Thursday, 28 May 2009

The Best Practice Showcase

We’d like to invite all of our readers, trainers, partners and clients to come and spend the day at The Best Practice Showcase on Tuesday 23rd June at the QE11 Conference Centre .

The Showcase, which is free to attend, has been going for seven years and its interactive format proves a real hit with delegates, who spend the day discussing issues, talking to experts and sharing experiences with each other.

Two of our senior personnel will be hosting Birds of a Feather sessions at the event. These sessions entail sitting round a table with around ten to fifteen other delegates and grappling with pertinent programme and project management issues – our idea of heaven!

Melanie Franklin, our CEO, will host sessions that will focus on Programme Management – where are we and where do we go next? Melanie will present a step by step guide as to how to go about establishing and implementing a programme environment in your organisation. The examples she’ll be exploring are derived from our work with public and private sector organisations. She’ll also ask delegates to share their experiences and challenges.

Susan Tuttle, Associate Trainer, will be hosting sessions on Project management – what next? Susan will discuss how project managers can get commitment from their sponsors, how to persuade line managers to release staff to work on projects, and how to engage support staff fully. The session will give those involved in project management a chance to share their experiences, and set this against our roadmap for increasing organisation wide project management capability. This is an opportunity to devise practical steps to address these issues. Using a combination of interactive examples and our in depth experience in resolving these issues, those attending this session will feel empowered to return to work and make a tangible difference.

In addition to these discussion groups, the Best Practice Showcase will also feature a full seminar programme. Emma Jones, Chief Examiner for PRINCE2® Qualifications will update delegates on the impact of the 2009 Refresh.

Emma Hilditch, the event director, says: “For the last six years 98% of delegates have left the event completely satisfied, so we are very confident of putting on an excellent day for them. They will get up-to-date news on the refreshed OGC guidance such as P3O, P3M3™ and PRINCE2. They can take active part in round table discussion sessions, with over 100 different targeted topics to choose from.”

The event is free so we’d love to see all our clients take part. Click here for details of all the sessions on offer, and to register.

The Best Practice Showcase
Tuesday 23rd June 2009
QE II Conference Centre, London

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

BCS Debates - Making Projects Work

Last month our CEO Melanie Franklin was a panellist of the BCS Debate, “Making IT Projects Work”, along with David Hicks, CEO, RADTAC and Paul Major, CEO, Program Framework.

The debate, chaired by Brian Runciman, Managing Editor of the BCS , concentrated on discussing problems and solutions revolving around IT Projects. The high level of the participants brought interesting answers and comments on Project Management itself – amongst the questions answered was “Are project failures a perception or sheer reality?”. They discussed the real chances of acquiring more information about failed projects, the difference between projects and programmes (and the definition of both frequently seeming a bit “hazy”), projects that work, projects that don’t and why, and the benefits of a dedicated project office. However, it was the panellists’ years of project and programme management experience that drove the conversation to the human side of project management – knowing how to deal with the people who work in a particular project is as important as having a structured approach to managing it. The focus was on the migration of “techies” to project management, PM “lingo” on the way of success, how to engage people – including management of board expectations.


Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

The Practice of Leadership

Blogging about we have found a very interesting blog called The Practice of Leadership, which is written by South-African George Ambler.

We particularly love his post on ‘No Communication No Leadership’ and we couldn’t agree more with that. Communication is key to leading people – after all, who’d follow someone they don’t understand?

George says that without effective communication one cannot lead and ends up talking a walk on his/her own. He argues that communication is essential to effective leadership and raises questions for us to consider:

How effective is your communication? How do you know?
Is your communication relevant?
How do you get within their (your staff) experience when your communicate?

We know from experience that many programme, project and risk managers are working under extreme pressure at the moment, with tougher targets, tight budgets and severe time constraints.

It’s not always easy to keep your one’s eye on the ball at times like these, let alone constantly keeping a team updated, motivated and working at optimum levels.

In a programme or project environment the elements of leadership (behaviours and competencies) need to be managed in a way that meets the needs of each step of the project or programme lifecycle.

We don’t want to seem opportunistic or use this blog for commercial reasons, but it just so happens that The Maven Training Skills Academy™ focuses on key interpersonal skills such as negotiation, conflict management, leadership and, of course, communication.

In our one-day Leadership Skills for Projects and Programmes course, we look at competencies and behaviours that successful leaders exhibit as well as at different leadership styles. We also explore the differences between leadership and management and discuss opportunities for establishing leadership credibility.

In our Communication Skills for Projects & Programmes course we addresses the specific management challenges associated with the communication needs of projects and programmes. These include communications that develop buy-in and support for the initiative and communications that provide progress information and reassurance of the achievements of the initiative.

These courses form just two of our specialist Skills Academy division. Each course is highly participative, giving delegates many opportunities to review their own skills-set and understand how their skills impact on their success at work. Our Skills Academy courses are designed to inspire, energise and motivate you so that you return to work better able to deal with all the challenges that you face.

Friday, 22 May 2009

Assertion and Reason multiple-choice testing

By Michelle Rowland, Associate Trainer for PRINCE2® and MSP™

“Assertion and Reason” (AR) multiple-choice questions are something people tend to struggle with when taking exams. In order to train delegates on this I do an exercise where they learn to construct an AR structure in pairs, and then we discuss the question, its construction and whether they succeeded in creating it. This is an outline of what I do – and this might help you understand AR questions better!

First, it is important to understand the following about ASSERTION:

1. It is a stand-alone statement
2. It must be scenario-related

Then you need to understand the following about REASON:

1. It is a standalone statement
2. It can be either MSP™ or PRINCE2® speak, or scenario-related
3. It must relate in some way to the assertion – e.g. if it refers to benefits in the assertion, it must refer to benefits (or a synonym) in the reason

A few important pieces of advice on how to answer AR style questions:

1. Answer only the assertions first
2. Answer the reasons independently of the assertions
3. For the True/True questions ask yourself “why do I think the assertion is true?” If it matches the reason, this is definitely an assertion.
4. If it doesn’t go onto the next step “putting the cart before the horse”, where you say “As a result of , is true” – this works really well as the brain is focussing more on the first half (R) than the second half (A), and it’s helpful to better test the connection.

A useful technique is to practice AR questions in pairs.

1. Research and discuss a syllabus area of your choice
2. Construct a few AR-style questions on that syllabus area
3. Base it on a case study
4. Post these AR questions on the wall, or flipcharts, and get other people attempt to answer them
5. The author of the question you will need to justify the answer.

This prompts two very interesting debates:

1. Around the syllabus topic – was it interpreted correctly?
2. Around AR questions – were they well constructed?

This seems to work really well with my delegates – have these tips been relevant to you?

Thursday, 21 May 2009

The Importance of Succession Training

By Craig Aldridge, Client Relations at Maven Training

Building on the back of the great experience we had at Project Challenge in Birmingham with our CEO Melanie Franklin’s Interpersonal Skills for Projects and Programmes speech we decided that recreating the performance in London would be a very good idea – hence we delivered an abridged version last Tuesday at the Barbican for the Public Service Events on Project Leadership 09. Needless to say it was a great success that all the attendees thoroughly enjoyed. However this was not the main talking point of the show turned out to be something else entirely.

Prior to Melanie’s presentation I was locked in conversation with two programme managers. They told me that their current offices ran efficiently, and the programme managers were excellent. They continued to explain that all these managers were properly trained and understood the nature of their role; however they were concerned. The main reason for their concern was these senior managers, while excellent at their jobs, had their eyes on gold watches. With their retirement coming up in the next couple of years the organisation still had no plan in place to appoint replacements.

The worry was that if somebody were to be appointed without the proper training and preparation, the consequences for the organisation would be dire; not catastrophic, but serious enough to set them back several months, even a year on their respective programmes. Throughout my conversations I brought up the topic of succession training. It became evident very quickly that this was something people had not thought about and immediately they grasped why it was crucial to their organisations.

Coincidently, directly following Melanie’s talk, there was a second session discussing this very topic. While the speaker may not have been as captivating as Mel, it was nonetheless still relevant. It highlighted transitional problems that people face when moving into a new role they are not prepared for, and the knock-on effect this has for the organisation.

The moral of the story is: “make sure that you have somebody who is ready and able to understand and fill the positions”. We understand organisations are wary of the big R, but the general consensus is, if you invest other staff lower down the chain of command, they will more than pay for themselves in the future.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Effective Project Management Delivery in tough times

Join Maven Training and Arras People for a FREE breakfast event that will give you an overview of project management market trends in these difficult times.

Melanie Franklin , CEO of Maven Training, will be talking about personal and professional development and how you can get the balance right between accredited qualifications and skills-based development, as well as finding the right balance of organisational needs vs. individual needs.

John Thorpe, MD of Arras People will share his thoughts on current trends in the PM marketplace – recruitment and people strategies, and current benchmarking information.

Venue: Maven Training Centre Location and Map
Cost: FREE

Dates and times:

26th June 2009

08:00am - 10:30am
12:00am - 14:30pm

13th July 2009
08:00am - 10:30am
12:00am - 14:30pm

Limited availability, so BOOK NOW!

Monday, 18 May 2009

What a training organisation can do for a client

By Susan Tuttle, Associate Trainer.

Earlier this year I was commissioned with the development and delivery of a bespoke Project Management course to a specific client. After running the series of courses successfully (there have been nine issues), I thought of sharing a summary end-of-event assessment with you.

The delegates – who ranged from never having been on a project to leading projects (especially events) – were open to the ideas and principles of the client’s own Project Management framework, as well as a generic PM approach. The three hours spent on each of the courses seemed enough time for them to try out important aspects of PM on a fictitious case study, as well as bring up ideas and issues of using a methodology/framework on real-life projects.

The course opened with a brief overview of the client’s own PM framework and how it could be applied to projects using a matrix of project categories. Most delegates understood this concept, but wanted more clarification on the categories and how exactly this would affect their current and future projects.

The client divides its framework in four phases: ‘Consider’, ‘Organise’, ‘Realise’ and ‘Close Down’.

The second topic of the course covered the ‘Consider’ phase, which concentrates on exploring options and justifying the project investment. Again delegates understood the value of a Business Case, but questioned the practicalities when the “decision had already been made” to do the project or pursue a certain option. No one had experienced comparing the project option with the “do nothing” option on 'real' projects.

The third topic, ‘Organise’, involved critiquing and adding to a Project Initiation Document. This was consistently met with apprehension from the name of the document to the level of detail required for a PID.

During the ‘Realise’ portion of the course, the delegates were asked to deal with risks, issues and changes, based on their scenarios. Information previously defined (or not) in the PID helped the delegates understand the importance of the information from the PID to assist them in managing the execution of the project.

Finally, when working on ‘Closing Down’ and evaluating the case study project, delegates made several connections to identifying, confirming and agreeing the information from the PID in order to achieve a successful outcome at the end of the project, especially in the three areas focused on during the PID exercise – Risks, Communications and Product Descriptions.

As it’s clear from this example, tailoring well-known Best Practices methodologies to the needs of each specific client is something that can be done – and in the case of Maven Training, that’s where we excel!

Friday, 15 May 2009

P3O – the discussion continues

The P3O posts from 05th May and 06th May have generated some discussion.

Our trainer Michelle Rowland has heard from one of our delegates that they really liked the idea of having a vision for the Programme Office, as organisations hardly ever have one, and staff constantly get queries about what they do, or whether they should take on business-as-usual services on top of their programme office functions.

Another one of our trainers, Helle Falholt (based in Denmark), believes that this delegate’s statement captures the essence of why people may be sceptical about P3O – many have seen initiatives including some of the ideas behind P3O, and witnessed them fail (because of a lack of Vision, no Blueprint, no stated benefits etc). She goes on saying that it is hard to claim success if nobody recognises what the Programme Office was supposed to deliver – and how can one say they’re on the right track, if the organisation doesn’t know where it’s going? It appears that, in general, delegates agree that three things are necessary for good implementation of a P3O: Vision, Sponsor, Funding – in that order.

What do you think? Please share your comments and thoughts with us!

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

...So, what is going on with PRINCE2?

We hear this question a lot. People on the phone want to know about the PRINCE2:2009 project and whether it is better to take a course now or wait for the new release. We receive daily emails asking about Consolidation, Exam Prep, Re-registration and Conversion Exams – “what's the difference?” they ask, and “which one is right for me?”.

To answer your questions, Maven Training has put together the helpful
All you've always wanted to know but didn't know who to ask.

1) What is this PRINCE2:2009?

The PRINCE2 manual gets updated every few years, based on current best practice, as well as any issues raised on the existing version. Since its launch in 1996 it has already been updated in 1998, 2002 and 2005. No reason to panic then: the PRINCE2 you know and love is not changing – this is simply a routine update to the product.

2) What are these updates, then?

The structure of PRINCE2 remains intact – although there are some changes to the naming conventions. For example, Components (things like Organisation Structure, Business Case, and Risk Management) are now called Themes, and they have been reduced to seven (Configuration Management and Change Control have been brought together). The Controls Component has been renamed Progress.

Processes are still Processes, but they have been reduced from eight to seven (this is because Planning has been incorporated into the other seven). On the old PRINCE2 each step within a Process was given a Sub-process number – this has been removed, although the steps broadly remain the same.

There has been the introduction of seven Principles of good project management. These are rules which need to be applied to all PRINCE2 projects for them to be run effectively, and includes guidance on learning from experience and tailoring the method to fit your own situation.

The number of Management Products has been reduced; this is because PRINCE2 is not about creating countless paperwork. For example, the Quality Plans have been rolled into other documents. Some documents have been reformatted as Strategies, explaining how the project is to be run. To emphasise the importance of realising benefits, a Benefits Review Plan has now been included in PRINCE2.

Summary of Changes

3) So should I wait for the change to take my PRINCE2 Exam?

The answer is NO, given the underlying concepts of PRINCE2 are not changing and the structure of the examinations (Foundation and Practitioner) remains the same. There is no need to postpone your chance to become PRINCE2 qualified, so book the course that meets your needs (timing and location), safe in the knowledge that your qualification is unaffected by the materials refresh.

There will be a crossover period when it will be possible to choose between taking the 2005 or 2009 version of the PRINCE2 exams. We recommend that:

* All candidates who have taken their Foundation or have sat and been unsuccessful with their Practitioner since 2005 should sit the Practitioner 2005 exams – after all, you still have the relevant manual!
* Anyone wishing to take a PRINCE2 course for the first time after the 2009 exams become available should go straight to the 2009 version, as 2005 will be phased out by the end of the year.
* Those who have already passed their Foundation and Practitioner exams on earlier versions of PRINCE2 (2005 and 2002) can keep their knowledge up to date by attending our PRINCE2 2005 to 2009 Conversion briefing.

Emma Jones, PRINCE2 Chief Examiner, advised candidates not to wait for the new scheme to be released. She said: “Although the new PRINCE2 manual will simplify the presentation of the method, the fundamental content hasn't changed. If an organisation is using PRINCE2 then it's far better to gain understanding of that as soon as staff need to. There will be no difference between the current qualifications and the 2009 qualifications.

4) What if I have just taken the PRINCE2 exam – will my certificate become invalid?

No – once you have a PRINCE2 qualification, it cannot be taken away from you. As is the case now, there is no expiry date for your Foundation qualification but all Practitioner qualifications have to be re-registered after five years be kept them current.

5) Is it true that there are two PRINCE2 manuals now?

Yes, there are: Managing a Successful Project (about 300 pages, for Project Managers) and Directing a Successful Project (about 125 pages, for Project Boards members).

Examination courses are based upon Managing a Successful Project, which is provided to you as part of your course material. Directing a Successful Project is targeted at senior managers who are Project Board members. This book forms the basis of sponsorship training and board briefings, but is not needed for the Foundation or Practitioner exams.

See what the available PRINCE2 Practitioner courses are, and which is the right one for you

Monday, 11 May 2009

The importance of certificates

By Helle Falholt, PRINCE2® and MSP™ Trainer at Peak Consulting, Denmark.

For some time now we have seen independent consultants coming to our classes to become PRINCE2® qualified in order to get assignments in an increasingly competitive market.

Lately I have started to see a different variety: People who are employed (private or public sector) but pay for their education themselves. When asked why, they all say the same thing: "my employer won't pay for education, so I need a certificate which will enable me to go elsewhere"!

I do wonder if that is a wise strategy. Although it is true that there are more people applying for every job opening now than just 6-8 months ago it is still very expensive to loose a good employee. The people I have met are bright and ambitious and none of them plan to let their present employer gain from their new qualifications.

You might ask: "Wouldn't these people leave their company anyway?" Well, that depends. If organisations not only train people, but also implement PRINCE2® as part of their governance structure, an environment where people are able to use their new skills effectively and grow their abilities is embedded, and there is more return on the investment at the same time. Employees are less likely to leave if they feel appreciated and can grow with their company.

Even if some employees do leave – the organisation will have gained by implementing PRINCE2®. One can look for a person with PRINCE2® qualifications and concentrate on their experience and achievements knowing that they have an interface that fits with the organisation, making it easier for them to become productive.

Am I the only one who sees the outline of a viable Business Case here? Share your comments with us!

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

P3O demystified

Yesterday’s post talked about the connections between P3O, Yin and Yang. If you were left wondering “but what is this P3O thing, then?”, well, you shouldn’t feel alone. Read below for a quick Q&A session with our CEO Melanie Franklin; alternatively, you can listen to our podcasts.

What is P3O?

The term P3O is a play on three Ps (Portfolio, Programme and Project) and one O (Office). Portfolio, Programme and Project Offices are the support structures for Project Management, Programme Management and Portfolio Management.

P3O and P3M3

There is a benchmark for organisations that have a thorough understanding of how to approach Project Management, or have already implemented Programme Management. This benchmark is called “The Maturity Model”, and it helps organisations to understand how mature they are in their Project and Programme Management approaches, as well as to show them what they need to do next to carry on improving.

One of the Maturity Models that is sponsored by the Office of Government Commerce (owners of the PRINCE2®, MSP™ and M_o_R® methods) is called P3M3.

The three Ps stand for Project, Programme and Portfolio, and the three Ms stand for Management Maturity Model. So P3M3 is the Portfolio, Programme and Project Management Maturity Model. The Maturity Model has a number of key questions that an organisation should ask itself to see how well it is doing. One of the factors that has been identified for the organisations that really know their way around Project and Programme Management is the existence of some kind of centralised support structure – and this is the link between P3M3 (the Maturity Model) and P3O (the Support Offices).

Support Structures

There are three support structures: the Portfolio Office, the Programme Office and the Project Office.

Project Office: supports individual projects, often regarded as an administrative function that provides support to the project manager – on creating project plans, attending project meetings, chasing up individual team members on the project to make sure they have done their activities, collating information for progress report, sending that up to the project sponsor.

Programme Office: enables an organisation to support an individual programme, looks at templates of documentation for the projects within that programme, provides support across the projects within the programme, keeps the support at an overall level for the programme so that the programme manager knows, at anyone time, what is happening with all of the projects within a specific programme.

Portfolio Office: a more strategic function as it supports the portfolio of programmes and projects within an organisation. It escalates information about the progress of a specific portfolio and it double checks the direction of that portfolio against the overall strategic direction of the organisation.

Level of Bureaucracy

To avoid an overly bureaucratic approach, it is important that organisations understand what these different levels of support offer them – the advantages and the disadvantages – and select a structure that is right for them.

Level of Authority

One of the key things that an organisation has to do, whether it sets up a portfolio, programme or project office, is to ensure that those providing the support are actually empowered to do so – and this is not just about administration, but assurance services, spotting issues, looking for risks, escalating that information up to the next level of authority. Therefore the project, or programme, or portfolio office has to have the endorsement of senior managers.

P3O Official Site

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

What has the P3O (Portfolio, Programme Project Offices) guidance got to do with Yin and Yang?

By Graham Shreeve, Training Consultant at Maven Training.

The Chinese ancients believed that Yin and Yang is the interplay of opposites and stresses the importance of balance. “All things connote the Yin and the Yang, and the Yin and the Yang keep acting upon each other and thus things keep changing and unifying themselves.” The Book of Tao, describes two kinds of energy, two modes of consciousness

• Yin
- Feminine
- Contractive
- Conservative
- Responsive
- Cooperative
- Intuitive
- Synthesising

• Yang
- Masculine
- Expansive
- Demanding
- Aggressive
- Competitive
- Rational
- Analytic

Fritjof Capra, physicist and systems theorist, sees Yin and Yang energy as related to two modes of consciousness, two different kinds of knowing. The rational and the intuitive are complementary modes of functioning of the human mind.

- Rational thinking is linear, focused and analytic. Rational knowledge tends to be fragmented.
- Intuitive knowledge is based on a direct, non-intellectual experience of reality arising in an expanded state of awareness. It tends to be synthesising, holistic, and nonlinear.

The P3O guidance gives significant attention to centres of excellence and knowledge management. Also, the guide suggests that using the “Value Matrix” (a diagram embedded in the P3O guide) can identify the core problems and determine the scope of the P3O. The matrix considers three levels of change management that an organisation may experience in handling its portfolio, programmes and projects and could prompt a debate to how a P3O model could provide support and assurances services across the levels. The catalyst of the debate is the parallel governance activities of “Enabling and Restraining”. If we recognise the word governance, as to exercise authority the dialogue between the P3O and Programme Managers and Project Managers and their teams could cover a number of paths: “Enabling” and “Restraining” P3O:

• Enabling P3O
- Providing the best practice knowledge and opportunities for Project and Programme Managers to improve programme, project, team and individual performance;
- Supporting Tools and Techniques that enable Project and Programme Managers to build and deliver and/or repair the programmes and projects with efficacy;
- Making resources available to enable definition and implementation of new projects and programmes;
- Empowering Project and Programme Managers with authority to improve performance and best practice.

• Restraining P3O
- Holding back the Project and Programme Managers from action, keeping them in check or under control;
- Depriving the Project and Programme Managers the liberty to improve performance by constraining innovation and ingenuity;
- Limiting the Project and Programme Manager’s activities, growth, or effect in their work.

Has the debated started in your organisation when establishing or re-energising your P3O? Is the debate focused on rational or intuitive thinking? How will you strike a balance between enabling and restraining? Share some experiences and best practice, let us know.

Graham Shreeve ©Target Practice Ltd 2009

Friday, 1 May 2009

Bespoke Training – brand new section of our website!

By Melanie Franklin, CEO, Maven Training.

Today sees the launch of our newest online enterprise: the ”Bespoke Services” section of our website. This new division of our website is aimed at providing you with information about our, well, Bespoke Services – that is, what we do and how our expertise can be used to create tailored training events based on specific needs. This new section is a reflexion of the many, many meetings and requests we have received from our clients over the past few years and it was put together to provide clear, straightforward information about what we can do to help other businesses grow.

I am always interested in the requests for help that we receive from our clients, because it gives me a powerful insight into the issues of the moment, so that we can tailor our services to meet these needs. For example, at the moment, a very popular request is for help in establishing how teams or departments can adapt what they have learnt on an MSP™ course into a programme management approach that is developed by one area of the organisation, but shared across it as a whole. There is a definite feeling that creating an approach for programme management leads to more control across the projects that form the programme. This need for control is very popular at the moment. This is because there is real pressure on senior managers to understand the full costs of what they are authorising, and to know that any project they commit to is going to deliver on time. Sticking to budget and deadlines does not happen by magic, so they want to know that those involved know what they are doing, that they are following best practice and that risk across the team/department/organisation has been reduced because there is a systematic, consistent set of processes underpinning the work. I have seen a real upswing in the level of senior management interest in the way projects are managed, and more willingness to become involved in the decision making process. The number of master classes that we are delivering to senior management teams on project, programme and change management is certainly evidence of that. Also, the number of senior managers who are sending themselves on programme management training so that they know how to control the work within their departments is on the increase. Interestingly, they really appreciate attending open courses and mixing with delegates from other organisations, and there are lots of contact details swapped in the coffee breaks.

All of this activity is making me wonder whether sponsoring and managing individual projects is out of fashion and that the controls offered by programme management are fit with the need understand total spending plans across the organisation? What do you think? For more information, go to our ”Bespoke Services” pages to see how we can work with you to devise and implement your approach to programme and project management.