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.