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What lessons have we learned?

In general, lessons learned are rarely learned. butterfliesResearch and general knowledge about what causes programme and project failure has abounded for years, yet the same things keep happening, so what can we do to help.
As an example of this problem, for the last 20 years in the UK, the world of best practice (originated by the OGC) illustrates the issue. We wrote Managing Successful Programmes (MSP®), and it was written on the assumption that audiences already had experience of programme management, understood programme management and wanted to improve.  The reality is that people read the book as part of a course and never look at it again.
The work of P3M3® has shown that although the knowledge has been absorbed temporarily for the examination, it is not sufficiently understood to enable deployment in the real world as the courses are attended by inexperienced individuals unable or unauthorised to deploy the knowledge they have in the real world. For more on this, click here

MSP® and P3M3® are [registered] trade marks of AXELOS Limited, used under permission of AXELOS Limited. All rights reserved.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Project Management – Stakeholder and Communications Management

In a world where everyone is giving incredibly helpful advice that most of people ignore and walk, zombie-like, into failure, rather like some of the scenarios in Douglas Adams’ fantastic books, so we thought it would be more fun to help speed up the process and provide you with helpful guidance on how to pass by the opportunity for success and head straight for failure.

These are the best ideas that our team have been able to come up with that will help guarantee failure where possible and remove any optimism from the outset.

  1. Ideally, don’t let anyone know the project is active, hopefully you will be able to fail without anyone noticing or caring.
  2. If your project does come to light by accident, overwhelm everyone with information on a daily (if possible) basis, hopefully they will quickly get bored and miss the important information. Eventually resulting in them asking you to leave them off of the distribution list.
  3. Ignore any questions and comments from troublemakers and certainly don’t give them the impression that you value feedback.
  4. If you need to communicate, create complicated messages with lots of detail about what the project will do so that that outcomes are really unclear
  5. Don’t bother to identify the stakeholders or segment the target audience, send the same information to everyone, it’s the only fair way to proceed and it saves time.
  6. The quickest communication methods (i.e. email) are the best, are always popular.
  7. Avoid the most important stakeholders – they probably won’t be interested anyway and you don’t want them remembering you for the wrong reasons.

Brexit – a shining example of how to mobilise stakeholders

Treading where angels dare, we thought it would be interesting to shine our P3M light onto the Brexit programme from a stakeholder engagement perspective.

If there was ever a case study on how to alienate stakeholders and ignite indignation and mobilise resistance, this has got to be it! We have been watching this daily in the UK over at least the last 12 months.

For those of us that have been in the P3M profession for a while and done any sort of training, we know that the programme should have:

  • Identified the stakeholders at the outset and understood their areas of interest
  • Analysed their power in their areas of interest and influence
  • Planned engagements to reduce resistance and raise support
  • Delivered the communications and analysed how effective they are
  • Reviewed and analysed feedback and adjusted communications accordingly

It has been quite an achievement to upset all the remainers, leavers, inbetweeners and to mobilise the indifferent.

All proven best practice seems to have been happily ignored as they all know better (we’ve heard that one before) and we are currently witnessing the consequences.

What are the lessons learned from this?

We are sure you probably have a few of your own too, so to help you in the more mundane world of P3M, here are some of ours:

  • Lack of clarity in a Vision creates mistrust and division, Brexit means Brexit hardly articulates an inspirational view of the future
  • Never underestimate the forces of equilibrium, the harder you push, the bigger the reaction
  • Never assume executive authority will always win the day, they are not the only power sources in any organisation
  • Social media is the number 1 news channel in the modern world, not the press or TV, it is much faster and more targeted
  • No fact or evidence is reliable in the world of fake news, it just depends on whether the fact reinforces your view of the world

Blog written by Rod Sowden
Lead Author for MSP® and P3M3® – Managing Director of Aspire Europe Ltd

Fresh Look: Dependency 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.
Dependency Management really is one of the Dark Arts. It  about the interfaces between initiatives. At a programme level it is what planning is all about, tracking how the inputs and the outputs of projects fits together. At the portfolio level it is even more complex as it is matching together inputs and outputs from programmes and projects.
In MSP® 2011 we introduced the concepts of Intra, Inter and External dependencies so here is the paper that defined the original concept and explains how they operate in a programme management environment.

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

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Business projects – are they from another planet?

Project Management has been around for centuries. Apart from being able to use our thumbs, it may be the differentiating factor between humans and other species, as we can see evidence of humans working together to create amazing things; from the ancient Greeks, to putting men on the moon, all of which constituted a form of project management.
These projects principally focused on constructing “things”, be it a building or a machine.  Although highly complex and amazing feats in their own right, the results were quite predictable – whether it was a bridge or a machine that was being created.  It was possible to understand the problem being solved.
Business projects are much more fluid, it is almost as if they are from another planet to the certainty that surrounds traditional projects.
This article explores the differences and how they could be handled.

Fresh Look: Planning

Fresh Look – A series of articles 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.

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.
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Fresh Look: Vision Statements

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.

Implementing effective change management

Getting change management to  “bite” is really tough, all the training in the world will not make it happen without providing the energy to gain momentum.  This is an area that we have specialised in and delivered on a number of occasions for clients.

In this case study, we gained one of the prestigious TJ Awards awards for the management training and development programme at Cheshire West and Chester Council.
The Aspire Academy team who delivered the assignment were Robert Cole and David King.
We designed and implemented an approach that pulled together a disparate group of change people across a number of sites into a coherent and functioning organisation.

Is democracy killing our infrastructure?

I had always thought of the Victorian era as our golden age. I was disappointed to find out that most of the investment was by entrepreneurs rather than our government, and most of them ended up broke as a result of the altruism.  Therefore, the only people making money out of infrastructure appeared to be the builders.
The golden age of UK infrastructure investment was the 50’s and 60’s – an era pre-dawn of Thatcherism.  That was when big decisions and actions were taken on  motorways, power stations, schools  and infrastructure. It is the period we remember for the demise of railways and not much else, so history has been very unkind to that generation.
It was also an era of nationalised industries and high levels of government controlled investment. Apparently, the countries that have the highest levels of infrastructure investment tend to be a little light on the democracy side of things, hence the conclusion that democracy is killing our infrastructure.
By chance, I have come across this excellent YouTube video which looks at mega project failure and provides an interesting insight by Michael Hobbs into a major tunnel project in Seattle.
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H0WunaC_jsk?version=3&rel=1&fs=1&autohide=2&showsearch=0&showinfo=1&iv_load_policy=1&wmode=transparent] 

SRO Survival Guides extract – Vision and 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
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