Isn’t it amazing: people have the inclination to adjust the truth to suit themselves and thus serve their own interests: More Power, More Income, More Respect. But! How often is this recognised? How often is this used to explain why e.g. projects so seldom succeed?
Yes: based on one’s own interest, matters are portrayed in a different light. Reports are slightly twisted, data is being manipulated. A hard statement? Not really: just look at the recent Panama Papers.
All of this is done with the express aim of influencing decision-making.
This is often denied or hidden. Good projects intentionally gone bad is a reality in every business. If it hasn’t happened to you yet, it’s just a matter of time. Remember: not even one third of the projects executed is successful! An extremely low figure. The reason why cannot be just a technical aspect.
Until now, little attention has been paid to the art of undermining and manipulating projects. Yet annually many millions of pounds, euros and dollars are squandered due to project sabotage. If more attention is given to the motivation and methods of project saboteurs, it could be combatted. This leads to large savings and better project results.
How does it work?
Start by recognising that each project has its opponents. Everybody probably knows them – people who, for one reason or another, have a self-interest in having a project fail.
Why would anybody want to undermine a project?
Some project saboteurs are convinced that the project is bad for the company and they will do anything to protect the company from making a mistake. Others believe that if the project fails, employment will be protected.
And there are other, less noble motives: the failure of a project offers the saboteur the chance of improving his position or of encouraging people to move on to other things: generally by beating a hasty retreat by the back door.
The dominant motive is survival; a budding saboteur comes to the conclusion that the project could result in him losing his job. And he’s not going to let that happen. He has to put up some resistance, otherwise who will pay for his car, his mortgage and his children’s education? He, so obviously indispensable, is in danger of becoming superfluous. It is what B. Brecht wrote in a song in the Dreigroschenoper: “The food is primary to morality”.
It will be clear that the project saboteur has purely human motives for committing his deed. I need only refer to Maslow and his behavioural pyramid.
Motivation, however, is not enough for bringing about the failure of a project; there must also be opportunities. The saboteur must have formal or informal influence. Or both. Formal influence is something you derive from your position. Informal influence is derived from your knowledge or social position.
If, for example, the saboteur is the manager of the department for which the project result is intended, then there is a good chance that he is the person responsible for accepting the result. This is an ideal position from which to frustrate both the demands placed on the project result and the acceptance of it. If the saboteur is an expert or a specialist, he not only has possibilities for questioning the proposed solutions but also for combating the actual need for the project. If, as a result of his knowledge as a specialist, he ends up in the project team, his possibilities are virtually endless.
Even if his influence is not based on knowledge or hierarchy, the saboteur can still bring about the downfall of a project. To do this, he needs an informal access to the formal project network. He must be able to influence the formal process. He can acquire this position by cozying up to the real players in the process, creating bonds of trust and friendship. After all, friends do not doubt each other’s motives and always take each other seriously.
In essence, a project is extremely simple, and so, too, is its destruction. Many trainers and organisations that supply expensive project managers are not likely to agree with this. In project management training, people succeed in portraying projects as exceptionally complex, when in fact they are really fairly simple. There is a director, who states that a certain result (a change or a product) is necessary. Then there is a project manager, who brings the assignment to a successful conclusion within the time and budget allocated. He draws up a plan for this and hires specialists. The project manager asks the users what they would like to have and whether they can work with the result. Now and again, he reports the progress of the project to the director. The agreed result is delivered and accepted by the director. And that’s it.
In his efforts to undermine the project, the professional project saboteur makes use of the very elements that the project manager should use to keep it under control: assignment, plan, reporting and result.
The project saboteur has it a lot easier than the project manager; the saboteur knows the project manager, but the project manager does not know who the saboteur is. The project manager must report and communicate verifiable facts; the project saboteur need only insinuate suspicions.
What to do? Kill the saboteur?
You might have the idea now that sabotage is everywhere and nothing can be done about it. The first is true, but the second isn’t. You can certainly do something about this. Start by being aware of this phenomenon called project sabotage. It is there, believe me. The world does not consist of 100% reliable and trustworthy people. Some have a huge personal interest that makes them act contrary to the interest of the project, rather than acting according to the general interest. There are not many projects that do not suffer from sabotage activities.
Let us have a closer look at the project manager as a potential saboteur, just as an example how to act.
Will his department be reduced by 20%, because of a new IT system? Or will he be rewarded with a new job if he finishes in time? Two very different incitements, with two different outcomes: in the first case the project manager is not in a hurry. In the second he will do what he can to deliver in time.
By answering these question the intrinsic motivation will become apparent. These questions have to be followed by: if he loses his job, could he easily be employed elsewhere? And if not, are there any personal consequences like having to sell his house because of the mortgage?
How is the project manager considered, as an accepted specialist and well trusted or as a ship passing by in the night?
The second step is all about the behavior: look at the facts and, very important, look if there is a pattern hiding in the facts. Do new problems pop up all the time, without the old ones being solved? Does the manager consider the procedure to be more important than the result? Does he prefer formal meetings and decisions above informal decision making? Well, if this is the case and you see a pattern (it happens regularly) you’d better beware and take appropriate measures.
Let’s see what measures can be taken. As for every stakeholder it could be quite helpful to align personal and project interest of the project manager. So, if the project manager finishes in time delivering the right result there must be reward waiting That will influence his attitude towards the project.
There are several types of rewards one can think of for the project manager. E.g.:
- Early retirement without salary drop;
- Higher salary scale
- Expensive training to boost his career
If a reward is not an option the only way out is replacing the project manager by a project manager that does not have an interest in project failure. This might be an externally hired project manager.
But then watch out for another incentive: if the project manager is hired from a consultancy firm, he might get a bonus from his firm if more external staff is hired on the project.
Sometimes you are not in the position to implement the counter measures yourself; in that case you have to involve the right decision maker.
Be aware: this decision maker might be the real saboteur!
So, it is about time to look into the real reason of project failure. Leave the obvious reasons (too little budget, not enough resources) behind and go for the human interest. It will bring about new insights and bright success.
Dion Kotteman, strategy advisor, former CIO of the Dutch Government. And author of: “The Project Saboteur……. And how to kill him! “
The Project Saboteur is published in ebook and paperback by Claret Press on 7th April 2016. ISBN 978 1 910461 13 6
RRP £12.99 paperback. Available at all good bookshops and online booksellers
This book provides deep insight from the perspective of the project saboteur and offers the tools necessary to manipulate a project successfully and professionally. In a humorous way it shows how you can manipulate the truth and what influence such manipulation can have on the course of the project. Understand the tricks!
The book also tells you how to counter all this. Many real life cases are described. In this way you are able to recognise and also combat the insidious conspirators successfully! You will learn about some methods. Beat the saboteurs at their own game. The saboteur won’t win. Instead, you do.
Every project has opponents who try to manipulate it for their gain. And the good news is: you can beat them.
The book was a bestseller in The Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland.
Investing into a more sustainable future: changing businesses from the inside out
By Shawn Welch, Vice President and General Manager of Hi-Cone Worldwide
As industries across the world are facing unprecedented uncertainty and anticipating the economic implications of the current health crisis, business leaders have the unique opportunity to seize the chance to make lasting, positive changes and re-interpret the business challenges in a positive way – without forgetting or minimising the toll the pandemic has taken. When trying to identify a way forward, the future must be sustainable. We must take this opportunity to find a more sustainable way for businesses and manufacturers to survive.
Environmental and economic concern have only increased the gap on what consumers want – more sustainability – and how much progress businesses can make without risking their viability. However, rather than giving up on ambitious goals, maybe we need to reframe the way we look at sustainability. So far, businesses have tended to react to consumer demands, often without looking into the long-term implications and research-based due diligence one would expect. Therefore, now is the right time to be more deliberate: to continue on the path towards a truly sustainable ‘new normal’, businesses need to consider the bottom line impact more than ever before and truly invest in changing their business models to become more sustainable.
To meet the UN’s ambitious 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, businesses ultimately must thrive – working towards establishing a circular economy remains crucial. Instead of a linear ‘extract, use, dispose’ approach, materials need to be respected and re-used as many times as possible, which is only possible if products are designed for re-use, re-manufacturing, repair or restarting. After all, any and all consumption comes at a price. In manufacturing, processes draw on resources to produce items that, once they have served their purpose, become surplus to requirements. Yet, to ignore this is to take an incomplete view of sustainability: instead, materials are extracted from waste to re-enter production processes. Reuse and recycling initiatives are central to this and great strides have been made in raising awareness of this need. The full environmental cost of production and consumption includes the choice of materials themselves but also the level of carbon emissions generated, and energy consumed.
Once products and processes have redesigned for a circular approach, this initial investment will often easily be recouped, especially if we start with looking at the facts when starting this crucial process. To make the Circular Economy a focus for any business very often means changing the business model. Here, investing in research and development is vital. In the packaging industry, for example, we are seeing that customers and consumers are increasingly more focused on sustainability, and that surprising changes can unlock societal and business value. Through minimising a product’s carbon footprint or making recycling easier for consumers, lifecycle-assessment-based product redesigns or using recycled plastics instead of larger quantities of cardboard, companies are identifying these more creative options and enjoying the long-lasting benefits that come with implementing them. In any case, leadership is key. A research-driven approach gets everyone on-board and seeing management committing to these goals as part of business plans helps cement these. At a recent Reuters Responsible Business Summit virtual panel, I was part of an interesting conversation. Here, Yolanda Malone, Vice President Global R&D Snacks PKG, PepsiCo, discussed how leaders have to drive the behaviours within the organisation and the tone for the culture. She explained that her sustainable plastics vision is a world where plastics never become waste. Only through putting the mantra of “reduce, recycle, rethink and reinvent” can we bring circular products to consumer. She stressed that, if we don’t reinvent, we will fall back into old habits.
Of course, consumer behaviours play a part and the easier the solution, the more likely consumers will get behind it. End consumers are becoming increasingly conscious of packaging. So, to be truly circular, we need to take into account the entire lifecycle. Mindset change needs to continue to happen. Consumers need to be clear about what their choices are. To achieve this, we must change our businesses from the inside out, allowing for close collaboration inside and outside of our organisations. Other organisations – such as governments and recycling organisations – will need to be involved in businesses’ efforts, multiplying the impact our investments will have. We must address all aspects of sustainability and, for example, have better recycling, a focus on infrastructure and emphasis on consumer education. To recover, reuse and recycle, the R&D must be in place and dedicated to sustainability. Partnerships are important as we, as other leading global companies realise, cannot do this alone. Collaboration is key when investing in a more sustainable, more Circular, future.
Securing Information Throughout the Supply Chain – Preventing Supplier Vulnerabilities
By Adam Strange, Data Classification Specialist, HelpSystems
The financial services sector is experiencing extreme disruption coupled with rapid innovation as established institutions strive to become more agile and meet evolving customer demand. At the same time, new market entrants compete fiercely for customers. Increasing operational flexibility, through the deployment of cloud infrastructure or via digital transformation initiatives, is critical for future competitiveness but it has also driven regulatory and security challenges, particularly around working with suppliers.
That said, the benefits of a diverse, interconnected supply chain are compelling: agility, speed, and cost reduction all weigh on the positive side of the equation, prompting financial institutions to pursue close, collaborative relationships with suppliers, often numbering in the hundreds or thousands.
Weakness in the supply chain
On the negative side is the increased cyber threat when enterprises expose their networks to their supply chain. In our modern interconnected digital ecosystems, most financial organisations have many supply chain dependencies and it only takes one of these to have cybersecurity vulnerabilities to bring a business to its knees.
As a result, breaches originating in third parties are common and costly – a Ponemon Institute/IBM study found that breaches being caused by a third party was the top factor that amplified the cost of a breach, adding an average of $370,000 to the breach cost.
Concern around the supply chain was also evidenced in a recent report we have just issued, whereby we interviewed 250 CISOs and CIOs from financial institutions about the cybersecurity challenges they face and nearly half (46%) said that cybersecurity weaknesses in the supply chain had the biggest potential to cause the most damage in the next 12 months.
But sharing information with suppliers is essential for the supply chain to function. Most financial services organisations go to great lengths to secure intellectual property, personally identifiable information (PII) and other sensitive data internally, yet when this information is shared across the supply chain, does it get the same robust attention?
Further amplified by COVID-19
Financial service organisations have always been a key target for cyber attacks. Our research showed that since COVID-19 hit, the risk has elevated further, with 45% of the respondents seeing increased cybersecurity attacks during this period. Likewise, hackers are rejecting frontal assaults on well-defended walls in favour of infiltrating networks via vulnerabilities in suppliers.
But financial services organisations must maintain reputations and ensure customer trust. Firms are keen to demonstrate that they are protecting customer assets, providing an ultra-reliable service and working with trustworthy partners. So, what can they do to better protect their supplier ecosystem?
At the very least, they need to ensure basic controls are implemented around their suppliers’ IT infrastructure. For example, they must ensure suppliers maintain a secure infrastructure with a minimum of Cyber Essentials or the equivalent US CIS certification controls. Cyber Essentials defines a set of controls which, when implemented, provide organisations with basic protection from the most prevalent forms of threats, focusing on threats which require low levels of attacker skill, and which are widely available online.
Likewise, they need to ensure good information management controls are in place and this begins with accurate information/data classification. After all, how can you apply appropriate controls to your information unless you know what it is and where it is?
How ISO27001 helps organisations put in place a data classification process
The international standard on information security, ISO27001, describes the basic ingredients for data classification to ensure the data receives the appropriate level of protection in accordance with its importance to the organisation. It comprises three basic elements:
- Classification of data – in terms of legal requirements, value, criticality and sensitivity to unauthorised disclosure or modification.
- Labelling of data – an appropriate set of procedures for information labelling should be developed and implemented in accordance with the organisation’s information classification scheme.
- Handling of assets – procedures for the handling of assets developed and implemented in accordance with the organisation’s information classification scheme.
Adoption of this methodology will help financial services organisations and their supply chain take a more data-centric information security approach. However, there are essentially four key stages for implementing a data risk assurance supply chain approach and these are:
1. Approval – in organisations with complex supply chains senior management, vendor management, procurement and information security will all need to support a robust risk-based information management approach. Details of previous incidents and their impact alongside the business benefits will be essential to gain stakeholder buy in.
2. Preparation – Organisations should start with Tier 1 suppliers and initially identify the contracts with the highest business impact/risk. They should identify and record information repositories and the data that they contain together with the responsible business owners. Define a business taxonomy based on information categories of that data and include supply chain factors such as what information categories are shared.
For example, they need to understand the business impact of compromise against each of the information categories. Have any suppliers suffered security incidents? What assurance mechanisms are in place? Once all this information is collated the organisation can create a data classification policy and define a set of controls for each data category.
3. Discovery – Select each data category and identify the associated contracts. Then prioritise the data category based on the risk assessment and verify that the data security controls and arrangements for each data category and contract meet the overall requirements. Once complete, hand over the contract for inclusion in the vendor management cycle.
4. Embed process – the overall objective is to embed information risk management into the procurement lifecycle from start to finish. Therefore, whenever a new contract is created there are a number of actions required which embed data risk at each stage of the bid, tender, procurement, evaluation, implementation and termination phases of the contract.
To summarise, organisations should start by researching the information risk and security frameworks such as ISO27001 and others. They should then focus on defining their business taxonomy and data categories together with the business impact of compromise to help develop a data classification scheme. Finally, they should implement the data classification scheme and embed data risk management into the procurement lifecycle processes from start to finish. By effectively embedding data risk management and categorisation into their procurement and vendor management processes, they are preventing their suppliers’ vulnerabilities becoming their own and are more effectively securing data in the supply chain.
Deloitte: Middle East organizations need to rethink their workforce in the wake of COVID-19
Organizations in the Middle East have had to take immediate actions in reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic, such as shifting to remote and virtual work, implementing new ways of working and redirecting the workforce on critical activities. According to Deloitte’s 10th annual 2020 Middle East Human Capital Trends report, “The social enterprise at work: Paradox as a path forward,” organizations now need to think about how to sustain these actions by embedding them into their organizational culture.
“COVID-19 has created a clarifying moment for work and the workforce. Organizations that expand their focus on worker well-being, from programs adjacent to work to designing well-being into the work itself, will help their workers not only feel their best but perform at their best. Doing so will strengthen the tie between well-being and organizational outcomes, drive meaningful work, and foster a greater sense of belonging overall,” said Ghassan Turqieh, Consulting Partner, Human Capital, Deloitte Middle East.
According to the Deloitte report, many organizations in the Middle East made quick arrangements to engage with employees in the wake of the pandemic through frequent communications, multiple webinars where senior leaders addressed employee concerns, virtual employee events, manager check-ins, periodic calls and other targeted interactions with the workforce.
The report also discussed how UAE and KSA governments have reexamined work policies and practices, amended regulations and introduced COVID-19 initiatives to support companies and the workforce in the public and private sectors. Flexible and remote working, team-building and engagement activities, well-ness programs, recognition awards and modern workspaces are among the many things that are now adding to the employee experience.
Key findings from the Deloitte global report include:
- Only 17% of respondents are making significant investments in reskilling to support their AI strategy with only 12% using AI primarily to replace workers;
- 27% of respondents have clear policies and practices to manage the ethical challenges resulting from the future of work despite 85% of respondents saying the future of work raises ethical challenges;
- Three-quarters of leaders are expecting to source new skills and capabilities through reskilling, but only 45% are rewarding workers for the development of new skills; and
- Only 45% of respondents are prepared or very prepared to take advantage of the alternative workforce to access key capabilities despite gig workers being likely to comprise 43% of the U.S. workforce this year according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“Worker well-being is a top priority today, and similarly to the rest of the world, companies in the Middle East are focusing their efforts to redesign work around well-being by understanding workforce well-being needs,” said Rania Abu Shukur, Director, Human Capital, Consulting, Deloitte Middle East.
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