Great recognition for Aspire Europe Director, Rod Sowden, as his article, detailing a Survival Guide for Senior Responsible Owners – programme organization, is published by TSO (The Stationery Office) on their International Best Practice Blog . . . read more here
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?
- Project issues dominate the programme board
- Unidentified risks start to materialise a bit too quickly
- Benefits are rarely discussed
- The BCM lacks authority or purpose
- Many uncontrolled or unclear dependencies between projects and other initiatives start to manifest themselves
- Decision making is ad-hoc, reactionary or just slow
- 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.
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.
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:
- Too arrogant to think they wont make the same mistakes, and then promptly do
- 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
- Too dim to be able to process and implement the advice they are being given.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
- 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
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Don’t worry – this isn’t a politically biased post, it is looking at the Brexit programme – not the rights and wrongs.
Back on the 30th June 2016 – we posted this optimistic view on what could be a wonderful example of British best practice to the world, delivering Brexit using MSP, I even included the benefits map as we saw it.
We subsequently published light-hearted monthly progress reports until it reached the point when it was clear we had no idea where we going and, after 3 “nothing to reports” we gave up.
Most programmes run into trouble when they try to turn the vision into the blueprint and benefits. This one never made it to a Vision, it got stuck at “Brexit means Brexit”, or “We are taking back control”.
John Kotter over in the US must be shaking his head, wondering why none of our leaders read his book – step 2 of change “Establish a powerful coalition”, I’ve pulled my hair out wondering why they didn’t read MSP.
After watching the events of yesterday and looking for my own green shoots, I stood back and wondered if we genuinely have the worst programme in history as it has uniquely achieved all the “known causes of failure” listed in MSP. It has also managed to avoid learning anything from the NAOs regular pearls of wisdom – it would really make a wonderful case study.
A friend of mine out in New Zealand, Grant Avery, wrote a tremendous book comparing the Everest expedition disaster and compares it to project management. In his book, he highlighted the narcissism amongst the expedition leadership being a major cause of failure and he explores the implications of this on programme directors/managers, insofar as they believe totally in their own infallibility and that they are right (ringing any bells yet?). He also talks about the need for authentic leaders doing things on beliefs and setting examples – walking the talk.
Listening to the news this morning, it struck me that everyone seemed to think they were right and everyone else would need to compromise. They were in denial about the situation we are in and also that pretty much everyone, was talking about their strong beliefs in that they represent the will of the people.
So if we have narcissistic leaders who believe they are authentic and representing others, what would we get – well I think the word is DELUDED.
The problem we now have is that we have around 625 of these people sat in the same building voting against everything that offends their beliefs and egos and unwilling to compromise to find any sense of a way forward – a vision.
Stepping back to 1996 and Kotters 8 steps of change, the referendum gave us step 1, we are still pending on step 2 and 3.
- Establish a sense of urgency. …
- Form a powerful coalition. …
- Create a Vision. …
I guess we are back at step 1 again now, so 73 days to go before we crash out – I might start highlight reporting again !!!
Brexit – the biggest MSP programme ever
In the aftermath of the referendum there is clearly a massive change on its way and as programme management is all about delivering strategic change, we thought it would be a good idea to start to think about Brexit in terms of a transformation programme
We thought it would be useful to illustrate how Managing Successful Programmes (MSP®) would handle the challenge and as always, it comes up trumps and helps focus on on the dilemmas being faced and the process for dealing with them. Brexit – the biggest MSP programme ever – we hope you enjoy the read.
For more information on the Managing Successful Programmes framework, please click here