My ‘3Ps’ Approach to Programme & Project Management
Part 1: The Project Management Model – An Introduction
Over the coming months Pete Wilson will be explaining his approach to Programme & Project Management (PPM) and driving business change, we think that anyone charged with driving change in a business or any organisation will find the approach useful and informative.
I have spent the whole of my working life (over 35 years) solving problems. In my first job as a trainee manager in a very large grocer and general retailer I probably didn’t frame my thinking as problem solving, but more as dissatisfaction with the ways things were done. Come to think of it, framing things in the way I did probably led to me leaving pretty quickly, well that and having to spend my days with my hands in a freezer moving around various frozen items!
Beyond the frozen hands I’ve learned to frame problems in a different way, I now think of them as opportunities for change. After 20 years as a technologist and 15 years in technology consulting I’ve developed a way of thinking about driving large scale change which I refer to the 3Ps Model. The 3 Ps being Purpose, People and Process. This model has been tested on large scale business transformation programme in a FTSE 100 environment aimed at delivering shareholder value, and it’s been tested on much smaller scale technology implementation projects. I’ve used it across many industry sectors, from Oil & Gas and Automotive, to Advertising & Media. With large teams and micro teams, from one month projects to multi-year, multi-programme transformations. I’m pleased to say, it hasn’t let me down. It’s worth noting right from the start, when I refer to ‘change’ I’m using it in the context of business or organisational change, i.e. the side of the business that isn’t business as usual (BAU). Some examples of ‘change’ in this context are:
- Reviewing and adopting improved business processes;
- Cost reduction;
- Technology implementation;
- Organisational redesign and implementation, and
- New product line development.
The list could go on, but suffice to say if the change desired is large enough it can’t be done as part of BAU and some special measures must be taken, then that’s the scope of change I’m referring to. It’s also worth noting that this kind of change requires a project, programme, workstream to be raised.
With the context set, at a high level the 3 Ps are…:
- Purpose: it might sound obvious but any change, whether personal change or business change, needs a goal or a final objective. You’ve really got to get beneath the skin of the purpose for seeking change and answer the questions, “what are we trying to achieve? and why are we trying to achieve it? and then as you gather the answers, ask ‘so what?’;
- People: Any change has to be delivered by and though people, a team. Over the years I’ve gathered a set of tools and techniques that help get the most out of those that have to deliver change, those that want it done and those that have to have change imposed upon them.
- Process: Probably the boring bit, but process is really about getting the rhythm of change implementation right.
Each if the 3 ‘domains’ have a further areas associated with them, and another 2 themes cut right across the model. So essentially if you can remember these 14 things you won’t go wrong.
Manage & Lead
There is much written about the differences between managing and leading and I’ll explore these differences in the future. Right now its perhaps sufficient to say right that if you are in a position where you have to drive change in an organisation, you have to both manage and lead. I’ll be exploring the differences here.
So, by way of an introduction to the model, here’s a helicopter view. Watch out for further posts which will build it out, as well as give away free tools and collateral to help you on your way.
“Ultimately, leadership is not about glorious crowning acts. It’s about keeping your team focused on a goal and motivated to do their best to achieve it, especially when the stakes are high and the consequences really matter. It is about laying the groundwork for others’ success, and then standing back and letting them shine.”
One of the clear practicalities to be addresses early in any change initiative is understand what it is you have to deliver. Describing the ‘what’ as clearly a possible is vital if you are to avoid confusion further down the line. In many ways this is the real beginning of any change initiative. Making assumptions at this point is absolutely fatal. Uncovering and clarifying scope is a rigorous exercise and requires leg work in the form of lots of questions and talking to as many stakeholders as possible. Establishing a clear scope is one of the clear practicalities to be addressed early in any change initiative because we need to understand what it is you are to deliver. Developing a detailed view of aims, objectives and outcomes will support the ‘how’ of the initiative, i.e. the planning activities. Of course once scope is agreed, we need a clear mechanism for monitoring changes to it.
Key Questions Answered:
- How do you I uncover the real scope?
- How do I communicate scope and obtain buy in?
- How do I know what should be in/out of scope?
- How does scope affect approach and implementation?
- How do scope we control scope?
Projects and change initiatives can stand or fall on the soundness of their plans. Many a well scoped and managed initiative has failed due to bad planning. Plans must be workable, and all concerned need to be bought into it. If your team doesn’t have confidence in the plan, then it will affect their performance. This is why it’s a great idea to build the plan from the bottom up, by those that must deliver it. Good planning starts with agreeing a high level approach, i.e. what are the big blocks of activity and the high level assumptions and constraints that we can agree before we set about developing the detailed plan.
Key Questions Answered:
- What’s the best approach to planning?
- How do I communicate the plan and get ‘buy in’?
- How do I decide to break up a big plan into a series of smaller plans?
- How do I reflect risks in the plan?
- What’s the best way to monitor progress?
Risks & Opportunities
I include risks and opportunities at an early stage in the initiation of any change initiative for two reasons. Firstly, because Project Managers are, in the main, very positive problem solvers, they tend to avoid seeing problems. In their attempt to ‘solution’ they generally avoid asking the ‘what ifs’. So ensuring that the identification of Risks and Opportunities is an ‘upfront’ activity helps to focus minds. The second reason for including this activity as part of the Purpose domain is because it’s a key input into the planning process. For example, a project’s risk profile and the businesses appetite for risk will both influence the approach taken.
Key Questions Answered:
- How do I focus the team on risks?
- What is the best way to capture risks and opportunities?
- What is the ‘language’ of risk?
- How to build a plan with contingency for risks that can’t be mitigated?
- How to run a risk workshop?
Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything…. George Bernard Shaw
It’s your key stakeholders within the business that want/need your initiative to succeed, well at least that’s the theory. Often stakeholders vary in terms of their relative interest and impact. Often the ones you really need to be on-board are absent, and the ones that are really enthusiastic have little impact on the business. This domain is all about how to engage with the wider business, how to map their relative impact and interest, and how to move them to where you need them to be. They are ‘people’ after all, and they may not be the most senior people in the organisation. Stakeholders in the businesses also include those most affected by the change.
Effective teamwork is absolutely vital for success. It’s not optional, it’s essential. Effectively what we are faced with here is the building of a high performing team. We don’t have the luxury of time, like the people over in BAU, we might only have a relatively short period of time to get everyone firing on all cylinders. We have to structure and source a delivery team, fight to get time from people who have day jobs, and focus them on delivery. They will be highly dependent, likely as not they’ll need strong direction and will there may well be friction as they learn to work as a team. We also have to deal with the challenge of the virtual team, i.e. how do we cope with the fact that members are geographically dispersed.
Key Questions Answered:
- How do I build a high performing team?
- How can I get the team to be proactive so I can move for management to leadership?
- How do I manage under-performance?
- How do I get the team bought in to the plan?
- How do I get the most out of individuals?
Suppliers & 3rd Parties
Selecting the right delivery partner is essential. If you have the opportunity to select them then that’s great, but mostly you’re presented with a fait accompli. As a Project or Programme Manager you must work with an incumbent service provider or Systems Integrator. So how should you work together? what kind of working environment should you try and develop? How close is too close? How do you maintain honesty without alienating your key supplier? All key questions that need to be answered.
Key Questions Answered:
- How do I select the right supplier to work with?
- What kind of relationship should I have with suppliers?
- How do I integrate the supplier team into the delivery team?
- How do I manage supplier underperformance?
- What’s the best way to manage a virtual supplier team?
“Excellence is a continuous process and not an accident.” P. J. Abdul Kalam
Defining the governance of a change initiative is a difficult task. How do we know good governance when we see it? Project/Programme Governance is about three things. People, Structure and Information. We must ensure that the right people/stakeholders are involved in the governance of the initiative. Those individuals need to know where they fit in the governance structure, and they must have clearly defined roles and responsibilities, best expressed via a RACI chart. The right governance structure should enable speedy decision making, and for this it needs timely information via an appropriate reporting regime.
I include both benefits and cost in this domain. In terms of benefits it’s important that the initiative has a clear business case which clearly outlines the expected benefits that must be realised in order for the project to be considered successful (including cost, plan and quality measures). Benefits expected to be derived from the project should be clearly defined – both quantitative (e.g. cost reductions) and qualitative (e.g. reduced risk, improved competitive position). Clearly costs need to be fully quantified and tracked. Clear policies and agreed standards should exist for the estimation of project costs and financial reporting (for example financial models, policies on inclusion of internal / operating costs). Project cost estimates include labour (internal and external), materials, supplies, capital expenditure and equipment. The budget for the project must be developed and approved prior to project commencement.
It is vital that change initiatives have a very active quality function. It might not always be practical, but in all cases we need to ask, who is assuring the quality of the deliverables, whether they be from the internal team or from a 3rd party. A formal and comprehensive quality plan should developed and communicated to the project team and it should based on an appropriate methodology/ standards. The whole project team members (including suppliers) should be familiar with the methodology/ standards. A good quality plan should address all aspects of project quality assurance, including quality management requirements, documentation, standards, reviews and audits, problem reporting and corrective action. Ideally there should be a dedicated and appropriately skilled quality manager on major projects and clear responsibilities for quality.
“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. Albert Einstein
Effective learning requires a degree of openness, willingness to be honest about shortcomings and a acceptance that corrective action might need to be taken. In the project/programme environment this openness means allowing for an assurance function. The project team should regard the assurance function as a value-adding exercise and should welcome it as long as on a suitable scale. It is beneficial to use a Lessons Learned Log throughout the projects lifecycle to capture lessons for future phases and for future projects within the organisation. The project has a Lessons Learned Review planned for post-implementation. The project has a forum for project / workstream managers to discuss challenges and share ideas (this may be within the project or between projects).