Category Archives: Magnificent Seven

Agile project management – 5 lessons for the unwary

Over the last year or two we have reviewed a number of programmes and projects that are using an “agile” approach. There are a number of common problems which have come to light that should be of interest to any organisation setting out on an agile endeavour for the first time.

Agile, Lean or project management are not cures for unproductive or incompetent teams, weak leadership or poor performance management. All methods have their place and can add value and improve performance but none on their own are a panacea as they all depend on the capability of the people involved.

This article sets out some of the key lessons that we have taken from our reviews.

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SRO Survival Guides extract – Vision and Blueprint

MSP Survival Guide for Senior Responsible Owners has been written specifically for 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 they 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.

“If we don’t know where we are going, how will we know when we have arrived let alone how we are going to get there?”  – Yendor Nedwos

You need to grab the vision for the programme. The vision is the guiding star that should inspire those working on the programme on what may be a long and  challenging journey. People expect the leader to have a vision for a better future that they can follow, if you don’t believe in the vision, you will find it very difficult to be an effective and successful SRO

 Creating a blueprint challenges people to think through the consequences of the vision, which may identify issues and decisions that people would rather not have to make. Those decisions will fall to you to make, or you will need to present them to the sponsoring group or other senior people for them to make decisions. Without a blueprint it is not possible to effectively estimate benefits or what capability you will need delivered by the projects

Follow this link for a fuller extract – MSP Survival Guide for SROs tasters – Programme Vision and Blueprint

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Fresh Look: Vision Statements

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.

In a world of information overload, it is very easy to lose sight of what matters, and that makes the  vision even more  important. 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. mountain top

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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Filed under Aspire Academy, Change Management, Knowledge Nugget, Magnificent Seven, Programme 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 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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Magnificent Seven – Risk Management

Risk management is one of those strange things that we know we should do it, but when we do, it doesn’t seem that interesting.  We have conducted numerous gateway reviews, health checks and maturity assessments and invariably organizations seem to be just going through the motions, we have termed the phrase “risk watching” rather than managing.

One Programme Director, when considering the MSP® Risk Management Strategy, concluding that whatever he did, risks seemed to happen so their strategy would be not to manage risks but manage them all as issues, pragmatic at least.

So here are our Magnificent Seven for Risk Management:

  1. The approach aligns with objectives of the initiative – if it is high risk then much more attention should be given to managing them, this can be achieved by putting it at the top of the agenda
  2. Focus on the threats and understand what could trigger them, far too many programmes and projects focus on the consequences, for example, stakeholder resistance can be the result of poor communications, so it is the impact or effect of the threat of failing to communicate effectively.
  3. Engage stakeholders in the process of identifying and managing risks, normally business operations will understand the risks much better than project staff so should be fully involved
  4. Focus on the aggregating effect of risk, a wise man once said the worst thing that happened to risk was the risk register, as it hides the relationship between individual risks.
  5. Clear and simple guidance that is provided in the context of the organisations vocabulary and culture, don’t overcomplicate guidance with jargon.
  6. Informs decision making through the availability of current information and that lessons are being learned and shared.
  7. Innovate in the way risk management information is presented to a programme or project board, avoid laying a large risk register in front of them, keep it simple and they will stay engaged, they don’t want to the initiative to fail, if they are disengaged when discussing risk then rethink the approach – basically worrying about what might go wrong is never going to be fun
MSP® is a [registered] trade marks of AXELOS Limited, used under permission of AXELOS Limited. All rights reserved.

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Magnificent Seven – Planning

Planning is a crucial aspect of programme and project management. Though time consuming, it remains the case that if you fail to prepare then you prepare to fail.

Here is our magnificent seven question checklist for planning.

  1. Do we know what is required?
  2. Is it clear what we have to create?
  3. Are the resources capable and available?
  4. Is there clarity about how the sequence of products fit together?
  5. How have the estimates been achieved?
  6. Do we understand the dependencies?
  7. Is the ‘golden thread’ in place?

For a taster of our planning principles i-learning Click here

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Magnificent Seven – Stakeholder Communications

The Magnificent Seven is a series of hot tips for improving the way you do an aspect of programme and project management.

Here is our magnificent seven question checklist for stakeholder communications.

1. Include communication at the outset of a project
2. Create a simple, clear, and concise headline message about what the project is going to achieve
3. Identify and segment the target audience and understand the likely impact on them, adjust your message accordingly
4. Use a staged approach to maintain interest and not overload the audience – take them through the sales cycle
5. The quickest communication methods (i.e email) are often the least effective
6. Include the most senior stakeholder – they can prove to be a strong ally in putting across the importance of the project
7. Welcome questions and comments and value feedback, always acknowledge and respond to it.

For a taster of our stakeholder management i-learning Click here

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