Category Archives: Articles

Case study – Thameslink

In late 2016 and early 2017 we were commissioned to write a lessons learned report on the Network Rail Thameslink programme to enable other organisations to learn from their experiences.

Once we started work it became clear that there had been extensive documentation of lessons throughout the lifecycle, the problem was that people weren’t listening.

The challenge therefore was find a way to communicate the lessons that this amazing programme had faced and how they overcame them and the lessons that others can learn from this experience in a format that could be consumed.

The scale of the assignment has led us to invoke a number of new techniques beyond this case study that enabled key individuals to share their passion, their pains and gain through the use of videos and workshops to ensure their story wont be lost.

Rather than a formal report, we have created a case study and supporting videos to communicate the message. This Thameslink case study provides an insight into workings off a major infrastructure programme, and how they in effect developed and approach that has become the second generation of programme management within Network Rail.

Thameslink review case study

In addition to this report, we also produced a paper on the challenges in general around lessons learned and knowledge sharing, based on our experiences on this assignment.

https://aspireeurope.wordpress.com/2017/02/03/lessons-learned-new-thinking/

 

 

 

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Brexit – The worst transformation programme ever

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

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

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Real Madras Forever

 

Six months ago we were approached by a bunch of overweight chaps who needed a sponsor for their football team.

Not an overly attractive proposition that would appeal to the average company looking to boost its image, but not being your average company, we looked into it a bit deeper.

The group were part of a national movement called ManVFat, an organisation set up a couple of years ago dedicated to helping chaps lose weight…

Full article here: Real Madras Forever

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11 December, 2018 · 08:30

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.

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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.

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Define the problem – a guide to investment logic mapping (ILM)

Investment Logic Mapping was all the rage a few years ago but it has been lost in time. It originated in Australia and provided an approach to developing the justification for a business investment.

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ILM is a brilliant way to understand the problem, think about the outcomes and clarify where the costs and benefits sit. They should be made compulsory in all Programme Briefs!

This guide by Ed Brown (Aspire Assess Director) outlines why you should use Investment Logic Mapping (ILM) to see what value the use of ILM will bring to your investments.

It is a powerful and extremely cost-effective way to bring shape and structure to your investment before you head off into expensive blind alleys.

We hope you find this useful

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Fresh Look – Vision statements

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.

mountain top

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.

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.

 

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