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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

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 larger extract – MSP Survival Guide for SROs tasters – Programme Vision and Blueprint

Delivering world class project delivery at Network Rail

Image result for network rail Lets face it, for many people Network Rail is their least favourite organisation, most of us have a tale of misery (we have) about a train journey.

This is an article from our archive that we think could be of interest.

What most of us don’t know is that Network Rail is one of the biggest project delivery organisations in the world, investing billions of pounds annually to recover from the historic lack of investment and build a 21st century railway whilst maintaining a Victorian infrastructure. At any one moment, around 117,000 are employed as part of these investments on the rail network.
This case study tells the story of the performance improvement journey over the last four years of Network Rail Infrastructure Projects (not the operations or the train operating companies) and in particular the Signalling division, who has now achieved P3M3 level 4.4 maturity, the highest score we have seen after assessing hundreds of organisations around the world.
This case study provides the evidence of the performance improvements that come from the adoption of P3M3 as the improvement framework.
We hope you enjoy it.

What is project resource management?

Resource management is a critical area, as without resources a project cannot deliver anything.

This PM Drop In video provides a quick and informal overview of the things you should be thinking about in relation to resource management.

If you would like more information why not try out our short Fundamentals of Resource Management to get into a little more detail

Why do programmes go wrong?

So many programmes in the UK and around the world are going wrong.

There as so many examples of major investments in the UK that are going horribly off track at the moment and that is because they are being run by project people thinking like project people – they are becoming national embarrassments.

Universal Credit, Crossrail, High Speed 2 are never going to be delivered by project management because the people involved are not thinking the right way.

Here is our little video on the common sins that happen in programmes that don’t behave like projects – delivered by the MSP lead author, Rod Sowden

What is P3M3®?

As many of you will know, P3M3® is the world’s number one framework for assessing organisational maturity and performance in portfolio, programme and project management.

If this is a new concept to you, click here for a quick introduction.

This free briefing (pdf) outlines the key concepts of P3M3. Right click this link and ‘save as’ to download the interactive overview, please view it in either Acrobat or Adobe Reader.
We have also put together a video to take you through the history and concepts behind P3M3, we hope you will take a look

P3M3® is a [registered] trade mark of AXELOS Limited, used under permission of AXELOS Limited. All rights reserved.

What is project governance?

People who work in projects and programmes often talk about the Governance, which is basically the project organisation. To the uninitiated this can be quite a confusing concept as it comes with a range of terminology.

This PM Drop In video provides a quick and informal overview of the things you should be thinking about in relation to project and governance

If you would like more information why not try out our short Fundamentals of Governance to get into a little more detail

How to become a project delivery high performer

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.

Deadly Sins: Adopting Agile

Over the last year or two we have reviewed a number of programmes and projects that are using an “agile” approach. There are a number of common problems which have come to light that should be of interest to any organisation setting out on an agile endeavour for the first time.
Agile, Lean or project management are not cures for unproductive or incompetent teams, weak leadership or poor performance management. All methods have their place and can add value and improve performance but none on their own are a panacea as they all depend on the capability of the people involved.
This article sets out some of the key lessons that we have taken from our reviews.

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