Author(s): Matta NF, Ashkenas RN
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Abstract Big projects fail at an astonishing rate--more than half the time, by some estimates. It's not hard to understand why. Complicated long-term projects are customarily developed by a series of teams working along parallel tracks. If managers fail to anticipate everything that might fall through the cracks, those tracks will not converge successfully at the end to reach the goal. Take a companywide CRM project. Traditionally, one team might analyze customers, another select the software, a third develop training programs, and so forth. When the project's finally complete, though, it may turn out that the salespeople won't enter in the requisite data because they don't understand why they need to. This very problem has, in fact, derailed many CRM programs at major organizations. There is a way to uncover unanticipated problems while the project is still in development. The key is to inject into the overall plan a series of miniprojects, or "rapid-results initiatives," which each have as their goal a miniature version of the overall goal. In the CRM project, a single team might be charged with increasing the revenues of one sales group in one region by 25\% within four months. To reach that goal, team members would have to draw on the work of all the parallel teams. But in just four months, they would discover the salespeople's resistance and probably other unforeseen issues, such as, perhaps, the need to divvy up commissions for joint-selling efforts. The World Bank has used rapid-results initiatives to great effect to keep a sweeping 16-year project on track and deliver visible results years ahead of schedule. In taking an in-depth look at this project, and others, the authors show why this approach is so effective and how the initiatives are managed in conjunction with more traditional project activities.
This article was published in Harv Bus Rev
and referenced in Irrigation & Drainage Systems Engineering