In delivering workforce management transformation, the approach to setting up for success eats methodology for breakfast.

Which is more important in successful project delivery: the approach or the methodology?

Many organisations have developed project methodologies with clear processes that govern and control the delivery of projects in a structured and consistent manner. The processes are often based around waterfall-styled delivery, leveraging the best of Prince 2 or PMBOK, or provide for an iterative style implementation, a hybrid of the two or with a flavour of Agile.

As professional project managers, we are fully supportive of methodologies, however, selecting the right methodology is more important than simply having one. Nowhere is this more evident than in a Workforce Management (WFM) implementation.

The inherent complexity of WFM and the requirement for sustainable change means that the way an organisation approaches WFM is critical to informing which methodologies are right for successful delivery.

Complexity Upon Complexity

In complex projects such as WFM delivery, the process of transformation has the potential to touch every person within the organisation and usually across critical operations. It can directly impact take-home pay, lifestyle needs and motivation. Getting the right people to the right place at the right time and paying them correctly is no trivial matter.

On top of the human resource impact, the layers of complexity are heightened by the change that occurs as applications, data, and process and information integrations that accompany a WFM process.

And if those layers weren’t complex enough, now add an organisational change layer: for example:

  • centralised rostering
  • new functions
  • electronic certification
  • new disciplines
  • near real-time organisational hierarchies.

Understanding the nature and depth of the moving parts in transforming an organisational workforce illustrates the importance of defining an approach before diving into specific methodologies. It also underscores how vital it is that an organisation understand the scope of change required.

Begin with the Process Change

Our experience tells us that successful WFM projects start with business change first. This is a critical pointer towards success, although it may appear to be counterintuitive. Many WFM transformations start with technology, however technology can – and should – play catch up.

Introducing a WFM discipline results in changes to behaviours and work. By getting ahead of the change curve and addressing any process change first, an organisation can start to set itself up for a successful project. This will typically mean less customisation of the selected technology solutions, which reduces complexity.

A good example is in rostering. Ensuring that weekly rosters are prepared according to a standardised approach can happen without introducing any technology by endorsing and implementing this as a capability for the organisation’s operating model. The change in itself may require resource changes, organisational restructuring and other processes to achieve it,  but it is also an opportunity to remove resistance to the process before clouding it with a technology solution.

But There are Limits …

There are, of course, limits to this approach in that only so much process and organisational change can occur before a solution is needed to facilitate it. And so begins another wave of change.

The fastest way to success might be to hypothesise what the new look organisation and the high-level processes should be, implement those changes and then pilot and iterate in parallel with technology enablement.

The iterations themselves may be delivered through an agile-based approach focused on the key business outcomes and delivering functions into the organisation, whilst the enterprise roll-out might be waterfall based by division.

When One Methodology Does Not Fit All

What we can see then is that a WFM transformation may benefit from utilising multiple methodologies, be it waterfall, iterative or agile, all within the same implementation.

The time spent upfront understanding the business outcomes, organisational and delivery DNA, the extent of change, and the characteristics of your workforce will all help to define what approach is best implementing WFM successfully.

When it is clear, then the organisation can look at each of the workstreams to determine the optimal delivery approach and the methodology to support that stream. This will help not only to deliver the right way, but also in managing the expectations of the people who will be impacted by the change.

Avoiding the ‘One Size Fits All’ Methodology

For a WFM implementation to be successful, it’s important that the organisation avoids adopting a ‘one size fits all’ methodology, even if it is mandated at the enterprise level. By their nature, WFM projects are different and far more complex than most other projects.

One way to guarantee success is to bring forward the process change, parcel up the different delivery streams and, perhaps most importantly, be agnostic about the ‘right’ methodology to use. The answer may lie in using multiple methodologies for differing streams.

Quay’s Workforce Management Practice helps clients to shape the approach and methodology selection for WFM transformation to ensure that they are set up for success. For an independent perspective, please contact us on 02 9098 6300.

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Quay Consulting
Quay Consulting is a professional services business specialising in the project landscape, transforming strategy into fit-for-purpose delivery. Meet our team ...