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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.

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.

Fresh Look: Programmes without Blueprints

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.

Is your programme exhibiting any of these characteristics?

  1. Project issues dominate the programme board
  2. Unidentified risks start to materialise a bit too quickly
  3. Benefits are rarely discussed
  4. The BCM lacks authority or purpose
  5. Many uncontrolled or unclear dependencies between projects and other initiatives start to manifest themselves
  6. Decision making is ad-hoc, reactionary or just slow
  7. Stakeholder resistance begins to increase and programme loses support. Programmes either lack momentum or feel like a roller coaster

If that is the case, your programme probably does not have a blueprint, and is probably out of control.
In this article, we liken a programme to a yacht and explain how it is not what you see on the surface that is providing the control, it is what happens below the waterline that is important. If your programme is exhibiting any of these characteristics then the article is for you.
 

NAO insight into major programmes


This is a really interesting article posted on the  NAO blog that looks at the major lessons from programmes and projects in the last few years.

A systematic look at major programmes


The depressing thing is that most of the causes of failure are really well known and documented and yet we still keep making them, which suggests that people leading programmes and projects are either:

  1. Too arrogant to think they wont make the same mistakes, and then promptly do
  2. Too lazy to actually go out and investigate other peoples experiences, most of it can be found on google so they don’t even need to get our of their chairs
  3. Too dim to be able to process and implement the  advice they are being given.

 
 

Seven Deadly Sins – Change Management


This another in our popular Seven Deadly Sins series, this time we tackle the difficult topic of change management.
Let’s face it, change is everywhere and despite all the intellectual energy that has gone into change management over the last 2,000 years, we are not going to master it any time soon.
“We trained hard but it seemed that every time we were beginning to form up into teams, we would be reorganized. I was to learn later in life that we tend to meet any new situation by reorganizing; and a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency, and demoralization.” Gaius Petronius Arbiter, Roman solider (c27 – 66AD)
It is also fair to say that there is no sign of it slowing down either, in fact, it is accelerating. So, to help you out, here are our Seven Deadly Sins of Change Management that you may wish to avoid in your organisation:

  1. Underestimating the organisation’s permafrost – assuming the support of middle and senior management to the initiative is a deadly mistake. Despite the rhetoric, they really don’t like change as they are often overworked already. They are regularly caught in a trap between executives and staff, which can mean implementing strategies they don’t believe in.
  2. Mistaking consultation for influence – inferring people are being consulted when they are in fact being told what is happening is a great way to increase resistance. “Consultation” is a word with multiple meanings, so understanding the level of authority associated with being “consulted” is always worth considering.
  3. There is nothing so unfair as to treat everyone equally – each individual and group will respond in a different way as the impact of change will be different. Assuming that everyone will welcome or reject it, is asking for trouble. The question everyone will want to know is, “what is in it for me” and that will define the level of support or resistance you experience.
  4. Assuming the benefits are attractive – often the benefits for the organisation are threats to individuals; so whilst the leaders are excited about how great the new world will be, most of the staff are dreading what it will mean for them.
  5. Declaring victory too early – just because the early skirmishes go well, do not assume that the battle for change has been won. Pushing change past the tipping point and gaining momentum is the hard bit. The extra effort needed to mobilise the organisation and create the shift in balance is much harder than sustaining the established pace.
  6. Leaders failing to lead – inconsistent messaging creates ambiguity and the leaders of change do not step forward to clarify direction or resolve conflicts. Signposts are needed that symbolise the old world has gone and that new ways are being established.
  7. Underestimating the forces of darkness – the Refuseniks back off under pressure when there is structured change management in place but the chattering subversives will re-emerge when it is safe and try to re-establish the old practices.

“Never attempt to win by force what can be won by deception”.  Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince
 
If you need any further support, our services may be able to help. Why not have a look at our brochure to see the services we offer, or visit our website at www.aspireeurope.com

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.
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.

Fresh look – P3M v Corporate risk interfaces

Welcome to another one of our Fresh Look, these are 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 this article we look at the dysfunctional relationship between an organisation’s corporate risk world and the P3M risk world and offer some ideas on how it could be better. Fresh look – P3M v Corporate Risk Management

Seven Deadly Sins – Business Case Management

Continuing our series of blogs: Seven Deadly Sins that lead to regular and highly predictable failure on a range of topics.
Today we are focusing on Business Case Management, an organisational ritual that doesn’t seem to stem the tide of failure, despite the enormous amounts of time spent preparing them.

  1.  Failing to maintain the business case. Many failures only come to light late on in delivery because most organisations do not track ongoing viability within the project or programme, or evolving changes in the environment
  2. Thinking that project success is about Time/Cost/Scope. Without including benefits and value, the time/cost/scope trilogy can be misleading for programmes in particular
  3. Forgetting that you have to deliver the change, not just get it past the approval committee. So much effort goes into gaining approval, it can come as quite a shock when it has to move from a document into delivery.
  4. Starting with assumptions on what the solution should be blinds you to the best options. So many projects and programmes go wrong because the solution was decided before the business case work started. The business case then becomes the justification for a way of doing it rather than a genuine options appraisal.
  5. Failing to fully engage stakeholders of the full impact the business case will have upon them. Consequently, on the way through the approvals process it is ambushed or once it goes into delivery, unexpected costs begin to emerge.
  6. Hiding the full costs of the initiative will always lead to trouble. The costs of change are invariably underestimated in a business case in the hope that some unsuspecting party will pick up the bill.
  7. Failing to adequately apply risk rating to the costs or the benefits. Not risk rating both sides of the justification increases the risk of failure. Organisations are increasingly applying a risk mitigation to the costs, but few are applying a risk factor to the benefits. Either side can move up or down.

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.