The person at the top of the technology implementation project is important. This person is the face of the system, and it is critical that he or she has the resources, attitude, and grit to be successful. This is the director of your movie, so make sure you have a good one.
It is important for the executive team to be comfortable that the right person is at the helm of the ship. Regular meetings are helpful for management to assess whether or not the leader is effective in his or her role. The right leader will be able to communicate to management in a meaningful way that is relevant to the business. He or she can bridge the gap between technical expertise and business value. The project leader does not necessarily need to be a technical expert. Ideally, the leader has good communication skills, experience with leading teams, and a track record of delivering impactful results.
If the leader is attributing problems with the project to external sources, this is a warning sign that it may be time for a change. Typically, you will hear phrases like, “the users are not cooperating” or “the vendor is not delivering as promised.” Problems always seem to be someone else’s fault and out of the leader’s control. What this should communicate to management is that the leader is not comfortable forging ahead and doing what needs to be done to make progress.
Finally, it is equally important that the leader be granted the appropriate authority to make necessary decisions. It is acceptable, and even encouraged to have some boundaries placed on this authority. This comfort zone should be established up front and modified as needed based on the comfort levels of all parties. That said, if management is confident that they have selected the right leader, it is best to err on the side of allowing him or her broader rather than narrower limits. This establishes trust early and allows the turnaround to move forward quickly.
Even when it is a painful change, management must be willing to replace project leadership when appropriate. If management, ownership, or the organization at-large does not trust the project leader, the project is doomed to mediocrity or failure.