The Phantom Of The Business

Within every company there is a phantom entity that holds massive sway over the outcome of almost every project or programme. Who is it you ask? You’ve certainly heard of them. They are called ‘The Business’. If you are confused what I mean, or the name sounds unfamiliar, I can guarantee that you’ve encountered them. Not very many meetings go by without someone dropping the comment:

We need to engage early with The Business on this area

Obviously we’re speaking tongue-in-cheek here, but its a phrase that is a symptom of an larger underlying problem. If you hear the term ‘The Business‘ in a meeting, or you happen to use it yourself, consider whether the specific party that is being referred to here is actually understood, you know what outcome they are seeking from your project, and what you need from them to deliver it.

Here’s our take on how you could banish this phantom:

  • If the intention is to refer to employees that will be working with your change on a daily basis, then classify which parts of your company they are from and think about running a pilot to gather their input. When we have run pilots in the past they have always thrown up items that you would have never have thought of
  • If the reference is actually to an internal change governance process, then call that out from the very start. Our experience of the teams that are involved in these kinds of processes, is that they really appreciate early insight into new projects and are always happy to clarify exactly what they need and provide general guidance
  • Lastly, if you’re simply referring to your peers within other parts of I.T. then start to document which specific teams these are, and consider running a set of roadshows or mini workshops. We really can’t oversell how much progress can be made when you dedicate even just 30 minutes of your time to talk a group of colleagues through your change and the rationale. They can often go on and become the most positive advocates of your initiative.

Anonymous and airy references to ‘The Business’ simply act as a sticking plaster over gaps in your knowledge and/or your project’s stakeholder map. This may result in difficulties like an overspend that eats into your contingency budget or general delivery delays. Worst case scenario these knowledge gaps can escalate into wider project failure as you’ve missed a set of key requirements from a team that have a crucial stake in your main deliverable.

So next time you hear someone dropping ‘The Business’ into a conversation, have a think whether you or they actually know who they are really referring to. Your future-self will thank you for it.

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