Squeezing new delivery approaches into your organization



“Although my organization has a powerful culture, they are so persistent in their ways and resistant to change. How can I get them to adopt new delivery approaches?”

This white paper provides a strategy for launching new delivery approaches in organizations which have a culture resistant to adopting new methods for project delivery.

Many leaders can visualize the advantages of improving the processes of project management. Additionally, their need for process improvements may require leveraging new methods foreign to the existing project management (PM) delivery environment. To ensure successful adoption, some additional considerations should be observed to increase the likelihood that the launch will not be a temporary endeavor, but one that succeeds. This white paper will help you to:

  1. Understand the category and type of change for the new delivery approach
  2. Recognize the meaning of a strong culture
  3. Value the Change Curve
  4. Assess the existing culture within your department or organization and its willingness to embrace change
  5. Diagnose the difference between the people, processes and tools
  6. Create a map of your current state and your specific delivery requirements
  7. Pilot the new approach
  8. Work aggressively to maintain a climate for change

Leveraging these steps will ensure that you have greater success with implementing new delivery approaches that would otherwise see their momentum suffocate due to improper considerations of your organization’s or project team’s culture.


I have had the opportunity to observe several organizations which have a strong culture. In healthy culture, focus is on employee engagement, team building and recognition, and servant leadership. In unhealthy cultures, it can mean publically degrading an employee’s credibility, monitoring their desk time while at work, squeezing the most out of the employee instead of his or her best, or encouraging business practices that violate his or her personal code of ethics. In either scenario, when management processes have been recognized as the fundamental requirement for delivering on projects, both culture types can present some unique challenges when leaders identify new approaches for project delivery.

Through the Hybrid Toolbox (Project Management Institute [PMI], 2012) available to project teams, there exist multiple approaches that teams can take to deliver on the next project. What should be done when there is a desire to leverage a unique delivery framework that has not been attempted in the past? How much resistance should you expect to encounter? What barriers will arise? Potential threats include, but are not limited to the following:

  • A lack of vision from leaders on how the delivery approach can benefit teams
  • An unwillingness to participate in overviews or training on its mechanics and value
  • Employee resistance and poor involvement
  • Inadequate messaging (ineffective content or poor timing)

Research shows that people and teams all respond to change and new delivery approaches the same way. It doesn’t matter if the change is negative or positive.

  • ”…[T]he way forward is blocked by cognitive biases that interfere with people’s openness to change.” (Litre & Murphy, 2013)
  • “…[M]ost people deal with change related stress and anxiety by trying to maintain a sense of control over their lives” (PMI, 2013)
Categorizing the New Delivery Approach

As the needs of customers change, businesses must quickly adapt. Concerning project management, this means being able to adjust the approach and speed in which capabilities or services are brought to market in hopes of generating new revenue, cutting costs or improving customer satisfaction. Time is precious. To the degree that these needs exist (for both the customer and your business), it is imperative that strong consideration be given to the approach taken to improve or replace existing project delivery mechanisms. This type of change for project management delivery is either as complex or as simple as some may think. In order to give it a proper context, adding or replacing delivery approaches to your organization should be considered a “transitional change”. See Exhibit 1 below.

Exhibit 1

Exhibit 1

Depending on the environmental characteristics of your organization, it is possible for you realize or rate the type of change as developmental or transformational—but most project oriented improvement initiatives will classify as transitional.

Also, note the criteria for transformational change. It has culture as an area of focus. This is type of change has the highest degree of pain felt and the greatest impact on the mindset. So, remember that for the endeavor of squeezing in new delivery approaches, a culture change is not the scope, but rather working in the existing culture of your delivery environment.

The Culture Definition

What is culture? Culture has to do with how we behave and the definitions we attach to that behavior. This means our belief systems, habits and the effects they have on how we connect with others. It is “[t]he prevailing thoughts, beliefs, and allegiances that drive processes and behaviors at any given company.” – Daren Martin, PhD

Understanding the Change Curve

You are about to embark on a journey that will challenge the delivery status quo within your organization.

Turbulence will be generated as this constructive disruption collides with the norm of how projects work. Your new effort will progress a team (or teams) of people from a current state to a future state. There are delivery deficiencies that exist today that will be lessened tomorrow with the use of the new model. Your eyes must remain focused on the impact that this will have on the people involved—both their resistance and their eagerness.

“Change typically involves turbulence and disruption of the status quo. It is often referred to as the Change Curve and is based on a model originally developed in the 1960s by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross to explain the grieving process that a terminally ill patient progresses through when informed of an illness. The change curve is represented graphically as a form of a U or V with time on the X-axis and stakeholder emotional reaction on the Y-axis to reflect the psychological stages stakeholders go through when a change is announced and implemented. Some stakeholders respond with stress and negative emotions when a change is announced. Sponsors and portfolio, program, and project managers need to understand the implications of the stages represented by the change cure on the change implementation process” (PMI, 2013)

From denial to successful execution, the sample change curve provided in Exhibit 2 maps the stages of change in your team. Taking time to assess how the team will respond to the new delivery approach and mapping them to this curve will prove invaluable. It will increase the chances of a successful launch and adoption.

Exhibit 2

Assessing the Current Culture within Your Organization

Take a moment to reflect on the image in Exhibit 2 and examine the most significant change that took place recently within your organization. How did the employees feel about the change? Where are you now with the change? Most likely you and your fellow employees fell somewhere within the following five categories:

Exhibit 3


One of the most glaring issues people face when dealing with change is the emotional bond they have established with tools, practices and procedures, or the lack thereof. You will have an opportunity to assess and demonstrate the need to de-couple your team’s relationship to the existing processes and tools and provide them with a vision for a more efficient future state using a new framework.

Differentiating Between Core Values, Your Culture and Practices

Most employees will struggle to embrace a new methodology or framework because of their perception that it will somehow change who they are personally, when in reality, the core person does not change. Modifying, adding, or replacing a new delivery model does not change individuals. It changes their outputs and the direction and quality of their execution.


Exhibit 4

This illustration represents an example of a project delivery environment. The strength of the middle ring (culture) has an enormous impact on the team’s ability to explore new delivery approaches (processes).

People: The unique talents, skills and attributes owned by each person necessary for a dynamic and diverse team.

Culture: The prevailing thoughts, beliefs and allegiances that drive behaviors within the team.

Processes: The collective activities and tasks performed by the team to generate a product or service.

One of the best things you can do to help pull your team members through the change curve is to help them distinguish between their core values, the culture and the processes used to get work accomplished.

Current State and Your Delivery Requirements

Now that you have a feel for the culture within your organization, you are positioned to explore new delivery approaches. Which of the following should you use?

  • Scrum
  • XP (Extreme Programming)
  • Kanban
  • Iterative
  • Waterfall
  • RAD (Rapid Application Development)
  • A hybrid of the above

Exhibit 5

No longer a new delivery approach, Agile is here to stay. It works successfully and now serves as a favorite option for many project teams. Specific flavors of Agile are Kanban, XP, and Scrum.

Exhibit 5 is an illustration from PMI that communicates how project managers can leverage a suite of options and in some cases, create hybrid frameworks that are unique to their environments.

“I don’t believe that Agile or Scrum is always the right choice…quite the opposite. When highly skilled teams can pick and choose the tools and rules that work for them, they can hit gold,” said Børge Haugset, research scientist at SINTEF ICT, Norway. (PM Network, 2010)

If you are considering any of these options, try visioning first. What will it look like when the new approach is operational?

Establishing a vision for your future delivery environment also means understanding the delivery needs of your team via current state analysis and defining requirements for how the new model should perform. Keep targeted outcomes in mind. There should be several objectives that you are trying to achieve with the new delivery approach. Some desired outcomes could include:

  • Reports that communicate objective data on the team’s progress
  • Providing leaders with data necessary make informed decision making
  • Showing team members that the new approach is more efficient, flexible and reliable

To accomplish any of the above, use a priority matrix as part of the selection process for the new framework or methodology. It will ensure “fan favorite methodologies “are handled appropriately, which will also safeguard the best solution is identified based on strategic fit, economic impact and feasibility.

Delivery Framework & Methodology Scoring Weights
Strategic Fit Economic Impact Feasibility Total
Strategic Alignment Delivery Speed Capacity Match Usage Costs Support Volume Scalability Technology People  
15% 15% 10% 10% 15% 15% 10% 5% 5% 100%

These weights are assigned once you have established the criteria for measuring each solution. This type of tool is an option for decision makers to assist them in solving problems with multiple and often competing decision criteria. Some of these criteria may be more important than others. The tool allows you to first establish the weights for each criterion, and then apply them within with the tool. In this way, decisions can be made with relative objectivity.

Delivery Framework & Methodology Scoring
  Strategic Fit Economic Impact Feasibility
Delivery Options Strategic Alignment Delivery Speed Capacity Match Usage Costs Support Volume Scalability Tech People
15% 15% 10% 10% 15% 15% 10% 5% 5%
Kanban 2 3 4 6 6 9 7 8 7
Scrum 3 6 8 6 7 7 3 8 6
Waterfall 8 6 6 6 7 7 6 5 7

Ensure you have a diverse group of participants for the scoring exercise by securing people that represent a cross-section of the delivery environment. If you focus only on people from the delivery team, you will increase the chances for selecting a “fan favorite”.

Bubble Matrix Summary

Exhibit 6

Consider the creation of a bubble matrix to help stakeholders assess the options. This is a good perspective to determine which option provides the most feasibility and strategic fit. It also communicates which will have the greatest impact towards improving delivery.

As an added benefit, it acts as an objective tool for securing the final recommendation. It is both graphical and analytical. Naysayers who would challenge the use of the winning solution now have the transparency they need to better understand their criticisms. The weighted evaluation criteria are an objective approach for selecting a new delivery system.


Choose a project to serve as a pilot. First, confirm if you have a Subject Matter Expert (SME) within your company who is well versed in using and training on the new approach. You may need to look outside the company for assistance.

Next, it is a good idea to choose an effort that has a lot of visibility within the organization, a strong interest at the executive level and includes stakeholders from multiple departments. Try to use the following as a start for your project selection criteria.

Project Type:    Enterprise Wide
Exposure:    Multiple Senior Executives
Operational Risk:    Medium - Low
Project Duration:    6 Months or Less

Another key measure for the project type should be centered on the strategic impact that the effort will have on the organization. A project with high value for the business will help secure the approval and formal acceptance of the new methodology. NOTE: You are linking the use of the new delivery methodology (pilot) to the value of the project’s product.

As a strategic leader, you never want to lose sight of this objective. The exposure of this project and the value it will generate for its stakeholders will help secure the new delivery model as a standard offering.

Short Case Study: Leadership Development Program at a US Airline

This project served to launch a new program within the airport operations. The objective was to roll out a rotational leadership program for agents and customer service personnel desiring to secure a supervisor position in the future (a new fast-track to leadership). The project development duration was six months. The program, once launched, would run 18 months (six months x three rotations) at three different airport locations. The effort had high visibility, spanning from the employees, leadership and the board of directors.

The development team was looking for an approach for managing the work. Scrum was chosen. However, due to the lack of experience with using the methodology, the normal rules for using Scrum were modified significantly. The table below delineates the difference between what is commonly known as normal Scrum rules of engagement, versus what was best for the team to use based on the culture within the organization and the necessary steps needed to take this non-IT business function through the change curve.

Scrum Attribute Normal Usage Case Study Project Usage
Daily Scrum Meetings: Each day for 15-20 minutes Only once per week for 30 minutes
Sprint Review: At the end of each month At the end of each month
Product Owner: A single leader Shared ownership between two leaders within HR
Product Back Log: Usually owned by a single product owner Shared ownership between two product owners and team members sometimes added work to the log

So what was the benefit to the organization from this pilot project? First, the Scrum Master was able to recognize, based on the culture of the company and the project team, how much of the normal Scrum cadence could be applied.

Did the team miss the point by not adhering to the core Scrum and Sprint routines? Not necessarily. The delivery leader of this organization now has the opportunity to adjust and realign the team. A baseline has been set and another pilot project may be needed to allow the Scrum Master to request more rigor from the team so they will perform more consistently with traditional Scrum delivery.

In this instance, there would be the need to perform one or two additional pilot projects due to the culture of the organization. There is a legitimate need to utilize this delivery approach, but the leader of this organization understands the pace of change within the company. Your organization could also require multiple pilots to ensure the new delivery approach sticks.

Create an Ongoing Climate for Change

Once you’ve implemented the new delivery framework, you’ll see the evidence of success in a variety of forms:

  • Team members will communicate their appreciation for the new method’s flexibility
  • Tools and templates will be more widely used (beyond the purview of the original pilot)
  • Other areas of the business will demonstrate an interest in its usage and may make:
    • Requests that you or a pilot team member perform an overview during their next department meeting
    • Requests for one on one overviews with other, external delivery leaders
    • Requests to interview the team members who participated in the pilot

Work to sustain a climate of change. This is very important. The evidence above should be seasonal and not just a single, lifetime event for your delivery environment. As stated earlier in this writing:

“…the needs of customers change, business must quickly adapt. Concerning project management, this means being able to adjust the approach and speed in which capabilities or services are brought to market in hopes of generating new revenue, cutting cost or improving customer satisfaction.”

There will be additional opportunities to introduce new approaches for managing projects within your organization. Take the necessary steps to establish that the depth of future change curves run shallower than first measured. This can be done by assessing the existing pilot during and after its execution. Consider the following questions to assess your readiness to squeeze another new delivery approach into your organization:

  • Are the executive stakeholders of the pilot well versed in the pilot project’s outcomes (its successes and failures)?
  • Was a survey released to better understand or measure attitudes at the start of the pilot and again after it was completed? Is there a strategy on how the response data will be compiled and used?
  • Did lessons learned get captured to understand how to move the team members/organization through the change curve more quickly?
  • What could you have done to implement the new approach in a less painful way?
  • Has a go-forward plan been created as a result of the assessment data?

If your organization already has a solid change program, you will most likely have some mechanisms in place to assist you with the implementation of your new development approach. To the degree that you apply more rigorous change management practices in the deployment of the new delivery model, it will ensure successful validation that the model will work.

Following the guidance in this white paper will provide you with increased confidence towards using the new delivery approach. It will also provide you the benefit of knowing you took the time to assess the hearts and minds of the people most impacted by the change. If you have ever participated in the execution of a new change which was thrown at an organization or team, then you can recall the pains, resistance and the sabotage that may have followed.

You will achieve success if you consider the pace of change within your delivery environment. Take an objective position for selecting the new delivery model and assess the team against the change curve. You will gain even more momentum when you leverage a pilot project to serve as a champion for the new delivery approach. All of these activities will minimize resistance and maximize the adoption of the new delivery approach.

PMI. (2012). PM Network, January 2010. p.30. Newtown Square, PA: PMI.

Litre, P. and Murphy, K. (2013). Results Delivery: Managing the highs and lows of change. http://www.bain.com/publications/articles/results-delivery-managing-the-highs-and-lows-of-change.aspx

PMI. (2013). Managing Change in Organizations: A Practice Guide. p.12. Newtown Square, PA: PMI.

Anderson, D. and Ackerman, L. (2001). Beyond Change Management - Matrix of three types of organizational change. P.66

© 2013 Adrian Terry
Originally published as a part of 2013 PMI Global Congress Proceedings – New Orleans, Louisiana



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