Change is Messy…..Your Business Is Not A Project

I like process. I like order. I like predictability. However, I have learned that managing change is messy.

Dave Wieneke reminded me of this again yesterday while I attended his presentation called “The 7 deadly sins of business innovation”. Among other great insights, Dave reminded the audience that “your business is not a project, so don’t manage it that way”. (Learn more about Dave on his website )

In most corporate America environments, we try to manage most things like a project. Initiatives have kick-offs, due dates, budgets and “SLT” sign off. We have detailed Excel docs with deliverables and owners. Before we approve something new, we must first review a business plan with a ROI.

All of this process can be a good thing, as long as we balance it with time to be messy.

  • We need to schedule meetings that include enough time to talk through ideas and concepts without worryinChange Is Messy - Image Courtesy Of Salvatore Vuonog about the next 10 agenda items.
  • We need to allow employees to test things that could go wrong, and if they do go wrong treat the situation as a learning experience, not a fatal error.
  • We need to be OK with the occasional presentation or idea that is not fully baked yet. Humans don’t always have time to do their homework.
  • Veering from “the plan” is sometimes OK.
  • As we drive business change we must balance the detail view with a balcony view. From 10,000 feet you can best observe the change happening over time. We can “see the forest for the trees”.

Your business is not a project, so let’s adjust how we manage to allow time to be messy.

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© 2011 – 2012, Marci Reynolds. All rights reserved.


  1. Interesting thought Marci,

    I always think the value of a project plan is thinking through what you are going to do if… rather than when you are going to do something by.

    The world is as you say messy. Maybe you shouldn’t manage your project as a project either.

    1. Author

      James.. Thanks for the comment. The reality is, I think most projects are a little messy behind the scenes- the project plans can make them look tidy and pretty on the surface.

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