How to Keep your Strategic Project in the Executive Picture?

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How to Keep your Strategic Project in the Executive Picture?
Chloe Xu, Premium Member
The Bright Shiny Object Syndrome (BSOS) refers to the large amount of attention and attraction received by objects that exhibit a polished, gleaming, or shiny appearance. Most of the time, the attention for and attraction of such objects fades after a while, as its shininess wears off.

The BSOS-phenomenon is quite common for major, strategic projects in large organizations. Leaders have to keep pace with an ever-accelerating business cycle and want to get problems resolved, and quickly. Large-scale projects require considerable time. As a result, many projects that looked very appealing initially are abandoned prematurely for other "big ideas".

How can you avoid your program or major project is loosing its shininess and is consequently abandoned by executives?
Miller (2016) suggests a 3-step approach for staving off (~avoid) the executive impatience which leads to killing of promising projects:
  1. PROBLEM IDENTIFICATION. This is the most important element in the process. Get clarity on exactly what problem your project is trying to solve, and then decide how to measure if the problem is being properly addressed. Be careful of having multiple KPIs, because attempting to measure several KPIs at once can make progress appear slower.

  2. LEADERSHIP INVOLVEMENT. Although executives are strategically involved in company projects, they are rarely personally involved. An effective strategy on maintaining executives’ attention is to give them some simple tasks that relate to your project. This also tells your co-workers that someone at the highest level in the organization cares and understands what you deal with day-to-day.

  3. VISUAL AND VISCERAL PROJECT UPDATES. Communicating project progress in the form of regular project briefings is a great opportunity to give your project more time to take root. Making your updates as visual as possible connects the executives to the visual (and emotion-based) side of their brain and makes them perceive the project in a more visceral (based on deep feeling and emotional reactions rather than on reason or thought) way. Another strategy for presenting project updates to executives is to aim for a 2:1 ratio of reporting (2 successes to 1 challenge). This shifts the focus into positive aspects and demonstrates to the executive that the project is progressing.
Do you have any further tips to keep your project in the executive picture and prevent it from being terminated?

Baldoni, J. (2013). Are 'Bright Shiny Objects' Worth your Time (and Money), Forbes
Miller, J. (2016). Executive Ritalin: 3 Steps that Prevent Leadership from Killing your Project, SmartBrief

Clear Scoping of Implementation Roadmap
Emmanuel Mwirichia, Member
First, the original problem owner should identify and analyze the problem properly and develop a clear plan of action with clear milestones that resonate with the leader.
Next, it is important to ensure that the short and long term outcomes/outputs are balanced. Reporting has to come at both a strategic and operational level.

Upfront Executive Communication
Jaap de Jonge, Editor
Project communication is obviously a key change and innovation topic.
Never start a major program or project without first making sure the management team sees and agrees to the full scope including the time, money, pain, effort it is going to take from all people involved (including themselves).
When you are doing this, don't try to obtain their commitment leveraging the initial shiny appearance of your strategic project, because that will wear off quickly, even if you follow the excellent 3 recommendations by Miller afterwards.
And if you can't convince them, or they will not commit the full resources and time for your project, then it's better for your organization not to start the project and spend the resources elsewhere.

SOS and Innovation Culture
Gandhi Heryanto, Member
The phenomenon of SOS or premature project termination is where you always start everything, but never finish. One cause is that you get out of the big picture of the initial idea and not focus on the goals to be achieved. The idea usually is an innovation project of a business. The project can be lost due to replacement by another idea that appears next.
But innovation is not primarily about IDEAS, but about PEOPLE. We must create the conditions or the culture for the innovation to occur. And those depend a lot on the people who were involved in the innovation process.
There are four things that help to create an innovation culture:
1. Focus on problem solving,
2. Safe spaces,
3. Informal networks, and
4. Collaboration.
Source: To Create Innovation, Avoid the Shiny Object Syndrome, Nina Simosko, 2017.

Dependent on Organisational Culture
David Harland, Member
Whether you need to keep your strategic project in the executive picture depends on the culture of the organisation.
Provided the project is approved through whatever procedure your organisation has, you have or make the connections necessary to drive the project forward, and you can demonstrate clear benefits aligned with the overall business strategy, and keep the exec team informed with the good, bad and the ugly facts of the project (in my experience, they don't like nasty surprises), you're on firm ground.
Constant deferral to senior management is often not necessary, unless you're not trusted, or the culture is toxic and controlling.
If you do need to keep your project before the execs eyes, find out which aspects of it will make them look good to their peers or superiors eyes and emphasize it and hold before them. Add a little risk so if things go awry they have skin in the game.

Maintaining Executive Attention for a Project
Afari, Member
To know the key project stakeholders and their proper classification (taste, mood, hobbies…) is the first essential step (following the approval stage of the project) in preserving the shininess of your project and keeping your project in the executive picture.
This knowledge should be considered as the basis of a comprehensive communication & change management plan whose proper execution in the project life cycle will be a safeguard against premature failure and against being replaced by another project.

Bright Shiny Project Syndrome
Ivan Kohlinsky, Member
Sorry to disillusion you but at the top of business and more so in politics, keeping in power and being perceived as one wishes to be, means that plenty of 'bright new things' have to be generated at appropriate intervals. So maybe just be glad that your project hasn't been stopped/'canned' or the funding cut for another super turbo shiny thing.
Stick at it and deliver it. It probably was/is worthwhile, but might not get approval again.
If you push too hard and get noticed it may result in the opposite of what you want. Sorry!


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