In my consulting experience, I have seen some senior management (or key people close to them) pushing their organizations – intentionally or unintentionally – backwards. I thought that it might be useful to examine – either as lessons learned or as a guide – some surefire practices that make a project-based organization dysfunctional!

1- Forget about building competent staff: Don’t only keep the low performers but also push them up in the organization to have a group of incompetent leaders. Never reward the top performers, with time, they will either get frustrated or quit. (Good start!)


2- Never bring every brain to the game: Build your circle of trust; Make sure you have a follower everywhere in the organization; use incompetent opportunist people (they are perfect followers and easy to mange). Marginalize those knowledgeable and experienced professionals and ignore their ideas and proposals. (Clear your way, you have a lot of work to focus on!)


3- Clear Responsibilities and Governance framework are critical capability elements, Keep them as vague as possible: Grey areas in roles, responsibilities and governance will ensure lack of oversight and absence of accountability, consequently create continuous conflict and duplication among business units, projects and people. (Divide and conquer by perpetual chaos!)


4- Avoid putting things in writing: Don’t create a basis for argument with you in the future, But if you have to put things in writing, remember not to put your name, make it vague and complicated so as to confuse people, let a working group or a consultant to come up with your recommendations, use your incompetent opportunist people to write or respond on your behalf while you are in the backstage (this is one reason why you brought them in the first place).


5- Build a system then structure your organization around that system and finally, if you have time, think about processes: Never engage the users in system requirements phase. People love surprises, surprise the users with the new system and force them to use it. It would be better if you have more than one unfit and non-integrated systems, then try to integrate them, this will ensure keeping everybody busy in this dilemma. Try to make the processes fit the collection of systems you have. The involvement of many organizational units in one process using several systems will make things complex enough to ensure organizational paralysis with less effort from your side. (Well done, you put all the carts before all the horses.)


6- Never apply what so-called lessons learned: Only mention Lessons Learned in project/program documents (it will look nice on papers and show that you’re applying best practices) but never apply it as it will help achieve organizational goals and increase project / program success. (Be careful!)


7- Never apply strategic Project Management or bother developing project portfolio selection process: Don’t link the organizational objectives to the project/program objectives. Keep things misaligned. Welcome all new projects regardless of their feasibility. Bring consultants to do work that could be done internally. Plan to execute too many projects regardless the organizational capacity. (So far so good, keep it up!)


8- Try to look professional by having PMO and OSM (Office of Strategy Management) in the organization: They will look nice in the organization structure but make sure they are run by one of your incompetent followers who are ready to do what you want not what is right for the organization. (Don’t forget to create conflict between the PMO and OSM!)


9- Distract people with tools, Don’t give them a chance to focus on processes or actions: For example, let people focus on having a colorful dashboard stuffed with useless data and meaningless metrics and not to focus on the quality of metrics measurement or how to interpret those metrics to take corrective and preventive actions. (Use the distraction strategy as much as you can!)


10- Stuck (or at least pretend that you are) in a state of indecision as long as possible: If you are supposed to take decisions, don’t. If you are supposed to advise those who are supposed to take decisions, advise them not to.Pretty soon whoever supposed to take decisions in the organization will lose the ability to decide at all which is a good way of putting the organization’s forward progress on pause. (Now set back and watch the dysfunctional state!)


Feel free to share the strategies you have seen putting an organization in a dysfunctional state so that everyone can learn from one another.

Copyright notice: The cartoon and image are reproduced with permission of the copyright owners

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