Category Project Leadership & Management

4 Risks That Will Sink Your Change Management Plan – And  What To Do About Them

Whether you are hiring a new leader, implementing a new hybrid workplace model, merging, or executing a new strategy, managing change is critical to the success of any organization.

Read why hiring a new leader is ‘Change Management

In my experience, leaders spend too much time communicating the vision and the benefits of the change and not enough time talking about the ‘how’.

I have worked with dozens of clients to help identify the risks and craft a strategy to address them – to arrive at the organization’s new end state faster.

From my experience, here are the most common barriers to transformational change.

  1. Lack of a Communication Strategy That People Pay Attention to

When I asked middle managers and individual contributors whether they believed their organizations’ strategies were achievable, they scored 30% lower than executives due to poor communications.

When it comes to your communication strategy, an organization-wide email and prerecorded message won’t cut it. A recent Microsoft study on email open rates showed that only 40% of employees would read more than 30% of any internal email. Simply increasing the frequency of communications can further desensitize employees and thus doesn’t provide a solution.

Another critical factor in driving buy-in and engagement to organizational strategy changes is ensuring individual teams understand how their goals contribute to organizational success.

Big ideas need to be talked about and not read.

Read about being the Chief Reminder Officer

  1. Excluding Informal Leaders

Ensuring that your organization’s leaders are aligned and bought into the organizational change is critical to successful change management – but what about informal leaders not listed on your organizational chart? Informal Leaders can be found at all levels of an organization and frequently fly under the radar of executive leadership in large organizations. Informal Leaders often act as information brokers and influence how others perceive the organization, so they should be identified and carefully considered in your change management efforts.

Once you have identified your Informal Leaders, you can incorporate them into your change management strategy by creating a liaison and a change champions network and reaching out to them for bottom-up feedback. By combining their feedback early on, your organization can benefit from fine-tuning the tactical execution while also building buy-in and credibility for the efforts.

Read about the client who was 90% sure they would be on time & on budget

  1. Failing to Establish and Clarify New Working Relationships

Failing to establish new working relationships, ownership, and cultural norms often presents one of the largest sources of frustration in organizational change. Depending on the nature of the transformation, teams can experience massive changes in processes and working relationships that are difficult to predict and coordinate.

From a risk perspective, changed lines of communication and expectations create an environment where mistakes can happen due to a lack of coordination. Over the long term, poor coordination can lead to frustration, damaged relationships, and ultimately mistrust in leadership.

To prevent your organization from being blind-sided by operational risks and missed handoffs, consider running exercises about the impact of the change with the people undergoing change.

  1. Not Collecting Bottom-Up Feedback

In all large organizations, frontline employees have valuable insights that are frequently overlooked. During times of transformational change, your frontline can serve as real-time resources and feedback mechanisms to monitor the progress of your new initiatives or efforts.

From a risk perspective, failing to consider what is happening to your frontline will slow down your reaction time to new threats, lead to overestimating your company’s ability and lull you into a sense of false security.

In the long term, the risk is that your people will lose trust in leadership. Organizations with low trust in leadership frequently experience lower productivity, low psychological safety, high turnover, and stifled innovation.

Read about Trust

An organization undergoing transformation, by definition, changes over time – being vigilant in monitoring risk should go hand-in-hand.

The #1 Secret & 4 tips You Need To Know To Delegate

You know you need to delegate. But do you know HOW to delegate? If you’re not getting the desired results, chances are this lies with you.

Most agree that delegation is critical to management success. If that’s true, why are we usually left unhappy with the results we get after we delegate?

“WHY! WHY! Oh why, do I not get what I asked for?” Sound familiar?

But before you go blaming those you delegate to, remember this:

Failed delegation is rarely the fault of the person to whom you delegated. Usually, it is the fault of the person delegating.

“Delegating work works, provided the one delegating works, too.” – Robert Half.

As for the common root of failed delegation? Well, 99% of the time, the leader’s instructions do not provide clarity for the person doing the work.

But you can change things and begin to get the expected results. And I’m about to tell you how.

How to Delegate: The #1 Secret

Okay, here it is, the number one secret about how to delegate:


Without clarity, you’re leaving delegation up to guesswork. You’re expecting your team to read your mind. And when has that ever worked out? As lovely as it would be for our team members to know what we want before we even know what we want, this isn’t realistic. Or fair. With some effort in creating clarity surrounding expectations, delegation, in general, will become much more effective.

You will benefit from getting the results you want, and your team will benefit from knowing what their next move should be.

Here are four things to be clear on about how to delegate

You must be 100% clear on:

Clarity of objective: What exactly is it that needs to be done? Is an assignment as straightforward as it can be?

          • If a report is required, what exactly is to be completed? An email? A 1-page summary? A 10-page brief? Or, a 40-page report?
          • When is it to be completed?
          • What are the resources that are going to be available?

Clarity of responsibility: Whose assignment is it? Who does what to whom?

Clarity of time: The request was for a “quick competitive analysis.” Well, how quick is it? A day? A week? Two weeks?

Clarity of communication: Who reports to whom? When are status reports and updates due? When do you, as the assigned, want to know about risks and problems?

Clarity is a tricky subject. It’s a challenge for many leaders. But it’s worth the work of creating it. For more on how to do that, try this post next: Be The CRO – 2 Ways to Communicate with Clarity.

So, what is the solution?

As for how to achieve this clarity? Personal charters!

There’s no guarantee you’ll end up precisely with what you want. But you can improve the odds by creating a charter between you and the person to whom you are delegating a task.

These ‘charters’ can be verbal, in an email or in a formal written document. The point is to clarify expectations, milestones, terms & timings, schedule accountability and establish reporting expectations.

Okay, now we’ve given you the secret for delegating and four things you need to be absolutely clear on. Now, it’s time to go out and make it happen. Communicate expectations, clearly define those expectations, and don’t assume the person you’re delegating to can read your mind.

Need some help with that? Let’s talk. Click here to start a conversation and get the results you want.

Did you learn a lot from this post? Try one of these articles next:

3 Reasons Your Team Misses Their Deadlines & What to Do About It

The author, Douglas Adams once said … “I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.”

According to a 2018 PMI (Project Management Institute) report, roughly 48% of projects don’t finish on schedule.  

Imagine, nearly half of all project deadlines are missed, resulting in increased costs, unhappy customers and ruins reputations and careers.  

What to do?

Here are three reasons deadlines are missed and what you can do to keep things or track:

1. Optimistic Planning Creates Unachievable Timelines

It is very human to be overly optimistic about how long it will take to complete a task.

This is called “planning fallacy.” (A theory developed in 1977 by Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky)

Imagine your last project took 16 months to complete. It’s natural to assume you can do it in less time, because now you have more knowledge and experience.

But that optimism can quickly lead to missed deadlines.

Other causes of optimistic timelines are:

      • Assuming the project will go as planned, with no issues.
      • Not understanding how long it’s taken to complete similar projects.
      • Failure to realize constraints on resource.

How to Create Realistic Timelines

The key to a more realistic schedule is to rely on analysis and data.

If you’ve completed similar projects in the past, use that data as the basis for realistic estimates. The more data you have, the more confident you can be in your estimates.

If you don’t have enough past project data to guide you, then you can use the following methods:

Method 1: Use a multi-point estimation technique

Take multiple estimates and combine them to arrive at a more realistic timeline. For example, average:

      1. The most optimistic amount of time you think it will take.
      2. The most pessimistic amount of time you think it will take.
      3. The amount of time you believe it’s most likely to take.

Method 2: Engage your team to create ‘bottom-up’ estimates

A bottom-up approach to estimating requires that you build your timeline by having team members estimating each individual task and then combining them to arrive at an overall project estimate.

This ensures tasks they may understand but you may not be aware of are not over-looked.

And, you increase employee buy-in and confidence in the schedule.

Method 3: Build in Contingencies

By building contingencies into your schedule, you can help account for known and unknown risks, which will result in a more achievable timeline. It’s typically a flat 5–10% of the project cost and/or timeline added to the schedule baseline in case something unforeseen occurs.

2. Unclear Expectations Result in Missed Deadlines

If your team is unclear on when a deadline is, how can they meet it?

Communication problems can lead to you thinking your team understood their deadline when they didn’t.

Imagine the following conversation:

You: “Can you get this back to me by Thursday, at the latest?

Team member: “Well, I don’t know. There are may be defects, if I have to correct errors, then I doubt I’ll be able to complete this before Monday.

You: “Look, unless they’re critical, just leave the bugs and focus on this. I really need it no later than Friday.

Team member: “Alright, I’ll try my best.

Based on this conversation, the boss expects the task to be completed Thursday unless there are critical defects.

The team member believes they have till Friday, unless there are critical bugs, then Monday is the drop-dead deadline.

How to Communicate Expectations Clearly

Here are three ways you can ensure your team understands their deadlines.

Method 1: Use your project management systems

If you assign work informally or inconsistently, it can be easily misunderstood, forgotten, or considered unimportant.

When you hand out assignments verbally, people can easily forget about what was discussed or misconstrue your words. For instance, if you say, “I’d like to see this by the end of the week,” a team member may see that as a request and not a hard deadline.

When their name is assigned to a task in project the end date in the system allows for no question as to when their deadline is.

Method 2: Implement feedback loops

A feedback loop, or communication loop, is a simple process for ensuring what you’ve communicated has been heard and understood.

You ask them to repeat back to you what their deadlines are. In our hypothetical conversation, imagine if the team member was asked what the agreed-upon deadline was and replied: “Friday, unless there are critical defects, then Monday.”

You would have the opportunity to clarify expectations before missed deadlines.

Method 3: Conduct check-ins

The last thing you want is to discover after the deadline was missed that there was a misunderstanding as to when it was.

By incorporating periodic check-ins into your schedule, you’re achieving three things:

    1. Creating opportunities to remind employees of a deadline.
    2. Re-communicating the importance of that deadline.
    3. Creating opportunities for team members to give you feedback to so you better understand what is going on and identify potential problems and warning signs, without having to micromanage your team.

3. Poor Time Management

If you asked people how many hours a day they spend doing productive, project-related work, what answer would they give? Assuming an 8-hour work day, they may guess 7–8 hours.

But, research shows that this is a huge overestimate.

There are coffee breaks, bathroom breaks, smoke breaks and visiting.

In an average 8-hour work day, most people only accomplish 5 hours of productive work. Much of which is multi-tasking and constant interruptions.

In reality, your team is achieving less than 50% of their time doing uninterrupted productive work each week.

If you are assuming a 35–40-hour work week, but only achieving 12.5–25 hours of work, there is no wonder there are missed deadlines!

How to Improve Employee Time Management

Here are three ways you can help your team better manage their time and become more productive:

Method 1: Reduce time wasters

Have your employees record what and how they spent their time.

By tracking their own time for a few days, your team can discover time wasters and discover bottlenecks in the process, such as the time they’re forced to sit idle while waiting for reviews or approvals.

Or time spent in unproductive or unnecessary meetings. Consider giving your employees permission to attend only the meetings they are directly impacted by and allow them to excuse themselves from the unnecessary ones.  

Method 2: Eliminate distractions and interruptions

While being connected and accessible can boost collaboration and communication among the team, it can also detract from productivity.

Every time we’re interrupted, it destroys our focus, time that could otherwise be used to meet project deadlines.   

Here are three ways you can help your team eliminate distractions and interruptions:

    1. Encourage blocking time for specific tasks.
    2. Recommend employees only check email and messages at designated times.
    3. Provide a quiet, isolated space such as an empty office for employees working on anything complex or high-priority.  

Method 3: Avoid overloading your team

You may find that your team is still over-allocated, after all you can’t completely remove emails, meetings, and other interruptions.

Even if you can help your employees achieve 30 hours of productive work a week, you’re still overloading them by assuming a 35-40-hour work week in your schedule.

When people cannot get everything done in the time allotted to them deadlines will slip.

If your team members have too much on their plates, you will need to either increase the size of the team or push out the timelines.

If some of their workload is for another project or manager, ensure everyone is aligned on what is prioritized, and work together to agree to an attainable schedule.


Missed deadlines are all too common across all industries and businesses.

If your team is one of the nearly half of project teams with missed deadlines, it’s due to one of three problems: overly optimistic estimates, unclear deadline expectations, or poor time management.

Fortunately, all three of these are avoidable.

By following the advice above, you can ensure that your team doesn’t miss another deadline from here on out.

Manage Competing Priorities!

Do you have a million things to do that each seem as important as the next?  

These are called competing priorities, and they can get in the way of your success if they aren’t managed appropriately.

In a survey of my blog readers, competing priorities were identified as a leading cause of distraction.

There are cartloads of theories that explain how to develop, communicate, and make decisions based on priorities. 


I have a very simple piece of advice for you.

If what you’re working on isn’t moving you towards your goals and objectives, why are you working on it at all?

Read more about goals and getting things done

Here’s another way of looking at it. Ask yourself this question every time something new comes up: “How does this project or opportunity get me closer to my goals?”

We’re often not making choices that bring us closer to achieving our goals. 

That’s why I’ve put together these three helpful tricks that can help you manage competing priorities and determine what you should focus your attention on.

1. Check in with your boss.

If you aren’t sure what your priorities are, you had better hustle down the hall and talk to your boss or your board. 

One of their first responsibilities is to help you understand what’s most important.

Don’t be afraid to reach out to your boss for help managing competing priorities. Chances are, they’ve been in the same boat and will have some great insight. 

Click here to read more about talking to your boss

2. Check in with others.

If your tasks involve other people, talk to them. 

Find out when they need your help or if they can lend a hand. In some cases, they may not need your deliverable right away. Other times, they might not be as busy as you are and they could help you out.

Utilize your coworkers and other people involved, and you never know how it could help you manage all of the tasks on your plate.

3. Manage expectations.

Once you’ve determined what you should tackle first, put it in writing and share it with everyone involved. 

This sets expectations for when you’ll get your work done. When expectations are sufficiently managed and communicated, you’ll be able to get a handle on the most critical  tasks you need to complete.

When it comes to managing competing priorities, we know that reaching out to our bosses and coworkers is a significant first step. Next, it’s up to you to manage expectations by putting these priorities in writing. 

Before you know it, you’ll be a pro at managing competing priorities and handling whatever life throws at you. 

If you’re interested in going deeper or moving your career to the next level, you’ll also want to have a look at my 1-on-1 coaching services.

If you enjoyed this article, be sure to check these out, too:

Six Tips to Partner With Your Boss
3 Priorities To Plan For Your Business’ Survival
The 6T’s To Know What To Delegate

This article was originally published on May 31, 2018, and has been updated.

10 Project Management Lessons From Combat That You Can Apply To Your Project Team

When I speak to various groups, I use my military and emergency management experience to teach leadership and project management lessons.

Recently I was asked if there was a difference between leading projects in a military and a civilian setting.

Yes, there are times in the military when project management is intense, and timings are compressed, but at its core, the principals are the same.

When I entered the military, I had no idea that that the training I received and the rules developed for infantry tactics were invaluable in leading project teams.

 Here is my top ten:

1. Plan. To survive combat, the infantry leader must think beyond the immediate situation and assess possible outcomes. The project manager should define how objectives will be met regarding scope, requirements, schedule, resources, risks, cost, quality and performance.

2. Study your Intel. In combat, knowing the situation on the ground is key to effectively adjusting your position. In project management, team composition, costs, weather and projects requirements will, most likely, change before completion, so stay ahead of it.

3. Check your kit. The tradition of the sergeant doing a weapons check is mirrored by the project manager’s check on available resources. Are the resource management & procurement management plans consistent with the project plan?

4. Check your communications. An infantry leader has a range of communication tool to stay in touch with those directing the operation and those executing the orders. Your communication tools should be diverse and tailored to the needs of all levels of internal and external stakeholders.

5. Know your team. Like the infantry leader, the project manager must be aware of team members’ capabilities as missions and projects fail due to the departure of a key contributor. Have the adequate backup and to shape your team, so its overall performance is greater than any one individual.

6. Never leave a team member behind. Combat team members must know that the team leader will take care of them. The project manager often demands extreme dedication from team members. In return, team members should be rewarded for successful project completion.

7. Know the territory. The infantry leader must be able to use the lay of the land advantageously. Likewise, a project manager must know the circumstances surrounding the project and must be able to internalize and articulate the goals of the project.

8. Be decisive. When an opportunity for failure looms, infantry leader is the person to evaluate the threat, enact a recovery strategy, and monitor the situation until the danger passes. Above all, the infantry leader and project manager must provide a clear vision of success.

9. Lead. The combat infantry leader often must make difficult decisions. Project managers are not involved in life-or-death decisions, but the stakes can be high.

10. The mission isn’t over until the paperwork is done. Once the mission is complete, the first order of business is to debrief & document the results. As project management: document the project, detail the results, move from implementation to sustained operations, and document lessons learned.

3 Project Management Lies: And none are I’m from the government and I’m here to help

We have all had one of those days – lots on our plate – and your Boss show up at your door without a coffee for you and says “Sorry to interrupt how about those Blue Jays? Oh Yeah, one more thing. We need to add something to that Bloggins’ project.”

Let’s break that down:

“Sorry to interrupt.” – Translation: They aren’t even remotely sorry

“One more thing.” – Translation: A big add-on but DON’T go overtime and meeting all your other priorities.

“We need to add…” – Translation: “You need to do.”

The next time someone tries to put more work on your shoulders—when you’re already at max capacity—here’s how to respond to a:

Supervisor or Manager:

I can take this on, but I’d like to review something with you before I proceed.

Right now, my current priorities are: [list them in order].

Would you like this new assignment to be my top priority?

If so, that’s no problem, but it means that all my other projects will get completed slightly later.

I can create a timeline of when everything will be completed if that’s helpful to you.



I can help you with this. However, right now I am working on a different project that’s a top priority for my department.

I’m working on a deadline, and I need to stay focused and keep progressing.

I’ll be able to switch gears and attend to your request [at/on] [time / date].

Thank you for understanding!


Thanks for [writing / stopping by]. I can help you with this.

But first, let’s talk about the other items that I’m currently working on for you.

Right now, I’m working on: [list them in order].

If we add this new piece to the list, I’ll need to bill you for an additional [$$$].

It also means that the timeline we initially agreed upon will need to shift. [describe the new dates, timing, etc.]

Are you OK with the additional cost and new timeline?

If so, [tell me / write back to say]: “Greenlight! Go!”

Remember, whoever is making this “ridiculous and unreasonable” request is probably just as swamped and stressed out as you are or it could be a genuine crisis. In either case, these scripts might not be appropriate, so have some empathy and try to be compassionate.

No matter how colleagues choose to communicate with you (rudely, coldly, crazily), you can still be professional and polite when you respond.

Be patient. Stay cool. Speak firmly.