Assurance – a welcomed behaviour within the change delivery culture…

Culture is an interesting beast. It’s often discussed, yet hard to articulate and is typically only subjectively measured. These truisms are amplified when the culture in question relates to change delivery. Project teams are often seen as being a law unto themselves. Cowboy’s driving to a date with scant regard for the impact on others.

Surely then, adding an element of embedded assurance into the cultural mix would be a good idea? Less stick wielding police, more caring parent giving advice and the confidence that you’re getting it right.

Culture is created by the way a group behaves and is only susceptible to change by influence, not by force. The combination of people with shared values and respect for the controls is the optimal mix. It takes a deft hand and a delicate balance to create the right environment, too many controls and you risk creating a culture of rebellion, too few and it’s the Wild-West.

Assurance, when done well, is a positive enabler not a roadblock. For it to flourish, and in turn for more projects to succeed, it needs to be an embedded element of the change delivery culture.

Within the change delivery environment an inherent culture of opportunism and positivity is characteristic. Individuals of multiple talents are organisationally structured with a common sense of purpose, and are praised for their capabilities to deliver on agreed expectations. The eternal challenge is control.

These change tribes even collectively strategise and tactically map out with the sponsoring high power chiefs of the organisational land how they will enable the all-conquering business plan, which will defeat their rivals and sustain a better future for all.

Culture is created by the way a group behaves and is only susceptible to change by influence, not by force.

Behind these movements of change revolution are often an agreed framework with mechanisms that assist the community, as well as show those on the outside what and how they are enabling and progressing on their transformational journey.

In my previous blog, “Project Methodologies – Which one is right for me?”, I touched on how assurance is often perceived as an inherent part of the delivery process. The issue is whether self-regulation is effective.

Before all the ‘Agilists’ shout out saying we have assurance through our stand-ups, stories with their associated definition of ‘done’ and intermittent retrospectives. Or the ‘Waterfallers’ with their ‘RAG’ status reports, stage gates and exit test criteria rise to claim absolute control. I agree that there is a certain level of assurance in play within delivery frameworks of all persuasions.

My question is, can it truly be said that built within the change delivery beliefs and shared perceptions of the ways of working of these delivery frameworks, there is a true sense of independent assurance?

A method allowing themselves to be appropriately challenged, which validates if their chosen pathway to success is the right one and is meeting expectations, particularly within the boundaries of time, cost and benefits (quality / scope)? I think not.

Performance or outcome based assurance has its own framework, processes and mechanisms (e.g. evaluations or audits, reporting, ongoing monitoring) to ensure that projects undertaken are operating efficiently and effectively to meet agreed objectives. These are quite separate to the delivery agenda but can work effectively in parallel to the benefit of all.

Assurance needs to be received in a positive mindset and be at the forefront of the change delivery culture.

Assurance reviews do not have to be perceived as draconian, but more a transparent method where the change culture welcomes a collaboration between its common cause and the transparency of an independent party ensuring everything is operating as it should.

This independent party supports the common cause through assisting in the provision of valued insights and constructive recommendations that both streamline project operations and ensure delivery of agreed outcomes.

I don’t believe, in our time of instant gratification and market presence counted in seconds, that change assurance is welcomed in to constructively challenge the pillars of the hybrid change delivery methodologies and question those that scurry in the hallways of the transformation.

It is still seen as the dreary shadow best left in the dark, like the names of the federal government agents who took down Al Capone for tax evasion, Frank J. Wilson and prosecutor George E.Q. Johnson. Unlike the more known and decorated Eliot Ness and his incorruptible Untouchables caught Al for selling illicit whisky.

Like the need to stop Al Capone and his thuggish behaviour back in the late 1920s, there is a need to change the perception and use of assurance within the change delivery environment.

Assurance needs to be received in a positive mindset and be at the forefront of the change delivery culture. If not, we will continue to see projects not meet expectations and the change failure rates continuing to exceed 25%.