Reminder: Read chapters 1-4 before November 2-4 Virtual PD
I read about this Silence Fails study and thought about the challenges ahead in moving our schools out of the F and D zones, balancing UTVA and K12 demands, increasing our graduation rate, and on and on. While this is written with a slant toward business rather than education, I don't think you'll have trouble generalizing to your work reality. Respond with your thoughts in the Comment section below. --deb
Introduction to the Silence Fails Study
The Silence Fails study demonstrates that when even one of the five crucial conversations fails, a silent crisis plays out in a deceptively simple dynamic that results in failure to execute an initiative 85 percent of the time. The general effects are going over budget, missing deadlines, and failing to meet quality and functionality specs. Team morale is inevitably damaged in the process. Alternately, when these conversations succeed, the failure rate is reduced by 50 to 70 percent.
The Five Crucial Conversations for Flawless Execution
The five crucial conversations are the most prevalent and most costly barriers to project success. They are:
1. Fact-Free Planning. A project is set up to fail when deadlines or resource limits are set with no
consideration for reality. Eighty-five percent of participants experienced this problem on nearly 40 percent of their projects.
2. AWOL Leadership. The key person behind the project doesn’t provide leadership, political clout, time, or energy to see a project through to completion. Sixty-five percent experienced this on one-third of their projects. Fewer than 12 percent of those indicated that they could skillfully address this issue.
3. Skirting. People work around the priority-setting process. Just over 50 percent of project leaders attempt to speak up on this issue, and only 16 percent of those solve the problem.
4. Project Chicken. Team leaders and members don’t admit when there are problems with a project but
instead wait for someone else to speak up first. While 55 percent of study participants experienced this
problem, fewer than 14 percent of those skillfully addressed it.
5. Team Failures. Team members perpetuate dysfunction when they are unwilling or unable to support the
project. Encountered by 80 percent of all project leaders with very few of those feeling able to address
this issue, team failures go unaddressed nearly half of the time.
When a Conversation Fails
These concerns are more common than most senior leaders realize; 90 percent of project managers routinely encounter one or more of these five concerns—and nearly one in five projects are plagued by all five. But the problem isn’t that these concerns are common; in fact, they may be an inevitable part of any large strategic implementation. The problem is that those who encounter these problems don’t effectively confront and resolve them. This study reveals that only half ever attempt to confront the problems, and when they do, only 17 percent say they are able to get their concerns heard and understood. This study also reveals that many leaders lack the skills to address these issues and instead often see themselves as the scapegoats and feel they are ignored, blown off, or pressured into submission.
The Good News
Although this study shares important findings that can predict and explain failure, the most important
implication of the research is the potential that leaders have to influence success. In each of the five crucial conversations, the study found that just speaking up can make a difference and that speaking up skillfully and effectively dramatically improves project success. When these conversations succeed, the impact on the course of the initiative is profound. Those who successfully address one or more of the five issues are 50 percent to 70 percent more likely to fully achieve project objectives—on budget, on schedule, on spec, and with intact team morale.
Next Steps for Leaders
Leaders can predict and prevent the failure of high-stakes business initiatives by creating a culture
where the five conversations are held quickly and effectively.