Strategic Silence: The Dangers of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ for Strategic Initiatives
How ambitious is your strategy? Is it a moonshot with big hairy audacious goals? If the answer is yes, then what is it going to take to make it happen?
Given the level of ambition, an ordinary or everyday project is unlikely to be enough. It is going to take a massive, sustained and coordinated effort, together with careful planning and intelligent / adaptive execution.
In short, your ambitious strategy is going to require a super project or super projects to make it happen. But have you got one?
‘Super Projects’ are super ambitious, super confident and super aligned. They are also characterized by super teamwork and collaboration. Let’s explore these super powers in more detail. You can jump to the end to watch the extended video or continue reading.
Super Power # 1: Super Ambition.
- Whether it's a digital transformation, the launch of a new drug, or an internal re-structuring, super projects are a departure from business as usual.
- They have the potential to transform organizations, even industries.
- Super Ambition is when people at fired up by a clear and compelling ‘why?'
- It goes beyond targets and numbers to connect with passion and purpose for those involved.
Super Power # 2: Super Confidence
While super projects may be aiming for the moon in terms of ambition, they have their feet on the ground when it comes to execution. That is super power number 2.
Here is what it means:
- Super projects are super confident of project success.
- Moreover, success and how it will be measured is clearly defined.
- But, what really makes super projects ‘super' is confidence in their impact on business success.
- Super Confidence comes from a sense of control – those running super projects know their plans are good, but that their ability to adapt is even better.
- Away from the public gaze, super confident leaders can entertain doubt & uncertainty because it galvanizes, rather than paralyzes, their teams.
- Being super confident, means they can talk about risk, navigate around obstacles and learn from setbacks.
- Delivering on time, to budget and to scope isn’t a matter of faith, but regular review and adjustment. Regular and effective project reviews enable the dynamic adjustment of static plans in a fast-changing environment.
- Super projects are complexity conscious, they embrace uncertainty as well as though choices, tradeoffs and compromises.
Super Projects are super aligned. That is super power number 3.
- Whether driven by IT, HR or Finance, super projects put the business 1st. They are aligned with business needs and priorities.
- As such, they enjoy the full commitment and support of the organization and its leaders.
- Super aligned for a super project means that it is talked about at the C-suite or even the board. Moreover, it is a top 3-5 priority for key internal stakeholders.
- Super projects are aligned not just at the start, but throughout. Alignment is dynamic in response to changing market, customer and stakeholder needs.
- Super aligned means super focused, with people, priorities and resources being directed towards a clear set of priorities and results. They avoid dissipating or wasting resources.
- Alignment also helps to ensure that noise and distractions are kept to a minimum.
The 4th super power is teamwork and collaboration.
- Talent accounts for over 50% of the success of super projects.
- With the right people in all the key roles, super projects have the necessary access, insights and skills.
- But it is not just about highly capable and committed individuals. Super collaborators are more important than heroic solo runs.
- Super projects need super teams. Indeed, it is difficult, if not impossible, to separate the performance of the project from the performance of the team.
- Teams are the primary vehicle for performance, with the health and performance of the team being an important KPI.
- Super Projects embrace the soft and messy stuff. They invest in their team – supporting and developing them as needed. That is because they know that you can't just bring a team of individual high performers together and expect a high performing team.
- The measure of a super team is its ability to unlock the individual and collective potential of its members. They bring out the best in each other.
- Super teams are carefully set up for success. They have sufficient power and autonomy to make it happen. They can act, where needed, without seeking approval and endless committees or paperwork.
- They also have a super power – the ability to review and optimize the way they work and interact. They ensure that the right people are in the right roles, doing the right work, working together in the right way, towards the right results, etc.
- Super teams operate in an environment of super trust, where people can be themselves and say what they are really thinking. Also, where there is respectful challenge too.
Super projects are not delivered in silos, either. They strive to continually optimize the effectiveness of cross-functional collaboration. That is not easy, however.
Super projects often chaff at the traditional organization structure and its ways of working – they are delivered through a cross-functional matrix, rather than a departmental hierarchy. They challenge traditional role definitions, reporting relationships, ways of working, and so on.
Typically, super projects also have super PR. After all, ‘bigging-up’ projects is essential to securing resources. But, don’t be fooled by the hype, super projects have a messy side too.
Away from the public gaze, even super projects have moments where their teams are overburdened with work and their plans are called into doubt. After all, super projects exist in the real world, they are not just a work of fiction!
Successfully delivering super projects is one of the most challenging things that organizations do – just look at the rates of failure and frustration involved.
Delivering ambitious projects was always complex, now it is doubly so. That is because of the need for greater speed and innovation. Take for example a drug launch that previously might have taken 2-3 years, but must now happen in 12-14 months.
The 5th Super Power
Paradoxically, ‘super projects’ are not super because they don't have flaws, or don't face obstacles, but rather because they do. They are ‘super’ because, despite everything that is thrown at them – internal bureaucracy, scarce resources, misaligned stakeholders, etc. – they keep on going.
Being undaunted by challenges and setbacks is what really makes projects and the teams running them super. That is the 5th Superpower, we call it ‘moxy’.
“Moxy” is a colloquial term to describe someone's ability to face challenges with courage, determination, and energy.
Having “moxy” means possessing the boldness and spirit necessary to undertake difficult tasks, make tough decisions, or stand firm in the face of adversity. It's about showing initiative and being fearless in pursuit of goals, despite potential obstacles or risks.
These are the characteristics that describe perfectly those who strive to bring ambitious strategies and plans to life.
Here is an extended version of the video
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