Our website uses cookies. By continuing to use our website you are agreeing to our use of cookies.
Close this message.

eLearning Log in

Login here using your username and password

Forgotten login?

What is project Risk Management?

Risk management should be the star of project and programme management, as it ought to stop things going wrong, however it is often seen as the poor relation. Let’s face it, thinking about all the things that could go wrong is hardly exhilarating and very few people talk about their great night in trawling through a risk register.
The reality is that programmes and projects repeatedly go wrong and many of the causes of failure are very predictable. At its best, risk management should be a leading discipline in any project and should empower and support effective decision making. At its worst, it is a low-level support function that is simply generating registers to satisfy people that might be looking over the project’s shoulder. It is rare to see the former but quite common to see the latter.
As part of our Seven Deadly Sins series and as a critical component of successful projects and programmes, we have highlighted below the key reasons why risk management often doesn’t work.

  1. Risk watching: we see this time and again. Hours of time and great pride can be taken filling in clever spreadsheets but often, with little or no connection to the actual activities required to manage and reduce risk. Risk management means doing stuff not taking pride in a spreadsheet.
  2. Thinking that mitigation is a word not an action: risk descriptions should be clear and informative. It’s amazingly common to see mitigation actions like “treat” or “share” with no associated actions
  3. Lack of horizon scanning: often it’s events from outside the project sphere that cause problems. The risk horizon should be a broad view, but too often it is focused on micro or technical challenges within the project scope.
  4. Creating artificial complexity: risk quantification can be used to do some amazingly powerful and valuable modelling (time and cost); but it’s not uncommon to see wildly complex models producing results that could have been derived from something far simpler. Avoid the temptation to produce a ‘clever’ model just to make the answer appear more accurate.
  5. Focus on consequences not the threats: far too many risk registers are lists of bad things that could happen and do not consider the events that will trigger these. As a result risk registers tend to be too long and unfocused, they can be significantly reduced by focusing on the threats.
  6. Ignoring opportunities: apart from cheering people up by looking on the bright side and being hopeful, projects and programmes can make their own luck by taking actions to encourage positive events.
  7. Gaming the system: it’s amazing how easy it is to game risk modelling. It’s almost standard practice now to ignore any opportunities in the risk register when doing cost modelling as this will “erode my contingency”. Surely if these opportunities are real, and modelled properly, then that’s OK?

Have a look at your own project or programme and see if you think any of the above ‘sins’ might be true for you. If you think they are, get in touch as we’re keen to see risk being done really well.
If you need any further support, our services may be able to help. Visit our website at www.aspireeurope.com

How do I set up a programme organisation ?

MSP Survival Guide for Senior Responsible Owners has been written specifically for you (the SRO), full of helpful advice to make your hectic life easier

There are many reasons why programmes fail, but failure to grasp the scale of the change being delivered and weak leadership of the programme teams are often contributing factors.

As you are unlikely to have time to read the MSP guide or to go on courses, we have covered the main things that you will need to know in a format that can be easily referenced.

In this series of extracts we are publishing a summary of the key points from each of the chapter of the MSP Survival Guide for SROs. If you would like to buy a copy, please follow this link and quote the discount code of SG15 for a 10% discount.

Here is our advice for SROs on the Programme organisation, if you would like more specific advice or help why not contact us about support and training for SRO’s.

“Organisations need to practice qualitative corporate governance rather than quantitative governance thereby ensuring it is properly run.”  “You cannot legislate good behaviour.” – Mervyn King, Bank of England
Your programme will need an organisational structure, many programmes fail because they get this wrong from the outset.  There are two sides to a programme: A) the bit that creates capability, which is where much of the money is spent on projects, and B) the bit that delivers the transformation, where the benefits come from changing the way the environment operates.
It is all too common to find programmes unbalanced and dominated by project thinking to build capability, you need to ensure that the programme is business focused or the benefits will never appear.
For the full extract, read on
MSP Survival Guide for SROs tasters – Programme Organisation

aspire-logo

How to avoid wasting your training budget ?

As we are not a company that wants to sell you any training course just for the sake of it. We want to deliver training that makes a difference to you as an individual and to your organisation, so we want to challenge the what is going on in the training market.

“Why, after so much training, are organisations not getting better at programme and project management?

Organisations have spent a fortune on training up their project and programme managers in the last 10 years. Extensive work has been done to improve the tools that they use and the quality of the processes are invested in. So why do some organisations seem to be naturally good at project management whist others are not. 

The work in the UK using the P3M3 maturity model has shown that there are common factors holding organisations back as they try to progress, it is these areas that need to be addressed.  This article will look at these areas and what can be done about to improve”.

A recent Course Conductor survey found that Aspire Europe are the Global Market Leader in P3M training, this was the result of a survey of our clients and we believe we are valued for challenging and innovating on the best way to give value for money.

In this article we share some of the common pitfalls that we have found and some hints on how to avoid them, watch out for the follow up article on how to exploit your training budget to the full.

What is a programme blueprint?

MSP Survival Guide for Senior Responsible Owners has been written specifically for the SRO, full of helpful advice to make your hectic life easier
There are many reasons why programmes fail, but failure to grasp the scale of the change being delivered and weak leadership of the programme teams are often contributing factors.
As they are unlikely to have time to read the MSP guide or to go on courses, we have covered the main things that you will need to know in a format that can be easily referenced.
In this series of extracts we are publishing a summary of the key points from each of the chapter of the MSP Survival Guide for SROs. If you would like to buy a copy, please follow this link and quote the discount code of SG15 for a 10% discount.
“If we don’t know where we are going, how will we know when we have arrived let alone how we are going to get there?”  – Yendor Nedwos
You need to grab the vision for the programme. The vision is the guiding star that should inspire those working on the programme on what may be a long and  challenging journey. People expect the leader to have a vision for a better future that they can follow, if you don’t believe in the vision, you will find it very difficult to be an effective and successful SRO
 Creating a blueprint challenges people to think through the consequences of the vision, which may identify issues and decisions that people would rather not have to make. Those decisions will fall to you to make, or you will need to present them to the sponsoring group or other senior people for them to make decisions. Without a blueprint it is not possible to effectively estimate benefits or what capability you will need delivered by the projects

Follow this link for a fuller extract – MSP Survival Guide for SROs tasters – Programme Vision and Blueprint
aspire-logo

What is a Programme Business Case?

MSP Survival Guide for Senior Responsible Owners has been written specifically for you (the SRO), full of helpful advice to make your hectic life easier
There are many reasons why programmes fail, but failure to grasp the scale of the change being delivered and weak leadership of the programme teams are often contributing factors.
As you are unlikely to have time to read the MSP guide or to go on courses, we have covered the main things that you will need to know in a format that can be easily referenced.
In this series of extracts we are publishing a summary of the key points from each of the chapter of the MSP Survival Guide for SROs. If you would like to buy a copy, please follow this link and quote the discount code of SG15 for a 10% discount.
Here is our advice for SROs on the Programme Business Case
Nothing defines humans better than their willingness to do irrational things in the pursuit of phenomenally unlikely payoffs.’ Scott Adams
The absolute worst sin you can commit is deliberately underestimating the cost and timescale to get your pet initiative accepted hoping once its underway it wont get stopped even though the cost increases. There are likely to be few if any winners but there will be lots of losers such as those who don’t get the benefits.
You should keep the business case close to hand (or at least the summary if it is one of the 100-page types). The business case is your contract with your Executive and investment decision makers, and you are accountable for delivering on that contract, so use it as your decision-making compass.
For the full extract, read on
MSP Survival Guide for SROs tasters – Programme Business Case

aspire-logo

What is a programme vision statement?

Fresh Look – Is a series of articles taking a look at common topics to try to come up with some new ideas and insight into problems that seem to repeat themselves across many organisations.
In a world of information overload, it is very easy to lose sight of what matters, and that makes the  vision even more  important. In this post, we visit the old vision statement chestnut. Everyone loves talking about visions and leadership but when the opportunity comes to put them into practice within a programme environment, quite frankly most of them are about as much use as an umbrella in a wind tunnel. mountain top
In this article, we briefly reflect on a topic that is at the source of most programme failures due to not establishing a vision that people understand and genuinely commit to, is a core source of programme failure.

Fresh Look: Business Case Management

Fresh Look: Is a series of articles take a look at common topics and try to come up with some new ideas and insight into problems that seem to repeat themselves across many organisations

If you want more, why not contact us about our Business Case training options

Welcome to our article on the touchy subject of business cases, touchy because so many project and programmes fail to deliver to their aspirations, with Gartner estimating 75% of projects fail to achieve expectations. In the UK public sector alone, it is estimated that £1.35bn is spent just on writing business cases alone.
Thank you to Stefan Sanchez, Eileen Roden and Geof Leigh for their contributions We all hope you find the article interesting.
If we can help you in  any way we hope you will get in touch, and we offer the APMG Better Business Cases qualification if you are looking for training

What is project planning?

Fresh Look – A series of articles and videos taking a look at common topics to come up with some new ideas and insight into problems that seem to repeat themselves across many organisations. 

In a world of information overload it is very easy to lose sight of what matters.  If you would like more information why not consider doing our Project Management Fundamentals course that introduces the concepts of planning or read our book.

These posts revisit some core concepts and what better place to start than with planning.

One of the great mysteries of our profession is planning. For most of our clients, project and programme management is all about having a plan, yet most of our professional qualifications don’t actually involve a lot of planning. In fact some of these, for example, PRINCE2®, go out of their way to avoid it.

We therefore shouldn’t really be surprised that so many projects run late or go wrong. A sequencing to events is needed to bring a good plan together and in this article we have set out a sequence for you to consider – Planning – back to basics

Now, if you are really interested in finding out more about planning and how you can improve your performance, check out our book.
Planning guide banner

What is programme benefits management?

We thought it would be a good idea to revisit some of the guiding principles that underpin the world of portfolio, programme and project management. In a world of information overload, it is very easy to lose sight of what matters, so this is the first in a series of posts that we revisit to remind about some core concepts.
Picture1
In this article, we revisit benefits management, which is still one of the most mysterious disciplines in the world of transformation. Benefits appear like magic when the business case is being written. With earnest consideration and challenge, even more mysteriously, they seem to disappear as soon as the business is signed off and people get down to the real business of delivering stuff, probably never returning to the sticky subject of benefits and why the change was initiated in the first place.
We’ve pulled together some of what we have found to be guiding principles which may increase your chances of achieving your benefits delivery.

How to improve project delivery performance?

We were undertaking a review of what we had seen and learned over the last year, and one of the main developments was the emergence of organisations achieving P3M3® level 3 and 4 ratings.
There have been some interesting discoveries about the characteristics of these organisations, beyond what we had anticipated. Some of the characteristics took us by surprise as they were more around moods and behaviours that were less tangible, we could almost “feel” the positive energy.
We have analysed dozens of organisations through our work with P3M3. We thought it would be useful to share some of the characteristics of those that stand out from the crowd, in no particular order.

  1. Self critical and restless: Organisations that are on the improvement projectory are continually dissatisfied and impatient, they are looking at where further improvements can be made and willing to take risks to achieve better performance.
  2. Learning organisations: They do not pay lip service to learning lessons and most importantly, they do not wait for a failure before looking for the new opportunities, they will analyse successes as well to differentiate performance from luck
  3. Measuring performance: They don’t just gather data in reports for the sake of it, they analyse it and use it to being good enough is rarely enough, they analyse their data and turn it into an asset.
  4. Educating their people: They don’t just send them on courses, they seek to develop their knowledge to underpin performance improvements from increasing confidence as part of a professional development strategy.
  5. Respecting assurance: They see this as an opportunity to avoid unnecessary failure and an opportunity to learn. Many organisations pay lip service to this and are grateful for a non-critical report, the high performers are much more demanding.
  6. Curating knowledge: They see knowledge as the foundation of power to improve and to do this they will implement tools and systems that enable them to not just store information but to interrogate and proactively broadcast it to an organisation that is listening.
  7. Clear lines of authority: Enable them to make the right decisions at the right time, sometimes they may be bound by their industry and regulation but they will have optimised themselves to function as best they can.
  8. Knowing their own limitations: They will know their limits of capability and competence, this will enable them to make balanced risk based judgements so that they do not get out of their depth unexpectedly.
  9. Committed leadership: They will have leaders who are committed believers, they will provide support and encouragement to teams to follow the proven working practices, but they will flex and adapt when needed. Lower performing leaders abandon proven practices and panic when trouble threatens or stick to them rigidly.
  10. Standing on the shoulders of giants: They don’t make the same mistakes as others, they investigate the solutions to problems and use proven solutions rather than inventing their own routes to failure through guesswork.
P3M3® is a [registered] trade mark of AXELOS Limited, used under permission of AXELOS Limited. All rights reserved.