Change Management


Success Factors of Systemic Alpine Development

(from HEEB & BELLWALD 2008)

Success Factors of Systemic Alpine Development (Source: J. Heeb).

Innovative thinkers: Regional development is dependant on innovative personalities who are able to come up with unique and convincing project ideas. The often cited "crackpots" and "lateral thinkers" play an important role here in opening up new areas of thought. "Wide angle thinking" is desirable, to avoid a sectoral view and to make the entire potential for possible project ideas and variants "imaginable and usable". "Lateral thinking workshops" can assist in identifying suitable people, in encouraging them and motivating them to participate within the framework of regional development projects. Such events can be designed as an evening activity, whereby the aim is to confront the participants with unconventional theses on regional development and together develop corresponding project ideas.

Unique project ideas with a good backing society are needed for successful regional development projects (Source: CIPRA).

Unique project ideas with good backing: Unique project ideas open up new value adding potential and can be positioned as flagship projects in the "regional development market". Innovation workshops and idea-exchanges make the search for such projects easier for stakeholders. It is necessary here to capitalise on affected and concerned people's desire to create win-win situations, and thereby turn as many affected people as possible into interested (participating) people. Without early establishment of a regional support base for the project idea, it runs the risk of not attracting enough support and being sidelined already in the initiation phase.

Promoters encourage trust and credibility: Known and respected societal or political personalities who, from the start, openly support a project idea as a "patron" thereby ensure that in its initiation phase the project idea receives an adequate basis of trust and credibility. Conceivable here is the creation of a promoter forum for regional development projects.

Transparency: Transparency of process in a project creates trust and security. It is here that the "flow-flower" has proven to be a useful aid. At the beginning of a project's process all participants are offered the opportunity to exchange information with each other about their motivation, the contributions they could make to the project's development, their expectations as to the project's design and its results, as well as what resources are available to them. Building on this, the participants together can formulate project aims that are coherent and plausible for all. These aims form the basis by which the project stakeholders monitor its progress. External transparency must be ensured through an adequate communications plan, which needs to be based on the information needs of regional stakeholders and other affected people.

Mutual understanding: An important basis for the successful development of a project is a mutual understanding amongst stakeholders with regard to the project's intentions and the development processes it will initiate. Through this mutual system understanding the need for action, or alternatively new options for action, can be worked out more precisely and on a broader basis. Building on this a procedure can then be designed for implementation of the project ideas.

Market assessment: As basis for the further development of the project idea towards submission of a proposal, an initial market assessment must be undertaken as early as possible to clarify the project's chances of realisation and success. It is important here to carry out the assessment of the project idea within the framework of trans-regional marketing strategies that either already exist or are being, or are able to be built up, or alternatively within the framework of integration into interesting collective packages (service or product packages). However, an actual full market analysis is only possible and useful in the least number of cases, due to the pre-competitive positioning of many projects at this stage.

Cooperation: Institutionalised cooperation between project initiators and the affected regional stakeholders is of crucial importance for successful project development. It should be ensured that a network of working relationships between those responsible for a project and those stakeholders affected by the project (especially the key stakeholders) is built up as quickly as possible. Stakeholder platforms – loose networks of affected stakeholders – offer a promising institutional framework for this networking task.

Leadership through motivated, engaged and professional project management: Clear structures within a project, as well as a good mix of technical, social (especially team skills) and methodological management skills amongst those responsible for a project are basic requirements for success. Of particular significance is goal oriented and reliable planning of resources, finances and time, as well as the setting up of appropriate project monitoring and control, and promoting communication and cooperation between project initiators, operational project management and involved stakeholder networks. The allocation of tasks and roles is to be defined from the start by creating job specifications, with these being periodically reassessed and rearranged if necessary. Project managers must bring a high level of motivation, commitment, persuasiveness and management skills into the project.

Goal orientated, but flexible, project realisation: Consistent goal orientation forms the backbone of every successful project. However, every project also involves learning processes amongst the participants. These can continually lead to new knowledge, which in turn can open up new options for action. This development potential must be made available through flexibility and openness amongst all project stakeholders. Only those who have clearly defined goals can work in a goal oriented way. Differentiation is needed here between strategic and operational goals.

External moderation and technical advice: In many cases it is not just useful, but necessary to support the operational project management through provision of external moderation assistance and technical advice. In this way, competencies that are not available within the project team can be outsourced for particular tasks.

Projects as learning organisations: The palette of challenges faced by regional development projects, listed in chapter 2, illustrates that high demands need to be made of all participants in terms of competencies and learning ability. This applies equally for the institutions that are involved. To nurture and develop these competencies, a regional development project should be recognised as a learning organisation and designed as such.

Knowledge management and experience exchange are very important (Source: CIPRA).

Creation of a project culture that encourages innovation and development: A supportive and positive culture in dealing with mistakes motivates those involved in a project to venture into and explore the new and the unknown. In this process, a potential for risk and error usually arises that needs to be counteracted. Not, however, through holding back the participants, but rather through continual analysis of the risks and evaluation of the errors, in keeping with the concept of an internal learning process within the project. Those who make an error are not punished, but rather those who learn the most from the error are rewarded!

Knowledge management and experience exchange: Knowledge is the backbone of project development. It must be equally available to all participants – knowledge must not be misused as an instrument of power. Project managers must ensure that appropriate knowledge management is implement. The exchange of knowledge can be encouraged internally within the project through 'sharing' or 'reflection' sessions involving the entire project team (where appropriate also including regional project stakeholders), but also beyond the project boundaries through the creation of knowledge sharing groups (ERFA-groups).

Adequate institutional framework: The institutional concept for the project must relate to the proposal’s ‘action system’ to ensure successful project implementation. The guiding motto for setting up a suitable support base for the project is: ‘as broad a support base as necessary – but as small as possible’ (an overly large support base makes a project sluggish and can even paralyse it). In doing so it is necessary, wherever essential or useful, to create interfaces with existing interest groups or networks. The legal arrangements should be based on the project’s goals, on the ways in which those involved can participate, as well as on the progress status of the project. In choosing a legal structure, the following aspects in particular should be considered: the possibility of integrating various different partners into the project or creating networks amongst suitable circles, definition of the different roles within a project and arrangement of the financial involvement of the partners.

Realistic financial plan for start and realisation phases: Without financial support right from the start, regional project ideas only rarely achieve the desired breakthrough. Financial support usually needs to continue throughout the realisation phase of the project. Reasons for this are the mostly pre-competitive positioning of such projects, and the combining of both commercial goals along with objectives for general public benefit. Therefore, innovative projects should already be supported with appropriate start up funding in their initiation phase. In this way, the project’s development up to actual submission stage can be more professional, the submission and approval process can be optimised, and the chances for realisation of the project are improved. Sufficient funds also need to be secured for the project’s realisation, to allow for professional project management, for internal and external communication, for the development and implementation of sponsoring programs, for the support of internal learning processes, as well as for continual progress monitoring and project evaluation (unfortunately in practice these are the areas where funding cuts are often made).

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Further Readings & Links

HEEB et al. (2007)
Actor Platforms and systemic change management for sustainable development processes in the Alps: A methodical framework for actors.

Cooperative decision-making and conflict management in public planning and environment.