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Why you should prioritise quality during a talent project

When undertaking a project, stakeholders face the challenging task of prioritising three key variables: cost, speed, and quality. This dilemma is often illustrated by the famous "cheap/fast/good" Venn diagram, where the areas of overlap represent the possible outcomes. The perceived wisdom in project management circles suggests that while it's possible to have two out of the three, achieving all three simultaneously is exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, especially when budgets and timelines are tight, and compromises must be made.


In such scenarios, the temptation to sacrifice quality for the sake of expediency or cost savings can be compelling. However, compromising on quality can have far-reaching consequences, impacting adoption rates and user satisfaction. It can actually end up costing you more time and money in the long run if you have to go back and extensively rework your solution. This is particularly pertinent when investing in technological changes or expanding your talent tech stack, where maintaining a focus on quality can yield significant benefits. Here are some ways to avoid these pitfalls, and ensure you hit that mythical sweet spot of the Venn diagram.

Good Fast Cheap

  1. Define Clear Objectives. Defining clear objectives is the foundational step in any talent project. It involves articulating project goals, business requirements, target state and key performance indicators (KPIs) upfront. By aligning stakeholders' expectations and establishing metrics for success, organisations can maintain focus on quality throughout the project lifecycle. Clarity in objectives enables stakeholders to understand the desired outcomes and ensures alignment towards common goals.

  2. Engage Stakeholders. Stakeholder engagement is crucial for the success of talent projects. Good change management entails actively involving key stakeholders, including senior leadership, managers, and end-users, from the outset. By soliciting feedback, addressing concerns, and fostering collaboration, organisations can ensure alignment towards common goals. Engaging stakeholders throughout the project promotes buy-in, enhances communication, and increases the likelihood of success.

  3. Invest in the Design Phase. The design phase lays the groundwork for project execution and success. Investing in thorough planning and design is essential to mitigate risks and reduce rework during subsequent project stages. This involves allocating adequate time and resources for requirements gathering, solution design, and stakeholder engagement. By prioritising the design phase, organisations can ensure that project objectives are clearly defined, and solutions are tailored to meet stakeholders' needs.

  4. Conduct a Pilot/Proof of Concept. Conducting a pilot or proof of concept can validate the proposed solution and mitigate risks associated with broader implementation. Implementing a smaller-scale change allows organisations to demonstrate value and garner support from stakeholders. Pilots provide valuable insights, facilitate informed decision-making, and enable organisations to refine their approach before full-scale implementation.

  5. Embrace Agile Methodologies. Agile methodologies promote flexibility, collaboration, and iterative development, making them well-suited to the highly configurable solutions common in talent projects. By breaking down projects into smaller iterations or sprints, organisations can adapt to changing requirements and maintain focus on quality. Agile approaches enable continuous improvement, allowing organisations to respond to feedback and refine their solutions iteratively. That said, you can “over-iterate” and at some point during the project you won’t be able to iterate further without impacting time. Instead, try to have a clear sense of what should be done now as the MVP, and what can be pushed to “phase 2” as a continuous improvement opportunity.

  6. Establish clear decision making. One of the issues which burns time and impacts on quality is muddled thinking and slow decision making. When you initiate the project, clarify the process for making and communicating decisions.

  7. Define your resourcing. In our Venn diagram, the constraint Cost is often used interchangeably with Resource. Building the right project team may attract higher cost upfront but it will save you time in the end by reducing the likelihood of time overruns or reduced quality of deliverables.


 

Case Study: Weyland-Yutani Corporation*

For a real world case study on how these principles may be put into practice, we look to a former client of ours, Weyland-Yutani Corporation (WYC).We helped WYC embark on a talent transformation initiative to revitalise its recruitment processes.


Early on in the project, WYC saw the importance of investing in thorough design workshops and stakeholder engagement. Key stakeholders were brought on early in the project, and SMEs were consulted to define clear, achievable objectives.


The end result? While it may have taken WYC a little longer to get started, they more than made up for that time and cost by having a completely smooth and issue-free testing phase, and were able to comfortably launch within their predefined launch window. User satisfaction with the new system was considerably higher than we had seen in other projects.


The success of WYC’s talent change project demonstrates the effectiveness of prioritising quality, while still achieving speed and cost goals. It was achieved by engaging stakeholders, investing in the design phase, and defining clear objectives.



Case Study: Tyrell Corporation*


On the other hand, Tyrell Corporation was a company we partnered with that did not prioritise quality and regretted it. We advised them to take things slowly and ensure quality standards were met, but Tyrell was very focused on speed and cost, and emphasised that they wanted to implement a “minimum viable product” (MVP) to allow for quick deployment.


Now, we’re not saying that the MVP approach is bad, and in some circumstances it can be the right one, provided you have the follow-through and resources to actually iterate and improve later on, using principles such as Lean Six Sigma. We didn’t believe Tyrell had this, and advised against the approach. They decided to proceed despite our objections.


The problems started during the design process, when they did not properly engage key stakeholders and SMEs, opting to simply “lift and shift” existing processes onto new technology rather than design a process that was tailored to and optimised for the new tech. Then there was a single individual who wanted to “quarterback” the entire project, and had too much overall influence, leading to the rest of the team making biased decisions they knew this individual would approve of, even if they weren’t in the best interest of the project.


This meant that when the key stakeholders and SMEs were finally engaged in the testing phase, a huge amount of “faults” were discovered that were unfixable, because they weren’t actually faults, they were simply how the (flawed) system was designed. A host of regulatory issues also popped up. UAT testing had to be suspended, and Tyrell had to go “back to the drawing board” to completely redesign their process, costing the company the very time and money they were trying to save.


 

Conclusion

Prioritising quality in talent change projects is always difficult, especially when stakeholders often see cost and speed as more important. But, it is essential for achieving sustainable outcomes and driving organisational success. While navigating the cost-speed-quality conundrum presents challenges, organisations can overcome these complexities by defining clear objectives, engaging stakeholders, investing in the design phase, conducting pilots, and embracing agile methodologies. By adhering to these strategies, organisations can unlock new opportunities for innovation and growth in talent management, ultimately positioning themselves for long-term success in a competitive landscape.


We can help you avoid these pitfalls. We have years of experience with dozens of clients managing talent tech implementations, and we’ve seen it all. We know the warning signs to look out for, and the steps to take to ensure your project hits that perfect trifecta of “Cost-Effective, Quickly-Delivered, and High Quality”.


Click here to schedule a consultation with Talent Tech Solutions today.


*Corporation names have been anonymised.

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