Author Profile Picture

Hristina Nikolaeva

Read more about Hristina Nikolaeva

Brand Logo

How to avoid ‘failure by democracy’

What is ‘failure by democracy’ and how can you avoid it in your talent management transformation?
People voting, decision by democracy

Every project needs stakeholder input and buy in, particularly with something as far-reaching as a new HR or L&D system – the new technology will touch every employee in your organisation and people will have big opinions throughout the supplier selection process.

However, the more people involved in building a case for change or making the decision for which technology is best for your people processes, the less your expertise starts to count, particularly in a smaller business.

In this article, as part of a series on talent management transformation, we will explore how the right decision isn’t always made by committee and how you should lean into your own experience and needs during your project’s selection process.

A delicate balancing act

Throughout this series we have spoken about the importance of your project team. From selecting an executive sponsor to involving line managers, this team will be the reason your project succeeds (or fails).

Bringing each business department on this journey with you is critical to the success of the project. It is, however, a delicate balancing act, keep in mind that you are the project owner and you know what problem you are solving or what the key project goal is. Decision by committee risks project spread and not achieving your original goal, unless the process is managed carefully.

One decision maker leads to one scapegoat

Often decision by committee feels safer. If you share the decision-making load, you also share the blame if things go wrong. However, with the right transformation partner, you can create a team of external experts whose role is to advise you throughout the process, ensuring that your decisions are backed by data or concrete evidence.

Your vendors can also help you make the business case to your internal team – choose a vendor or vendors you can trust, that speak clearly and are comfortable they can deliver on your organisation’s goals. If you then bring your project team along with you, they will feel involved in the decision, but you are the one making it!

Be wary of big opinions

When the time comes to make the big decision – what technology and which vendors you want to proceed with – many people are going to have an opinion. They have seen what you have seen, they feel as involved in the project as you do, but they don’t have your experience, knowledge and understanding of what HR transformation looks like, nor do they have the overarching knowledge of what is best for the organisation as a whole.

Some people have louder voices, others are swayed by pretty graphics and yet others are excited by what they will get out of it. This is where you must be influenced without being overwhelmed by the louder voices and views coming at you.

Remember: what was your core project goal, who can best support you to achieve it and what is best for the business?

Our top tips for avoiding failure by democracy

  • Have a clear project goal and stick to it – project creep may look like you are getting more done, but it is probably at the expense of time, budget and achieving the end goal.
  • Build your project team from people you know trust your judgement and expertise. Only include people who really need to be in there and those who can offer the right advice to support the business’ transformation.
  • Be wary of loud opinions from people who lack the skillset and knowledge to support their big ideas.
  • Don’t be swayed by pretty, shiny graphics and animations – sometimes they mask limitations with the underlying technology. Cross-reference your wishlist against the features and functions you are getting from your technology partner. Only get excited when they align.
  • Be realistic on what can be achieved with your budget, but don’t be afraid to ask for more – work as a project team to get more out of your vendors.
  • If you are struggling to lead a project team, request assertiveness or project management training to help you feel more confident in your ability to lead, know when to take advice and understand when you know best!

About the Cornerstone SMB employee team

If you are looking for a technology partner you can trust to build your business case with you, align to your organisation’s needs supported by people who understand the nature of businesses with under 1,000 employees, get in touch with Cornerstone’s SMB Consultants.

Cornerstone’s SMB team speak with hundreds of SMBs every year and support them to transform their people approach with the right technology and expertise.

View the full content series on talent management transformation here.

Author Profile Picture

Get the latest from HRZone

Subscribe to expert insights on how to create a better workplace for both your business and its people.


Thank you.