be well worth the effort.
How is your team planning and supporting the implementation of initiatives across regions? Share your comments and stories below.
Travis Barker, MPA GCPM
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