Sometimes The Rules Must Be Different

There is a big debate in GB media this week: should the Olympics and Paralympics be treated the same, combined or be carbon copies.  Aside from the practicalities (4 hour opening ceremonies and time tabling venues) Peter White (bbc.co.uk) reminded the media that there are differences and what suits a person in a wheelchair will not be a level playing field for those on two legs.  The country is learning new sports (e.g. boccia). Closer integration of the games might be possible but we must acknowledge the key aspect: these games are different with different rules. It would be unfair on all competitors to try to make them the same.

Some companies and project managers make similar mistakes seeing a portfolio of projects as homogenous and trying to endorse the same methods and processes. A fundamental definition of a project is that it is a unique undertaking. In organisations, the types of project they undertake may be grouped by type and complexity to help assign effective project management teams. However, many don’t do that, they group by location or year: accidental dragooning into manageable groups.

The underlying problem with accidental grouping is the assumption that a consistent management can be applied to the projects in that group. That is where the project that isn’t quite the same can be the performance management equivalent of a land-mine: hidden, explosive and unexpectedly damaging. These land-mine projects are damaging because they go wrong, add cost, demotivate the team and upset stakeholders. Sometimes the costs of these projects can stop the business performing in other areas. If the dispute goes to law it can have a catastrophic impact on the organisation.

Therefore, portfolio and programme managers need to find a way of identifying those projects that are different: different type of delivery, different type of client, more complex, bigger or smaller teams, longer or shorter timescales, new or innovative. They need to tailor their controls and processes to manage these.  This is adaptation for a situation not a licence to lose the overall controls applied.

I recognise that a number of Paralympic competitors first “qualified” for the trials that got them into their nation teams because of land-mines.  While “the project that brought down the business” isn’t really on the same scale, the metaphor works. Their life has been set on a new unplanned direction that is incomparably different from their original hopes and dreams. Their success as elite athletes may be a huge achievement and entirely worth celebrating but it is not the same: the rules are different.

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ISO 9000 Projects – not just paperwork!

Recent events have made some organisations consider ISO9000 again as a badge to reassure their customers that they have a consistent way of doing business. It is more than a simple visit from an auditor but needs a commitment from everyone in the organisation to work in a consistent way. Read more of this post

Risk Management Case Study

In the United Kingdom, anyone who works with children, vulnerable adults or in a government-funded job (with a few exceptions) has to declare their “rap sheet” when they apply for the job (or if it changes).  The intention is to make sure that the child or vulnerable adult is not put “at risk” by those who are employed to protect and serve them. Read more of this post

Complete Understanding of a Business

The best business modelling considers the business from different aspects:
1. business processes (the inputs, and steps that produce the outputs)
2. decision points and associated business rules
3. measures (KPI and operational) and controls for the processes
4. data definitions, status and life cycles

and for a human driven business:
5. roles, responsibilities, and levels of authority 

It is very rare I see these in one place and without all 5 parts, there is an incomplete understanding of the way the business works.

Without that complete understanding it is difficult to assess if an upgraded system solution will give real benefits or simply give a need for different work rounds.

Blueprint for Success

A team at Warwick Business School has surveyed 500 above average trading performance businesses employing between 20 and 250 staff.

These business had these approaches in common:

  1. Striving for growth – seeking to increase sales
  2. Managing flexibly
  3. People planning – skill needs and focus on staff development
  4. Marketing – reach new customers with broadcast
  5. Research and development – technology, new ways of doing business
  6. Process changes – reducing costs, improving service quality

How does this apply to programme management, change management or project management?   We can use these to consider things we might need to plan to under pin the success of our projects. Read more of this post

people don’t follow the process …

… so make the process the people’s responsibility.

That might be provocative for managers who believe it is their job to define the process. Let’s look at realities. Read more of this post