In business, facts and data matter. They are the foundation of success. However, when it comes to running successful projects, ignore feelings at your peril.
Today’s newsletter is about feelings. Especially on how to engage your stakeholders feelings to ensure your global projects run more smoothly.
Feelings matter. In life, love, in cars and of course in business. Even when we think we are very rational.
Case in point. When I bought my current car. I researched all the brands. I contacted the environmental engineering department of the ETH Zurich to ask them about the ecological impact of diesel versus petrol motors. I did test drives and compiled lists on resale value criteria. I now have a car. It’s nice. It’s fit for purpose. My approach was very rational.
And, of course, I am not a car person. Or so I thought. Until the day Hertz upgraded my rental. Instead of a Toyota Prius. They gave me a Mustang.
It was red. Of course. And fast. And beautiful.
When I opened the door the image of a running horse was projected on the ground. I was in love. I drove through Arizona singing at the top of my voice. I loved every minute. I have photos with that car. Not just one, several. And, full disclosure? I’m not embarrassed to admit it. The Mustang would never have made my list. But driving it was so much fun. My staid, sensible, perfectly-engineered German car cannot compete. Feelings trump sensible criteria. Even for someone who loves excel sheets.
The truth is, that for most of us how something makes us feel is more important than objective criteria. Even if we don’t like to admit it. Both in cars and in business.
We all know of business projects that failed. Usually big projects with significant amounts of budget and resource invested in them. Often, technically well-designed and well-thought out and endorsed by senior management. Unfortunately, technical perfection is not a predictor of project success. Almost always when I hear about projects that failed, they failed because the individuals, who would be using the tools, were not involved in the design, delivery or implementation.
Most project failures have a common denominator, they failed to take people into account.
Take a relatively straightforward IT system roll-out. You can pick a system off the shelf. Train your users and roll it out.
If your users were not involved in selecting, adapting or discussing potential solutions, there is a 100% certainty they will tell you it is not fit for purpose.
It may be that the system/process does not work for their country, region, or department. Or that it’s not compliant with local regulations. Nobody will ever tell you that something feels wrong. It’s not language we use in business. However, it still impacts how we work and can, unidentified, present significant obstacles to success. The reasons they do not think your solution is fit for purpose may all be valid. However, if you spend hours discussing and re-discussing minute, seemingly irrelevant details of a project, instead of making progress towards a solution, what your team may be signalling is “this feels wrong”.
Bottom line, If your teams don’t feel that a system, project or approach is right, then that system, project or approach will not be used.
Best case? You spend the next months adapting the system in line with stakeholder needs. Worst case? The system ends up being replaced shortly after roll-out.
I have seen both cases. I’m sure you have too. Both result in a huge investment of time and money, that could have been avoided. Unfortunately, the changes you end up making to projects, systems and processes, when engaging with your stakeholders, may seem negligible by objective criteria, compared to the original off the shelf solution. And you may well be right. But remember perception is reality.
Key takeaway – a new process or system is just a tool. The most important predictor of success is that your stakeholders feel the solution fits their needs and solves a real problem.
Running global programs in medical affairs can be challenging. However, luckily you can plan for success Making sure your stakeholders are engaged is a key element to prepare you for success.
There are several others. If you are facing a global program challenge right now I’d love to discuss how I can help. Please reach out to me of find out more.