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Break Free of Implementation Stagnation

Have you ever been involved with a project only to get all the way to the implementation phase and have the project stall? It’s a frustrating experience for everyone. For those whose work is done and aren’t technically part of the implementation phase, all they can do is sit back and wait. But for those who still have a say in the project or who are tasked with managing the implementation, there are a few ways to get out of this stagnation. 

Implementation stagnation often results from one of two issues: pain or fear. Pain often comes in the form of resources not being available, being overbudget, or a change in the company’s strategy. Fear often presents itself as delayed approvals, added layers of approval, or second-guessing the project up to this point. Here are a few tips to help get the project back on track again. 

Implementation pain points

Depending on your role in the implementation, you may not be able to resolve pain points. Pain points often come from an organization issue surrounding resources or budget. Here are some common implementation pain scenarios.

• The beginning phases of the project went overbudget, leaving the company unable to implement until more funds are released. This overspending could have been a result of scope creep, not properly anticipating project needs, or an inexperienced person tracking the budget. While your role in a project may not deal with budget directly, keeping these items in mind and raising a red flag on future projects if one of these occurs could help avoid this pain.

• Resources for implementation have been redirected to other areas of the company, resulting in key personnel or systems being unavailable during this phase. This issue is usually a result of management reprioritizing projects. Honestly, there is not much you can do to prevent this issue from occurring. If it is within your role, you could offer alternative resources to keep the project moving, provided they are available. 

• The project has been stalled due to a change in the company’s strategy or vision. As in the example above, this issue is usually a result of reprioritization and there’s not much you can do to prevent it from occurring. The best prevention strategy is to just keep the project moving and on target. 

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With pain points, you can offer to assist, but usually these are out of your control because they are at the organizational level.

Implementation fear issues

Dealing with fear surrounding implementation is probably easier than pain points, provided implementation is part of your role. The reason is that fear usually occurs at an individual level and can be allayed. Here are some common implementation fear scenarios.

• The final approvals are delayed or more levels of approval are added, preventing implementation from starting. Delayed approvals are often the result of the project stakeholders’ uncertainty in the project. Perhaps they were not kept in the loop during the project. Or perhaps they have turned their focus and attention to other matters. In this instance, you may be able to alleviate the fear by demonstrating the alignment of the finished project with the project goals and desired results. If the key stakeholders can clearly see that the project goals and requirements have been met, they will be more comfortable giving the final approval needed to move to implementation. 

• The project manager is second-guessing the project and keeps returning to the analysis to make sure everything was covered. Perhaps the project was rough, or requirements changed, or the project manager is relatively inexperienced, leading them to fear the final signoff. As in the previous example, if you can clearly show the project goals and requirements have been met and are in alignment with the finished project and desired results, the project manager is likely to calm their fears and move on to the implementation.

Fear issues can usually be remedied by demonstrating alignment of the project with the desired results. Even if you are not part of the implementation team, if you see the project stalled in this phase, you may be able to help by offering to walk through the alignment with the project manager or key stakeholders.

Helping to get a project stuck in a stagnant implementation phase moving again can be tricky because not everyone is part of this phase. Sometimes you just do your job up front and are not included in the implementation team. But if you are part of the team, or if you feel you can offer your assistance, and you realize the implementation has stalled, look for the pain points and fears. If it’s pain caused by an organizational issue, there’s probably not much you can do unless you can suggest how to divert or provide resources. But with fear, you can show the project is in alignment with the goals and results and hope to keep the project moving.
© 2017 ATD, Alexandria, VA. All rights reserved.

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About the Author
Patti Radakovich, CPLP is the owner of SHARK Consulting Group, a performance consultancy in Michigan. She has been in the performance improvement and training and development fields for more than a decade. She is also an author and international speaker.
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