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Game of Governance

Project Governance is a crucial component of program success.  Given a majority of the population are engrossed in the plotlines of Game Of Thrones (GOT), I thought I would frame this conversation accordingly.

You have noticed on GOT that disputes on territory, loyalty, and ownership tend to end poorly.  Very poorly indeed.  In fact, if you are of a highly-sensitive disposition this can be very hard to watch.  Without a doubt, if you are not careful as a cast member in GOT you can forget about relying on your actor’s salary to pay for your mortgage.  Each week the principle characters look nervously into the camera lens wondering if this episodes gyrations will end with them exploding into a ball of flames or falling to the ground plugged full of medieval arrows!     

Luckily Game of Thrones is fiction and the drama that unfolds is reserved to our flat screen televisions in the comfort of our homes.  Although I have to say anyone who believes that any typical enterprise transformation program in retail is devoid of politics, personal ambition, and resistance, is living in a different kind of fantasy world.  We often see major retail businesses looking to transform their businesses by building a scalable, repeatable, optimized, international execution capability, but too frequently, the initiative is incorrectly categorized as a technology or systems project.  This approach usually has the same lifespan as an extra in a GOT battle scene. 

Inevitably any business effort that involves people, process, and systems also engages politics, relationships, ambition, and conflict.  It’s just how people are.  However, these complex dimensions if harnessed correctly can produce amazing outcomes.   

Roll Out Project Governance. These sometimes intangible dimensions have to be managed as meticulously as if designing businesses processes, building environments, documenting configurations, and testing interfaces.  They are simply a critical part of the transformation process that has to be controlled if you want to be sure of the outcomes.  There are some general rules of thumb, to avoid ending up in thumbscrews!  

Position the Kings and Queens at the heads of the table.   Senior executives must be visible and named as sponsors before any program begins.  If they are outside of the governance process then everyone in the kingdom may begin to feel that success is optional, and almost immediately the plotting begins.  Alignment, ownership, and accountability are fundamental to get and keep everyone on board.  After all, ‘One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics, is that you end up being governed by your inferiors’ Plato

Declare a royal proclamation of intent to be read publicly from the battlements.  Something much like a target architecture or operating model statement that details all of the outcomes, what every participant has to deliver, compromise, and contribute, to provide a successful result.  This can be a very useful tool to ensure everyone is on track, on message, and on good behavior.  It should be detailed enough to avoid wiggle room but not so detailed it restricts flexibility, choice, and innovation.  It’s difficult but no one said it would be easy.

Round up the grand counsel.  Kings, Queens, and all of their Knights need to meet regularly to review skirmishes and battle plans.  Everyone needs a governance model and governance process to keep track, make changes, modify plans and direct resources, finances, people, technology, and the state of adoption.  It is not possible to run a program without a coherent and well-executed governance model.

Engage the villagers.  Nothing leads to revolution and civil unrest faster than excluding the people who make the vision a reality.   Any governance model that fails to bridge the gap between the process of change and the people who need to adopt that change, must prepare for some tricky seating plans at the Kings feast. 

If you want to avoid the Red Wedding Scene (Please only watch if you have the constitution of a Gallows executioner!) as a real prospect on your program, then be sure to pay attention to leadership, governance, and adoption at every step of the way.

Oracle Retail can help keep your kingdom in order with experienced project governance best practices.  Solutions to these problems are about implementing simple structures and persisting with them over the full lifecycle of your journey.  Feel free to scribble some questions on parchment and we will do our best to keep you from the gallows!

Contact us: oneretailvoice_ww@oracle.com

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