Welcome to my blog space!

In my work I 'collect' stuff related to the world of managed business change. For some that means Projects, Programmes, Portfolios - for others Benefits, Stakeholder and Change management...and lots of others labels besides these.

Well, I'm never that hung up about labels and names - the content, meaning and relevance of things is what matters after all. This blog space therefore shows a semi-curated collection of P3 'stuff' I've come across and think might be of use to others.

QUICK LINKS - to get to stuff by 'type'...

STICKY STUFF - persistent material - learning, guidance, reflection, resources etc. I like to keep for you for a long time
WHAT'S NOT-NEWS - in the moment, transient announcements, launches notices, events etc.
WHAT'S HOT-POSTS - in the moment conversations - posts and discussions from forums I inhabit

Graham

Sunday, 8 March 2015

WHAT'S HOT-Spring 2015-POSTS

An infrequent digest of stuff that's caught my eye.....as usual there's no particular order, or theme...skim and dip!


McKinsey's view of Public Sector 'Digitisation' - December 2014

A LinkedIn post regarding IT/IS life-cycle investments alerted me to a McKinnsey report (thanks to Steve Jenner for signposting this) that highlighted some key 'principles' for successful Benefits Management. Here are the key points from the McKinsey report summary...with my view of the how they link to the 7 Principles from Steve Jenner's excellent Managing Benefits guide

1. Win government-wide and agency-deep commitment to specific digital targets clearly a link to Managing benefits from a portfolio perspective - holistic, broad organizational leadership is required to get the 'best' for any entity

2. Establish government-wide coordination of IT investments - raises reference to several principles, namely, Apply effective governance, Develop a value culture and a smidgeon of Utilize successful delivery methods

3. Redesign processes with the end user in mind. - of course, Start with then end in mind, and engaging with citizens, customers, client, end-users - whatever you want to call them - is key. Too often initiatives are a 'foisting' of central (inside) whim/thinking onto a world of 'recipients' without considering what they actually want (desire rather than need perhaps). Is gaining Customer Insight too hard perhaps for some?

4. Hire and nurture the right talent. Attracting and retaining the right talent is the focus here. My view is this links to the principle of Integrate benefits with performance management. Some of us may think of 'pay and rations' approaches here - but the best practitioners seem to step outside the obvious (and easy) actions, to focus on long-term career, talent and profession development strategies.

5. Use big data and analytics to improve decision making. Seems to me that several principles are at play here. Integrate benefits with performance management, Manage benefits from a portfolio perspective and Develop a value culture. The portfolio view is that ALL the data we have should be available to support broad debate, thinking and actions. the performance management piece for me relates to our expertise and investment in 'data understanding' - so use it to provide insight. Lastly, value culture, 'joining' data from disparate sources (or even 'allowing' it to happen) requires sanction and action - the data in the public sector is really 'owned' by the citizen - it should be leveraged to provide value not used squandered.

6. Protect critical infrastructure and confidential data. Perhaps not an obvious one but I think several principles seem to be at play here. Utilize successful delivery methods, Manage benefits from a portfolio perspective and Apply effective governance. The portfolio perspective is to to treat data and infrastructure ('facility') as part of a 'nexus' of asset and capability - this requires holistic and high-level thinking, not local and isolated, protectionism. Successful delivery methods includes how we 'design' and then execute initiative - this should not be trivialised into 'technical' delivery methods. Effective governance should focus on the sometime conflicting 'needs' of safety and security, and transparency and openness.

How dangerous lies kill projects

Steve Jenner's excellent short piece about Cognitive Biases. It's a significant feature of Steve's experiential insight in professional life and appears as a prime focus in the Managing Benefits guide. In essence our beautiful, powerful and rich brains often 'blind side' our thinking - and we don;t even recognise it's happening. Our 'unthinking' brain feeds us with plausibilities about situations that defy logic and rationality - yet that's what we humans are. Read Daniel Kahnemann's Thinking Fast, Thinking Slow for a superb expose of our flawed selves.

PMO research - what's it telling us?

I'm indebted to Emma-Ruth Arnaz-Pemberton in a recent LinkedIn post signposting a huge piece of insight work undertaken by ESI International. Ok, it's history, but it should inform us as to what works and doesn't.

Expectation of Management in Pipeline Management.

An apparently really simple piece form Therese Graff - but the simplicity provides powerful practical insight. go read!

The PMO as a pop-up shop (or store!)

Henny Portman's review of Mertine Middelkoop's recent book is worth a read.

Mertine uses the analogy of a 'pop-up shop' (or I guess this could be restaurant, market stall or anything like that) to describe what we should do when establishing a PMO 'presence'. I haven't read the book yet - it's on my shopping list - but I feel a great affinity with her approach. Go buy!


Tuesday, 13 January 2015

WHAT'S HOT - 2015 Winter-Spring-POSTS

An infrequent digest of stuff that's caught my eye.....as usual there's no particular order, or theme...skim and dip!


How to get buy-in for your PMO

Colin Dellis' outlines a simple approach for PMO professionals - 1 Listen 2-Define success 3-Simplify, support and communicate 4-Innovate and improve

My thoughts - eminently sensible. I always baulk though at thought of having to "get buy in" for my PMO - my view is that support should always be there for a PMO from the outset through appropriate sponsorship and business 'need' and 'want'. Having said that the 4 point 'model' offers a lot of sense - it's more about relationships and stakeholder engagement than about methods, tools and documentation.

How to Weed Out Projects That Aren't Worth Your Time

Key points - compare everything in your portfolio - the 'Can't compare Apples and Pears' adage just doesn't cut it is this authors view! Key principles are - 1 agree goals of portfolio - clearly this requires stated and understandable strategy and business priorities, lots of business fail at this first hurdle (it doesn't just affect portfolio management but the whole business). 2- Abandon things early and quickly - harder to stop projects than to start them. 3 - Don't over rely on portfolio mechanics, data and tools - engaging stakeholders (especially decision makers) in debate and long-term thinking and needs should be where we are focussed.

Early insights from the global census

Interesting "soundbites" of observations and challenges of PMO managers from Arras People's global census - Low maturity and understanding of 'host' limits portfolio office impact -  constant battle to 'justify' against the view that PMs should do it for themselves - CEO's should support and drive, and need education - the PMO delivers 'their' strategy -  PMO services not understood by change teams let alone wider organisation - PMO professionals need to be resilient, persistent, don't innovate faster than management can keep up with, keep demonstrating success, credibility is everything, establish good connections with peers outside the organisation to keep abreast of industry/professional issues and advances.

New Study Shows How Schedules Determine the Spread of Innovation

Initially I thought this post was stating the blindingly obvious, On second reading though I realised that we can all get lost in the 'logic' of schedules from a performance point of view (project, programme, benefit delivery) but miss the importance of knowledge through the bringing together of people - thoughts for capacity, capability building of P3M workers?

The New Face of Project Management: Are Specialized PMOs and Mobile Tech the Future?

Key points from this post - Centralized PMOs might not perform well for agile, creative, emergent and disparately focussed businesses (federated, grouped etc.) - local business unit knowledge, strategic understanding best served through local business 'specialised' PMO services - seems to link to view of P3O and MoP regarding hub and spoke offices supporting sub-portfolios - inormation access, sharing and knowledge building through connecting business units and their specilized PMOs seems to be essential for best success for some

Saturday, 15 November 2014

WHAT'S HOT - 2014 Autumn-Winter-POSTS

An infrequent digest of stuff that's caught my eye.....as usual there's no particular order, or theme...skim and dip!


The illusion of Cost Reductions - great responses from many posters offering real world experience of major businesses being fairly 'dumb' when it comes to efficiency realisation...

Dealing with the Executive Board and getting Portfolio Decisions - It's not them..it's you!! Great post from Craig Kilford (as usual) - thought provoking. "It takes two to tango is my spin on this!

PMO Analyst - data manipulator, reporting guru, information creator, facilitator or influence? - seems that the role could be anyone of these, or for some, all of them! My view? Well, what your organisation wants in the way of PMO value is the key - then construct the PMO Analyst 'service' around this!

CEO: "What's the value of my PMO?" - lots of wide views here. As usual it seems to come back to whatever the business needs...what 'pain' needs treating, what 'value' needs adding. This could be far removed from standards and reporting!

Should PMO's have the Project Mangers reporting into them? - yes, no, yes, no, yes, no, maybe....that's the was this one goes!

Effective Benefits tracking methods & tools - lots of deep advice for this post. Responses restate the 'old' problems - a tool is less than useless without decent measures, measures need to be realistic and relevant, measures are meaningless without actual realisation (change, behaviour change)....

PMO research - what is it really telling us? - a fantastic piece of work from Lindsay Scott of Arras People. Highlights for me:

  • 3/4 of organisations say they have a PMO of some form
  • What they do (services) and how they are constituted (permanent/temporary - organisational/functional - support/decision enabling/competence focused etc.) is extremely varied. Reflects business 'need' and situation.
  • Enterprise level PMOs (organisational) seem most valued - presumably reflecting their holistic and strategic focus
  • Whilst those with established PMOs say they are valued and generate benefits, there is still a lot of challenge from senior management (overhead, no buy in) and disbanding of PMOs is still reported as a common event
Choosing good PMO metrics - a short but useful summary of a Gartner PPM & IT Governance Summit held in London in June this year. The simple message seems to be - choose metrics relevant to what your PMO is supposed to be doing for the business - no surprises there then!

Friday, 3 October 2014


A Gartner report "Why should anyone be led by a Project Manager?" from this year caught my as there were some relevant opinions for a PMO/P3O perspective..and, I think some resonance with a Benefits Management led approach to change...this is what I took from it..


  • Focus on the ENDS not the MEANS
  • Failure rate of new PMOs <50% since 2008
  • Being lighter, modular, more iterative in design, execution is key
  • Old school “freeze the plan and requirements” doesn’t cut-it anymore
  • “Value in time” vs. doing it “to time”
  • Tools
  • select to give local value first, avoid over emphasis on standardisation for now
  • Maturity 
  • low integration between demand and supply practices
  • struggling with leadership & basic (organised) processes
  • Enterprise PMO is the target


Measuring a PMO's performance>

A long lost PMOSIG discussion on their LinkedIn group offered some snippets of wisdom from various sources...still valid in my mind!


  • Measure demonstration of business value not what PMO is doing 
  • “where are we on route to destination, not what speed we are doing!”
  • Soft and hard dimensions
  • “perception of stakeholders (ask them) and data (evidence)”
  • Business strategy, portfolio views
  • KPIs that show on right ‘trajectory’, 
  • enabling, intermediate, benefit/outcome measures to show realisation of value
  • Balanced scorecard view vs. linear ‘meters’
  • Including ‘happiness’ is powerful
  • Work hard to show behaviours and achievements of business are the right ones
  • PMO measures should indicate ‘how’ the PMO enables and sustains these

Portfolio Management Wall of Fame - Craig Kilford

From' Craig's excellent Mr Portfolio Management blog, an extract from UK Public Accounts Committee minutes, reviewing Major Projects Authority....

Chair – “I just do not understand why value for money is not an integral part of the way in which you assess your projects”
Respondent – “Mainly, I think in truth, we do not have all the expertise to do that, I think it is done in the spending teams”
Chair – “No’ it isn’t, because in the spending you get allocated a sum of money and as long as you live within that the Treasury do not give a toss, really, what happens within that envelope”

Craig Kilford’s view – the ‘remedy’…

  • define and validate all ‘benefits’ that are identified in portfolio business cases
  • group them into standard benefit categories i.e. financial benefits, efficiency benefits, citizen value benefits and risk reduction benefits
  • create “return on investment” graphs that together show overall “loving” that the UK should receive based on the investment in the Major Projects Authority’s Portfolio.

Over optimism in Government projects


A National Audit Office report of December 2013 - Over-optimism in government projects discusses the "particularly persistent risk management problem – the difficulties caused for government projects by unrealistic expectations and over-optimism."


The report was not aimed at 'blame' rather "...to raise awareness of the issues and prompt discussion and action to address the underlying causes."

Here are the main themes I extracted from this 12 page doc...many are addressed in project management Bodies of Knowledge and Best Management Practice guides (MoP, P3O) and more recent guidance on Managing Benefits from the APM-Group....

  • COMPLEXITY - Underestimating delivery challenges in complex projects National Programme for IT, Smart meter roll-out
  • EVIDENCE BASE – weakness in quality and appropriateness of data and modelling affecting estimates – HS2, New Homes Bonus, Work Programme, Mortgage Rescue Scheme
  • STAKEHOLDERS – focussing on delivery partners more than ‘customer’, ‘user’ and interested parties – FiReControl, New Homes Bonus scheme
  • BEHAVIOURS & INCENTIVES – deliberate or unconscious over-optimism, fuelled by short-term political and budgetary cycles, little challenge – ignoring warnings, short term personal recognition and reward, SROs with oversight but no authority – Mobile Technology in Policing, FiReControl, West Coast InterCity Franchise Competition