An Infamous 2X2 Matrix

There is nothing like a good old fashioned 2 by 2 matrix to make someone look really slick about something, isn’t there? I’ll have to admit, this one is pretty obvious. You have two sides to a situation. Sometimes things cost alot. Sometimes things require considerable cultural change in an organization in order to be understood or implemented. You can have a spectrum of costs and a spectrum of transformation. You can develop pretty good strategies based on these.The Change to Cost Curve But before you get to this point, you need to think hard about a few things:

  1. Do I underestimate my colleagues (ie. is the change more distressing to you than your colleagues)?
  2. Have I assessed the “real” costs of implementing the whatever-it-is?
  3. Do you have the knowledge to implement and maintain it?
  4. Will the project bring benefits to the organization?

Good. Then here’s what I’m trying to say with my little 2 by 2 matrix. It’s just a model, and can be tweaked. This is not about telling but about introducing an idea for discussion. Oh, and a chance to play a little bit more with

There are five kinds of projects and they can be described by five quotes “forget it,” “no brainer,” “push the bricks,” “make the case” & “establish a crisis.”

“Forget it”
The first are those that are pipe dreams — they are too expensive and require too much change in the organization to really be taken seriously (for now). Put the idea in the back of your mind for future reference. Sometimes opportunities knock that bring the “forget it” ideas down to “no brainers.” Maybe bring these out in your brain storming sessions to stimulate other, less costly and outlandish ideas to the forefront.

“No Brainers” — Low cost, low feather ruffling

Everyone should have a list of no brainers on an open-ended action list — one that, hopefully, people will refer to frequently in those spaces of time where you are not quite sure where to go next with yourself. Waiting for a response from somebody to push one of your bigger projects forward? Well, move on to a no brainer, send that one pager on for approval and move forward with it. Bingo!

Well, to be realistic, sometimes the no brainers are the hardest things to get implemented simply because they are no brainers. A lack of sexyness can sometimes cause a lack of doneness.

“Push the Bricks” — Low Cost, High feather ruffling

For some reason, things are going to make people nervous. Maybe there is a learning curve for a new project or activity. Maybe the change means a fear of restructuring in a tight labor force. Maybe it’s just psychological neurosis. The point of all this is that people barriers are just as big or bigger than money barriers. Be prepared for confusion, annoyance, and down-right nastiness. But feather ruffling is what you still need to do.

This is not the time for report writing — yet. Your job at this stage is primarily “pushing at bricks” to determine where you will find a budge and that budge will be your place to move in. Beware of the red herrings though:

  1. “It takes too much technical knowledge” — find this out for yourself. If something is worth doing, it is worth learning how to do properly.
  2. “You better make sure that so-and-so knows about this one” — go ahead and make sure. I can’t tell you how many times in my life I heard that “so-and-so will flip when he/she finds out” only to find out that they think the idea is great and we should go right ahead.
  3. “But in order to do that, you’ll need to. . .” — yup. That’s right. You have to work to make something happen. Funny that.

Have a mantra and keep using it in your conversations. Eventually people will start singing your tune. That’s when you write your report and make the project happen.

“Make the Case”

In a way, money issues are fairly easy compared to people issues. Essentially, you write up a business case for the money. It gets evaluated against other projects and you win or you don’t. Your typical business case goes like this:

  • recommendation (what are you doing?)
  • background
  • benefits to organization (why are you doing it?)
  • success measures
  • costs
  • project plan and timeline (when and where?)

The most important thing about money projects is not to let it bother you too much if they don’t get approved. Just move on and find yourself another thing to go for.
“Establish a Crisis”

The crisis projects are the hardest ones, of course to make happen. Typically when something costs big bucks AND is going to ruffle lots of feathers, you have to point out a crisis to make it happen. If something is still beneficial even after you spend lots of money and cause lots of anxiety, it must be critical to the future survival of the organization, otherwise the whole thing is a “forget it.”

Establishing a crisis, is a difficult thing. First you have to establish credibility in your organization. If people tend to treat you as a dreamer, then you need to find someone who will agree with you to make this happen. Then you have to get lots of information to justify why you think your organization is in crisis, and how the high-cost, high feather-ruffling project will prevent that crisis. Numbers are really helpful here. A nice big chart showing a downward curve always seems to strike a chord. I’ve also heard of people videotaping critical responses by customers to be helpful as well.

Then it’s big planning. A big report chock full of information supporting the change. Then, bit by bit, you make those changes happen. Funny enough, when I’ve seen this sort of change happen, it’s was so gradual that it was barely noticeable. Somewhere along the line, you will have to find a way to congratulate yourself on this one somewhere along the line.

That’s that. I know this is all pretty obvious to anyone who has ever managed a project, but sometimes having a nice chart helps things move along.

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