1. Physical strength and fitness
2. Technical ability to solve the problem and create a route
3. Mental stamina and belief
In the last few months I’d like to think I have developed in all these areas and will now quite happily tackle and achieve results to V3 problems. It is fascinating how these factors interplay with each other. Some problems require a little more strength and some benefit from more technical ability, but all factors come into play to some extent. State of mind also makes a huge difference – a fear of falling or a thought that you cannot do it usually means that you aren’t successful.
What does this have to do with Programme Delivery?
Well it struck me that actually Bouldering is the same as programme delivery in many ways. The same 3 ingredients are required for success:
All too often when I’m reviewing and recovering programmes in crisis I find that some of these basic ingredients are lacking. Frequently, as I did when I began climbing, people assume that additional strength is required to succeed. Whilst you need sufficient strength to complete the problem, applying too much energy can easily cause you to loose grip or balance and fall. The same is true of applying extra resource to a struggling programme.
There is also another element intrinsic to climbing that is required for any successful programme. That component is a clear goal. In Bouldering you have to climb and touch the top hold with both hands. Having a common understanding of the required outcome is also essential for a successful programme.
What happens when you struggle with the ascent?
In climbing you are working against gravity. The same is true of any change programme – if you stop and let go you fall back to the starting position. Organisations and the individuals within it revert to the previous state.
It is often the case that half way up the wall you get stuck. The same is true of many programmes part way through. Generally problems at this stage are due to a shortage of one of the three ingredients mentioned. At this point you can do a number of things. As already discussed more resource is only a solution if that is the genuine cause of the problem. Appropriate interventions in this situation are generally:
Taking any other course of action or hanging in for too long without acting generally results in a fall. It is much better to make a controlled descent than fall and risk injury. Programme sponsors and stakeholders like to see that things are under control – even if that has to be a controlled change to the outcome.
A further challenge is often when your belief in the ability to succeed comes adrift from actual capability. I see this a lot on programmes when mid-plan challenges hit, stakeholders lose confidence and make personnel changes often based on perception rather than fact.
The power of coaching in sport is well established. It appears to be less so in programmes. Agile coaching is gaining momentum but is still some way from being accepted as commonplace. Help from friends on the ground has been incredibly useful for me while climbing both tactically in pointing out the foothold I haven’t seen, providing encouragement or just generally sharing ideas on problem solving. I believe the same benefit is up for grabs in programme delivery.
So what are the key elements for a successful ascent?
I find this analogy quite useful as a reminder of the key things required for successful programme delivery:
This probably seems like a very basic list, but all too often some of these basics are missed. In the menatime, I wish you a successful ascent!