Author Archives: aspireeurope

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 of the business case 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. Without 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.

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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

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Seven Deadly Sins – 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. Why not have a look at our brochure to see the services we offer, or visit our website at



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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 puting man 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.

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The nightmare project manager

We thought we would start the new year off with a bit of humour around the nightmare project manager.

We often talk to project teams about the art of project management and the need to step into their safety zone and see the business as their customer not their victim, so here are a few of the characteristics that make up the nightmare project manager:

  1. Talks in jargon whenever asked basic questions, defensive when challenged
  2. Focuses so much on process, they can’t think for themselves, love filling in forms
  3. Is a hero at heart and loves last minute firefighting to get the project over the line, it will be alright on the night
  4. Focuses on project management not the business outcomes
  5. Dives into  technical detail about the solution rather than trying to understand the business challenges
  6. Sees stakeholder management as everyone’s problem but theirs
  7. Seen it all before, 25 years experience sadly it’s the same every year
  8. Believes that the “can do” approach will overcome their incompetence
  9. Planning is a pointless exercise because everything will change anyway, so what is the point
  10. Talks a good game, vanishes when the going gets tough

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Filed under APM, Project Management, Uncategorized

Adopting P3O – your questions answered

P3O® stands for Portfolio, Programme and Project Offices, it is the UK Government publication on how to set up an organisational environment in which there are a mix of these offices and how they should interact with each other.

In this short video (from our partners at CC Learning in Brisbane) Elissa Farrow, a trainer at CC Learning, talks about implementing P3O within an organisation. Specifically, she discusses the hub and spoke model of Portfolio, Programme and Project offices.

We hope you find it useful!

P3O® is a [registered] trade mark of AXELOS Limited, used under permission of AXELOS Limited. All rights reserved.

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MSP Survival Guide for Business Change Managers

This is one of the MSP Survival Guide series and the first of the publications intended to enhance the MSP® body of knowledge by focusing on the roles, tasks and techniques of each of the roles.MSP Survival Guide for BCM's

The author is Rod Sowden (MSP Lead Author) and he was supported by a number of the Aspire Europe team.

The book addresses the areas which were too complex for the main MSP® manual within the size constraints of the book.

It is designed as the companion guide for the individuals who are appointed in this complex role of BCM, a role that is increasingly being referred to as the SBO (Senior Business Owner).

The book includes a range of specific advice, tools and worked examples together with case studies that help everyone in this role to perform effectively.

If you are interested in ordering  one, click on this link – MSP® Survival Guide for Business Change Managers

You may also wish to look at our other publications

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

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Filed under Business Project Management, Change Management, MSP®