It’s human nature to want to hear good news, all the time. However, in the world of core platform projects, a good news culture can pose challenges for sponsors and leaders. 

Does your organisation celebrate success?  If the answer is yes, that’s great. It’s important to acknowledge success and outcomes. It’s always good to have regular reminders that hard work can pay off.  

Now consider this. Does your organisation only celebrate success?   

If so, this can have several unintended consequences at a minimum, and at worst become a Ministry of Truth, so to speak, for those you know George Orwell’s 1984, in which ironically never lets the truth get in front of the narrative.    

And perhaps most importantly – what impact will this have on a major undertaking, like updating or replacing a core platform? 

Does a good news culture help or hinder delivery?   

We’ve spoken before about the challenges associated with a good news culture in the context of project delivery. Essentially, if you’re focused on “all good news, all the time”, the end result can be a workforce afraid to speak up when something is amiss. This is particularly true if there is the perception of “consequences” if and when things do go wrong. 

Now, we’re not suggesting that any of our readers are setting out to create their own Ministry of Truth.  Nor are we saying that you shouldn’t celebrate the positives and the wins, as they happen.  The point to be made is that your stakeholders are usually able to see the truths that you choose not to highlight, such as the challenges and problems.    

When corporate communication becomes skewed to the positive over a sustained period of time, engagement can decrease due to a sense of lost transparency and trust among the people. Even championship-winning teams will have losses in the season and have learnings and areas for improvement. All this needs to be addressed, along with the wins.  

Overall, there’s a slight but very fundamental difference between a high-performance culture (which presents the danger of focusing on high-performance at all costs) and an outcomes-based culture (where there’s a more balanced scorecard of outcomes, which takes into account a range of factors including employee mental health and wellbeing, the organisation’s impact on the environment and community, as well as the critical financial and customer services KPIs).  

How does this relate to core platform projects? 

While the conversation around good news culture and leadership is relevant to all aspects of the organisation, there are very specific implications for core platform projects (i.e. updating or replacing your ERP, HCM, CRM and other mission-critical systems).  

For project sponsors and other stakeholders, these projects are so critical that you simply can’t afford to have information concealed from you – particularly when it isn’t great news, and earlier action can help minimise the impact. All too often, we’ve been called in to right the ship after a core platform project has veered dangerously off-course – and the situation could have been avoided if the captain had greater visibility, earlier in the voyage. 

Core platforms in particular have broad and far-reaching impacts on an organisation. They are big and complex, and will generally expose every broken process, workaround and spreadsheet that is holding a critical function together.  You should expect to encounter challenges – and yes, the occasional piece of bad news.  

When done properly, core platform projects represent such a significant, comprehensive change, with weeks (if not months) of discovery work around your people, processes and systems. You’re going to uncover things that need to be fixed – and that’s all normal and okay, as long as you have all the information, as early as possible. 

By contrast, if everything is green lights and smooth sailing, you could have reason to be nervous. The end result may well be a very painful system go-live, with mountains of reworking and replanning required to fix the (previously invisible) hiccups and roadblocks.  

Actions for sponsors of core platform projects 

Corporate cultures can be tough to change – particularly if you’re dealing with a good news culture. If people are used to hearing nothing but positive spin, it’s a tough ask to suddenly introduce the notion of transparency – especially when the news is bad.   

It’s unrealistic to expect you can change an entire corporate culture before embarking on a core platform project. However, we do believe that project sponsors and leaders must know where the organisation is on the spectrum. Creating a culture in the project team that works for you will be a key ingredient for success.  

The good news for project sponsors and leaders of core platform projects is that there are tangible steps you can take to create your own culture within the project – a culture within a culture, if you like. We’ve explored some of those strategies in greater detail here 

Quay Consulting is a professional services business specialising in the project landscape, transforming strategy into fit-for-purpose delivery. Meet our team or reach out to have a discussion today.  

About Quay

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