PM isn’t just for the everyday. It should be an essential part of your strategy in times of change and disarray – from mergers and acquisitions, layoffs, and reorganizations to lawsuits and communication scandals.
As he wrote: “Last year, some 40,000 companies changed ownership, for a total deal value of some $5 trillion, according to Thomson Reuters. That means people are managing 40,000 massive transformation projects – but how well are they executing them? And have they been planned using the best practices of the professional field known as project management?”
In the article, Nieto-Rodriguez cited 10 steps for leveraging PM to assist with mergers and acquisitions. These included identifying a unique problem or opportunity, examining alternatives and being selective about projects to take on, understanding the puzzle of how all of your projects fit together, defining a specific timeline, securing high levels of sponsorship, obtaining necessary resources, anticipating drag and overconfidence, imagining plausible kill scenarios, selling to internal stakeholders, and tracking metrics.
In a follow-up interview, I asked Nieto-Rodriguez how to best leverage PM in the event of other disruptive events that might occur in an organization. Here are some of his ideas:
Manage a round of layoffs as a project and appoint an expert project leader to execute it. In most cases, the rationale for the layoffs is clear and the PM should communicate it to the impacted stakeholders. The inception and planning of the project might take some time, as all of the details must be carefully defined. As opposed to traditional projects, the implementation part (or the layoff announcement) should be as short as possible. Your project plan should include support for both the employees leaving as well as the ones staying.
Reorganizations are transversal by nature and impact several or even all of the departments within an organization. The project approach and its emphasis on clear objectives, tasks, and deadlines will bring focus to the proposed changes. Here again, the rationale has to be clearly articulated, including the benefits for employees. Avoid being in “constant reorganization mode,” which creates change fatigue when the organization is not able to recoup sustainable benefits from the new model introduced. Reorganization projects need time, sometimes a few years, to make changes stick and deliver the promised benefits.
Legal project management is defined as the “application of project management principles and practices to enhance the delivery of legal services.” Obviously, neither area is new, but only recently have we started to combine them. By applying a PM approach to lawsuits, you are more likely to arrive at a more accurate scope of work, allocate resources, better manage expectations, and keep costs down.
The most agile way to address communication scandals is through a project with a fully dedicated team. Speed is of the essence, and by taking a project approach, you can have a response out within a few hours. In traditional projects, milestones may happen infrequently, but in the event of a communication scandal, there may be several deadlines in a week. Decisions must be made quickly, so daily contact between the project leader and the project sponsor is essential.