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I confess I am guilty: I have stressed the importance of top management commitment in several presentations over the years. But some time ago I got an open feedback from a CIO which I would like to share with the community:” I liked your presentation but please do not mention the bullet point top management commitment as a key success criterion any more. It is boring because everybody mentions that. Besides: Do you think that we would be able to get the funding for a big project without a top management commitment?” First I was quite surprised but the more I thought about the more I came to the conclusion that he got the point.

During some discussions with colleagues I came to some conclusions how to change this statement:

Bottom up support is essential now more than ever

Looking back at key challenges in projects – especially if we speak about huge changes of business processes – the support of the user, the frontline worker, the line manager and all the people directly involved in the project have been essential for successful projects. Here we can learn a lot from trade fairs: Use showrooms to present the products of your project very early. This is exactly a point where you need support in order to get the opportunity and the ressources to set up such a presentation (e.g. every day during the lunch break people could just walk in). People will be more willing to work with the new solution if they see that a top manager walks the talk.

Mention concrete action items from for the top management

Nothing would help more to increase the acceptance of a new solution than a top manager demonstrating the solution by himself in an all-hands meeting or a department meeting. These are the action items which could be mentioned as a success criterion. Another point adressed to a top manager could be the wish to support the new knowledge management portal by writing a blog himself.

Although top management is still in the game in a time when a lot of employees are using Web 2.0 tools the importance of the top management should be equally balanced with the importance of the users if we communicate with our customers. We should take care that our communication is not boring. I am trying hard.

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6 Comments

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  1. Bernd Eckenfels
    I agree “management commitment” makes it too easy to say “you have my ok” or “you have the budget”. If it is not lived by all of the organization (starting from top), culture is hard to change (but not impossible).
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    1. Bernhard Escherich Post author
      I am just collecting all the methods and tools used to change it and hope to be able to publish it to the community soon. Hope that a lively discussion will come up.

      Best regards,

      Bernhard

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  2. Vijay Vijayasankar
    This “top management is key” messaging started primarily because the people “selling” the project to top management (who have to cough up the money) always felt the need to suck up to them. Probably people let this go on for ever, and top managers caught on to the farce.

    Another similar message is to suck up to the “Business” as opposed to “IT”. Most often the IT managers who listen to this messaging feel severely let down, and consequently end up not being on board for the project in protest.

    Once BPX as a concept catches on, this might change.

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  3. Vijay Vijayasankar
    This “top management is key” messaging started primarily because the people “selling” the project to top management (who have to cough up the money) always felt the need to suck up to them. Probably people let this go on for ever, and top managers caught on to the farce.

    Another similar message is to suck up to the “Business” as opposed to “IT”. Most often the IT managers who listen to this messaging feel severely let down, and consequently end up not being on board for the project in protest.

    Once BPX as a concept catches on, this might change.

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  4. Just ponying up the money is not enough of a commitment and that’s the point. So frequently leadership fire off a volley of funding and assume because they provided a budget and bought resources, that the job will be well done, on time and on budget. If it fails to meet these expectations then heads usually roll. The point with commitment is that it requires more than committing the funding it requires being engaged, involved and interested. When a PM has trouble getting a decision or getting latitude on a decision he should be able to escalate it to the sponsor and the sponsor should either be able to play Solomon or escalate it to someone who can. There is more to this than just money to fund the initiative….. 
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