Category Archives: Programme Management

Fresh Look: Vision Statements

Fresh Look – 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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Is democracy killing our infrastructure?

I had always thought of the Victorian era as our golden age. I was disappointed to find out that most of the investment was by entrepreneurs rather than our government, and most of them ended up broke as a result of the altruism.  Therefore, the only people making money out of infrastructure appeared to be the builders.

The golden age of UK infrastructure investment was the 50’s and 60’s – an era pre-dawn of Thatcherism.  That was when big decisions and actions were taken on  motorways, power stations, schools  and infrastructure. It is the period we remember for the demise of railways and not much else, so history has been very unkind to that generation.

It was also an era of nationalised industries and high levels of government controlled investment. Apparently, the countries that have the highest levels of infrastructure investment tend to be a little light on the democracy side of things, hence the conclusion that democracy is killing our infrastructure.

By chance, I have come across this excellent YouTube video which looks at mega project failure and provides an interesting insight by Michael Hobbs into a major tunnel project in Seattle.

 

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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: Programmes without Blueprints

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?

  1. Project issues dominate the programme board
  2. Unidentified risks start to materialise a bit too quickly
  3. Benefits are rarely discussed
  4. The BCM lacks authority or purpose
  5. Many uncontrolled or unclear dependencies between projects and other initiatives start to manifest themselves
  6. Decision making is ad-hoc, reactionary or just slow
  7. 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.

 

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NAO insight into major programmes

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.

https://www.nao.org.uk/naoblog/a-systematic-look-at-major-programmes/#comment-1754

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:

  1. Too arrogant to think they wont make the same mistakes, and then promptly do
  2. 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
  3. Too dim to be able to process and implement the  advice they are being given.

 

 

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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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MSP Survival Guide for SROs – Programme Business Case

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

 

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