Dear HR Executive:
Working on a critical HR project? If you're not right now, you will be soon. Below is your TO-DON'T list - ten different (and all too common) ways to screw up any HR project, large or small, courtesy of Project Management expert and author, Michael Greer.
It's interesting to note that some of these actually sound like good business sense at first glance, but in reality they are deadly to your HR project's ultimate success. Don't kid yourself and don't fall for the "easy answers" that will cause you more work, more time, and more headaches down the road...
- Don’t bother prioritizing your overall HR project load. After all, if there’s a free-for-all approach to your overall HR program management (i.e., “survival of the fittest”), then the projects that survive will be those that were destined to survive. In the meantime, senior management need not trouble themselves aligning projects with strategic goals or facing the logical imperative that people simply cannot have 12 different "number one" priorities!
- Encourage sponsors and key stakeholders to take a passive role on the project team. Let them assert their authority to reject HR's deliverables at random, without participating in defining HR project outcomes in a high-resolution fashion. And above all, don’t bother management sponsors when their constituents drop the ball and miss their deadlines.
- Set up ongoing committees focusing on management process (such as TQM groups, etc.) and make project team members participate in frequent meetings and write lots of reports… preferably when critical HR project deadlines are coming due.
- Interrupt team members relentlessly … preferably during their time off. Find all sorts of trivial issues that "need to be addressed," then keep their beepers and cell phones ringing and bury them in emails to keep them off balance.
- Create a culture in which HR managers are expected to “roll over” and take it when substantive new deliverables are added halfway through the HR project. (After all, only a tradesperson like a plumber or electrician would demand more money or more time for additional services; HR people are “professionals” and should be prepared to be “flexible.”)
- Add a whole bunch of previously unnamed stakeholders half way through the project, when most of the deliverables have begun to take shape, and ask them for their opinions about the project and its deliverables.
- Encourage the sponsor to approve HR's deliverables informally (with nods, smiles, and verbal praise); never force sponsors to stand behind their approvals with a formal sign-off. (In other words, give ‘em plenty of room to weasel out of agreements!)
- Make sure HR project managers have lots of responsibilities and deadlines, but no authority whatsoever to acquire or remove people from the project; to get enough money, materials, or facilities; or to insist on timely participation of SMEs and key reviewers.
- Describe HR project deliverables in the vaguest possible terms so upper management and sponsors have plenty of leeway to reinvent the project outputs repeatedly as the project unfolds.
- Get your HR projects up and running as quickly as possible – don’t worry about documenting agreements in a formal project charter, clearly describing team roles/responsibilities, or doing a thorough work breakdown analysis. So let’s get to it without a pesky audit trail. After all, we know what we’re doing and we trust each other. Right?
Ummmm... Hello? Gosh, where did everybody go while I had my back turned writing these on the whiteboard? Ah, well... see you at the next project meeting!