Friday, 27 July 2018

What can we learn from this: Lidl cancels SAP after 500M Euro and 7 years

I highly recommend the postings which caught my eye and caused me to think about lessons to learn.

What is really interesting to read is the previous positive news story (May 2015)

What changed?

My first point to check what to see if the IT person at Lidl had left. He hadn’t. But the fact that he arrived March 2015 suggests there was already a review ongoing when the positive news story (May 2015) was being planned.

So what happened?

In short I don’t know. But it is interesting to speculate not necessarily about Lidl or SAP, but about the circumstances when you should pull the plug.

1. Projects should be future focussed: All project should be forward looking to the benefits ahead rather than nostalgia or loyalty for the past.

2. Projects should align to measurable benefits: The purpose of a project should be to achieve a measurable outcome (time, cost, quality, reputation, market share etc.) If the circumstances change affecting the outcome it is simply foolish to press on regardless.

3. Projects should have key performance indicators for progress: It is important to know that projects are progressing forward and not just consuming cash and resource. I have seen too many projects where the wheels are spinning but there is little traction and less progress.

4. Projects should be small or phased: I have long argued that monolithic projects fail and the key to success is momentum. A series of smaller projects or discrete phases reward success, create confidence and capacity and provide agility.

All entrepreneurs argue that it is better to fail fast, fail early and fail forward. This means if you can see something is not going to work pivot or abandon but don’t madly plough on regardless.

I broadly accept the entrepreneurs’ argument, but I would first say that before you pivot or abandon make sure you have genuinely tried. Too many projects fail for a lack of ownership, planning, priority or resource. Maybe you project isn’t a bad one, maybe you just have not properly committed what is necessary to achieve it.

Of course internal competence or capacity may be grounds to pivot or abandon: But be clear whether the issue is that the project is ill conceived, the benefits are simply not there, or you don’t have the wherewithal to do it properly. Each provides a different lesson even if the outcome is the same.

Thursday, 5 July 2018

What project management style should I take if it is not going well?

It is a cliché to say it is not what you do, but the way that you do it. Therefore setting aside whether you adopt PRINCE2, Agile, Waterfall or any other project methodology it is important to consider your project management style.

First I think it is important to recognise the role of project management as leadership, and then to example style as a leadership style.


For a summary of project leadership over project management see my earlier blog


Goleman provides a very handy guide to leadership style and when to apply them.

Visionary — mobilize people toward a vision.
Works best when a clear direction or change is needed.

Coaching — develop people for the future.
Works best when helping people and building long-term strength.

Affiliative — create emotional bonds and harmony.
Works best to heal rifts in teams or motivate people in stressful times.

Democratic — build consensus through participation.
Works best to create consensus or get input.

Pacesetting — expect excellence and self-direction.
Works best to get quick results from a highly competent team.

Commanding — demand immediate compliance.
Works best in crisis or with problematic people.



It is commonly accepted that any projects should be on-time, on-budget, to-specification with low-risk and high-communication. These therefore present themselves as simple generic measures for good Project Governance. When dealing with any supplier make sure you are clear about

ON-TIME, knowing the timetable, delivering tasks, reporting progress and alerting issues

ON-BUDGET, knowing the budget, the spending, and issues or changes

TO-SPECIFICATION, knowing what needs to be delivered and why: this isn’t just about tasks it’s about end-results: What does success look like?

LOW-RISK, knowing the risks, issues and assumptions and agreeing the actions

HIGH-COMMUNICATION, making sure all the above is clear, documented, understood and followed

The role of a project manager includes planning of tasks and requirements; co-ordination of resources; monitoring of progress, budget, change, risks and issues and representing the project and product(s) through to delivery, hand-over and successful use.

The point about delivery, hand-over and successful use is key. Project Leadership is not only about Process but about Products it isn’t only about Outputs but about Outcome. Therefore Project Leadership needs to think broadly about “what are we trying to achieve here”.

This is a very important concept when dealing with suppliers. Do not let suppliers simply burn-up time and costs; make sure they are delivering something that is of value.


Keep a Record of Agreements
If suppliers are difficult, slippery or evasive about what was agreed or what they are doing make sure you have a regular meeting with agenda and minutes which formally agree in writing what has been decided. If necessary (because people find minute taking dull) get agreement to audio record the meetings. However make sure you have agreement before you audio record.

Keep a Record of Tasks, Progress and Issues
Make sure your suppliers provide a routine update (weekly or monthly) of tasks, progress and issues. Make sure they have end-results and they are delivering something that is of value.

Pay people for success
Make sure payment is linked to end-results and they are delivering something that is of value. Do not pay someone for hours done, pay them for agreed/approved outputs delivered. Have a check-list and tick off the items as they are done.

Trust, but verify
If a suppliers says something is done, or promises that they are ready (eg disaster recovery) put them to the test and get them to demonstrate something is done or that they are ready. If they fail, give them another chance. If they fail three times, don’t give them another chance.

Evidence hand-over and celebrate success
Have a formal ritual hand-over process done on a specific day and following completion of a tick-list that validates everything has been done as agreed. Then open the champagne and celebrate. If you supplier is never ready or always have “..just one more thing to do…” then that should be a warning.


If you have experience or suggestions applying different leadership styles or dealing with difficult project situations please comment. There is no one-truth in projects, programmes and change and I am always open and interested in different perspectives and different circumstances.


There are hundreds more blogs on projects, programmes and change here


TimHJRogers World Champs Rower, Commonwealth Games Triathlete, MBA (Management Consulting) PRINCE2 Projects & Change Practitioner, TEDx & Jersey Policy Forum