The Beautiful Paradox of Making Big Shifts

This Week’s Focus Point

Today, let’s explore a beautiful paradox in achieving your goals and visions.

Simply put –
The bigger the vision, the smaller your projects (or steps) need to be.

Too often I have seen multi-year projects and programs of work that aim to achieve an owner’s vision in just one big push.

These projects rarely succeed.

A recent public example of this is the NSW Department of Education’s LMBR project.

The mega-project aimed to replace the legacy finance, human resources, payroll and student administration systems in place across the state’s 2208 public schools. It commenced in 2006 with an anticipated spend of $386 million and completion by end 2014.

In December 2018 it was finally marked as ‘done’ – at 4 years longer and $369 million more than planned.

There’s also very little discussion on whether the project achieved any of the originally forecast business benefits.

Typically Big Vision + Big Project = A sub-standard result or worse, failure.

Why do we do it? Why do we create these monsters?

Maybe it’s the ego-component I discussed a while back, or perhaps it’s the mental convenience of bundling it all together with a big metaphorical ribbon – either way we need to stop it.

Big visions require bigger risks.

Big visions necessitate larger degrees of change.

Big visions are often loose and are limited by the planning horizon (i.e. the value of a plan reduces the further you go from the current day).

Big visions require little failures.

So I’m sure you are now guessing what we need to do instead.

Yes, you guessed it – small projects!

One step at a time.

Not only will you strip out complexity and unnecessary work, but you will maintain momentum by driving regular results.

Small projects also mean that you can shift from a failure-penalising culture to one that embraces failure as part of the learning process.

So how small is small?

Some rules of thumb –

  • Use logic – don’t try to plan every moment. Personally I try to do two to three high value things a day. But depending on your context, maybe it’s two to three high value things in a week – the key here is focus rather than overwhelm.
  • Target the immediate quick wins and tackle them with ferocity – get momentum on your side.
  • If you cannot clearly see the path to the end of the project – it’s probably too big.
  • The greater the risk to the business, the smaller your steps need to be.

Big visions change the world (or as a minimum your business),

So put momentum on your side,
Take small steps and you will achieve that big vision faster than you realise.

Your Weekly Challenge

This week examine what changes you are currently trying to make:

Are you shooting for a big bang or a slowly infecting virus?

When was the last time you concluded a project and started to realise some immediate benefit?

Is the path to the end clear, or foggy?

This Week’s Thought Pulses

Leadership & Performance

Your change approach should differ based on the scale and risk of the vision.
Small visions = rip off the band-aid.
Large visions = chip away slowly, one step at a time.

Momentum & Energy

No matter the vision,
Human enthusiasm wanes after just a few months (or less).
Maintain regular momentum with regular small wins and new precise focuses.

Delivery & Oversight

Keep the planning horizon in mind when you are building your project bids.
Resist the temptation to go for all the money at once, inadvertently creating a project monster.


The GO TO PMO Shop: The GO TO PMO Shop is now open! Our standard packages are great for those who are (or want to be) in the project management of oversight space who are looking for their next growth opportunity. The pre-bundled services and shop are all here: Order yours today!