Friday, 21 October 2011

Including change agents into project teams

A very popular subject right now is how to integrate change managers into project teams. This is driven by the growing importance of managing the implementation and transition to new ways of working as a result of the project. Unlike a project team where there is broad agreement on the roles and responsibilities, organisations are still deciding what roles are associated with managing change. The names, position in the organisation and what they are expected to be responsible for is different in every situation, influenced by:
·         organisational culture,
·         the type of change – usually divided between technical changes to procedures or systems and behavioural changes i.e. how people approach their work
·         the professionalism of the project and programme management environment
·         the perceived strategic importance of the changes being planned by the organisation
Before deciding on what change roles should be included in the project team I use my knowledge of organisational change to identify the most important change roles as the basis of mapping these responsibilities into project and programme teams. For example:

·         Change Sponsor - Has the authority to make the change happen, has control of resources and has a clear vision of what the change needs to be
·         Local level sponsor – responsible for change in their division or section of the organisation
·         Change agent – facilitates the change by acting as a bridge between the Sponsor and the implementer. Helps to plan the change, liaises with the project teams to ensure deliverables are ready for use by the Implementers, motivates and persuades Implementers to become involved in the change by identifying and encouraging Advocates
·         Advocates – enthusiastic about the change and highly motivated to make the change happen
·         Implementer – makes changes to their ways of working that makes the desired change a reality

Monday, 17 October 2011

Blackberry failures teach us how to manage project sponsors

The crisis at Research In Motion (RIM) reminded me how important it is to fully involve the sponsor when projects are going wrong. I speak from some experience about what the teams are going through at the data centre in Slough as in a different life I was global head of crisis management for a large bank (definition of crisis: anything which made the senior management team shout!)

One of the most important lessons I learnt was that to manage the crisis you (in your role as project or programme manager or head of the PMO) have to create enough space between the sponsors and executives and those with the technical skills who can fix the problem.

When things go wrong the executives are the people who are ultimately going to have to take responsibility for the failure (and possibly issue the apologies to affected customers) want to know what's going on, how long the fix is going to take, how it went wrong in the first place and they want answers to all these questions at a time when the specialists are still defining the problem and identifying possible solutions.

Senior managers find it very hard to act as by standers, twiddling their thumbs waiting for information which is why they keep jumping in demanding answers. My technique relied on distraction - give the sponsors and senior executives something to work on over there so that the specialists can fix the problem over here. Senior managers do have skills and experience that can be used effectively in a crisis. Define your desired communications and get them out there delivering your message. It keeps them busy and it adds value as they can manage the repetitional risk aspects better than anyone and gives you the time to manage and support your team when they need it most.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Coaching for Project Managers

I have carried out several coaching sessions this week for project managers who are under pressure to deliver against very tight deadlines. Although they feel they have so little time they have decided that it is worth spending an hour with me to review their project and to decide on next steps, which has made me think about the benefits of hearing the views of an independent, objective observer.
1.       Someone with no specialist knowledge about your project can be very useful in assessing whether or not the objectives, scope and intended deliverables of the project described in the project brief are as obvious as the project manager believes them to be:
a.       When I am given a project brief to read I invariably have questions about what I think the project is going to deliver which surprise the project manager because they  think they have been so clear. This week I was reviewing a project which changes the way customers submit applications to a licensing body. By not knowing any of the detail I asked very basic questions which identified that the project had failed to include any acknowledgements back to the customers or any updates about the progress of their applications
b.      A lack of specialist knowledge makes it easy to spot risks because I don’t have the technical expertise to make me believe things won’t go wrong and there is no voice in my head telling me ‘that would never happen’
c.       Because I am not caught up in the enthusiasm for the project that helped get it off the ground in the first place its easy for me to ask ‘why are we doing this’ and be honest about whether I think the benefits are strong enough. I always ask two things: Would I spend my own money on this? Would I allow my staff to spend time working on this? No to either of these tells me that the benefits need to be strengthened. That means asking questions about whether this is a ‘vanity project’ i.e. its being done because its subject is important to someone with enough authority to authorise the work or whether the project is solving a problem that doesn’t really need a solution, because the problem is not that important or does not affect enough people.
2.       An experienced project manager who is not responsible for your project can provide a useful quality check for your project plan:
·         Identifying tasks that you may have forgotten but that they know are essential enablers to getting other things done. I looked at a project that is reworking how an organisation calculates pricing information for its sales team. The plan assumed that pricing information was pre-checked by the finance department, but there were no tasks involving the finance department in the plan – so it appeared on paper as if the pricing information magically appeared!
·         Questioning whether all the interdependencies have been captured. I know that asking my project managers simple questions about the inputs to a particular task quickly identifies that the activity to create those inputs has been left off the plan.
It is not always possible to recruit a project assurance resource or hire an external consultant to provide this objective viewpoint, but its worth considering if other project managers in your organisation could act as the critical friend for your project if you return the favour.

Friday, 30 September 2011

Trends in project management 2011

I gave a free briefing on the future of project management today that identified key trends for the project management profession:

Portfolio Management

Portfolio management techniques are being used by senior management to create an organisation wide summary of all the projects and programmes that are taking place, usually with the intention of removing a larger number as part of their cost cutting or efficiency initiatives.

This means that senior managers are starting to define criteria against which they will evaluate projects before deciding if they offer sufficient value to be authorised. I think this creates an additional pressure for project managers because we now need to ensure that not only are the benefits of our project greater than the costs but we also need to ensure that they are strategically important benefits.

In the briefing we a agreed that project managers need to get in the habit of describing how their projects contribute to strategic objectives because it is the achievement of these objectives that senior management are evaluated against, and they have a strong interest in keeping their jobs!

Benefits Realisation

We recognised that benefits realisation has become a widely recognised term and that senior managers are more likely to talk about achieving the benefits than worry about what is actually being delivered.

We discussed how important it is for project managers who are delivery focused (deliver on time, on budget and to the required standard of quality) to understand how benefits can only be realised if there is successful implementation of what has been delivered.

Change Management

We examined this model to see how knowledge of change management techniques is becoming increasingly important for those working in project management:

Aligning project management and change management is a hot topic. At the conference for the Association of Change Management Professionals in Copenhagen last week there were a high number of project managers in attendance, wanting to know how they could improve their project approach to include more motivation and persuasion activities to encourage operational staff to use the new systems and procedures that they have created.

Do you agree with the conclusions of those attending my briefing? Are you involved in realising benefits or portfolio management? Get in touch and let us know your thoughts.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

New book launch

Very exciting - my new book Managing Business Transformation: A Practical Guide has just been launched.
Buying this book gives you access to a ready made business change lifecycle, describing lots of change activities to move you from initial idea to successful implementation.

The change lifecycle has 4 steps:
- Understanding the change
- Planning the change
- Implementing the change
- Embedding the change

There is also a chapter on how to align the change lifecycle with a project lifecycle as I wanted to acknowledge that projects deliver change (new processes or systems etc) but that they don't usually go as far as ensuring that everyone has integrated these deliverables into how they work and therefore realised the benefits of the project.

I wrote the book because I wanted one source that would give me a change management equivalent of the project management books that explain what to do and how to do it. To buy the book go to

I have had lots of positive feedback about the book, with a number of people saying they are already using some of the ideas. Jessica Wharton, APMG-International comments, “Managing Business Transformation is an easy and enjoyable read. I would happily recommend this to both experienced managers and those just starting out. As Melanie points out, even if you don’t deal directly with business transformation, knowledge on how to successfully handle it is priceless in any managerial role.” For her full review go to

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Aligning project and change management practices

Have just spent 2 days with 150 project managers and change managers at the Association of Change Management Practitioners European Conference. Key topic has been the integration of change management into project management.

Although effective project managers accept that making sure what they deliver is successfully implemented is within the scope of the project lifecycle a lot of project management frameworks don’t have any formal activities or processes for encouraging this. There are also practical considerations which push change outside of the remit of the project managers:
• It is not cost effective for project teams to remain in place once development and testing of the deliverables has been completed.
• Change activities can benefit from the knowledge of the project team, but individuals cannot outsource implementation and embedding, they have to make the changes for themselves.
• Projects are expected to deliver on time, on budget and to specific quality criteria, but the pace and scope of changes that individuals adopt cannot be constrained in this way.
• The objectives of project and change activities are different. Project activities deliver the potential for change: the new processes, systems, organisation structure etc.; change activities create the persuasion, motivation and leading by example that results in the new business environment.

Organisations are now starting to address these issues and some of the actions organisations are taking include:
Renaming all project managers to change managers – as the name reinforces their responsibilities for implementation
Establishing the role of change manager and making sure that there is a change manager for every project
Defining what the change activities are and making sure the cost of them is included in the business case for the project
Building a central ‘business support function’ that is staffed by project managers and change managers who work together on projects
Changing the remit of the PMO to become a centre of excellence for project delivery and the implementation of change

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Back to work and under pressure

There is a real ‘back to work/rushed off our feet’ buzz at Maven this week so we are trying to work smarter to fit everything in. One technique is to move as much as possible into ‘housekeeping mode’ i.e. turn tasks into regular actions that are carried out in the same way every time. The reason for this is that I want to reduce the time we take to do simple tasks so that we free up more time to be creative – to dream up new products and services, to spend more time with our clients and to look towards the future.

This approach is backed up by psychological research which explains that once we have learnt how to perform a task, our brains need less conscious thought (short term memory, which has limited capacity) to carry it out, and if we do it enough times it will move the task into our subconscious (long term memory, with lots of spare capacity).

This means that our conscious mind can spend time on more worthwhile tasks such as paying attention to what we are doing, focusing on a task, having new thoughts that lead to new ideas, learning new skills and being more innovative about how we approach things.

Although projects are all about doing new things and therefore, using lots of our conscious mind, we can make project management easier by transferring as many project tasks as possible into regular activities carried out by our subconscious. For example, logging, analysing and reporting on risks, issues and change requests, producing progress reports, sending out information to stakeholders.

By carrying out these basic tasks regularly we free up more time to spend identifying new ways of working that overcome the risks, or incorporate the requests for change. We can spend more time engaging with stakeholders, addressing their concerns and helping them to champion the project.

I believe that the methodologies offered by the Office of Government Commerce (PRINCE2; MSP; MoR; MoP; ITIL) are so effective because at their core they try to regularize as many project, programme and portfolio tasks as possible.

The methodologies set out what documents to use, in what order tasks should be carried out and which roles should perform them. This leaves managers with plenty of capacity to fully engage with their projects and programmes, managing them actively, rather than having to use their conscious brain to decide how to do basic tasks when they should be working at a higher level of creativity.

Get to know these methodologies ( to simplify your management tasks and give you the freedom to be innovative about how you tackle more challenging activities.

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Building enthusiasm for the return to work

Now that the Bank Holiday is over I feel a sense of ‘back to workness’ that is making me organise what I need to get done between now and Christmas (only 15 weeks to go!).

It’s a good time to plan some activities that will help you learn more and develop your skills so have a look at our new download

It is also a good time to look back on the year to see all of the extra things you have done to increase your knowledge and make sure you keep a record of them. It is always useful to have an update list of all your development activities – for your CV or to bring up at a performance review.

The sorts of activities to look for include:
• On the job training
• Participating in workshops and briefings
• Holding a coaching session
• Mentoring a colleague
• Attending exhibitions and seminars
• Formal training courses
• Acquiring qualifications
• Delivering presentations
• Undertaking research assignments

All of these activities contribute to your continual professional development. If you want to read more have a look at our quick guide or our new whitepaper

Monday, 22 August 2011

Is new X Factor judge a natural leader?

Watching X factor last night was an interesting example of leadership. Louis Walsh, the only remaining judge from previous seasons could reasonably have been expected to take the 'head judge' place at the table and show the 'newbies' how it is done. However, from the first audition it became apparent that Gary Barlow was the true leader of the judges, with a range of actions and behaviours that led all of the other judges, Louis included, to follow him:
- He sat in the end seat previously occupied by Simon Cowell
- He sat back from the table, turned slightly away from the stage and towards the other judges in a casual gesture that indicated he was in control of the situation. This was in marked contrast to the other judges who all sat straight to the table facing the stage.
- When he disagreed with the views of the other judges he asked 'what are we doing' indicating that he expected their judging to fit with the previously stated objective of finding a 'global superstar' and indicating disdain for their childish endorsement of a clearly tone deaf Tai Chi instructor.
- He voted against the other judges in this situation clearly defining his willingness to be 'his own man' and not be swayed by the group
- During the breaks the other judges looked to Gary for leadership when returning to the stage much as the judges had previously waited for Simon Cowell to be ready before going back on stage.

Leadership is authority and control of a situation. You can decide if you want to take a leadership position in any given situation but your role will only be confirmed if others involved in the situation decide to follow you.

If you want to know about leadership, especially in the context of leading change within your organisation sign up for our change management course and develop your leadership ability to rival that of Gary Barlow (even if your singing is not up to much!)

Monday, 15 August 2011

New resource materials

August can be a useful month for taking stock on the achievements of the year and catching up with all the research and latest trends in our areas of business. For those of you involved in project, programme, portfolio, risk and change management I thought I would share some of the most useful articles I have been reading lately – I hope you enjoy them and that they provide food for thought:

The 5 Essential Metrics for Managing IT
This article has some useful ideas for those responsible for identifying which benefits to measure for their programme or what benefits to track within the portfolio. It also has some useful ideas about how to categorise initiatives within the benefits between discretionary and mandatory projects:

Risk Management Comes of Age
This is a useful article for anyone who is involved in improving their organisations approach to risk management and is looking for evidence to support their cause.

Building Organisational Capability
This is a series of 4 thought leadership pieces from the APM Benefits Management Specific Interest Group and I thought the second one examining the journey to effective change management was particularly interesting:

What Successful Transformations Share
This report summarises the results of the McKinsey Global survey on transformational change, and makes some very clear points about what drives successful large-scale change

Using programme management to deliver strategic objectives
This paper explains the case for using programme management as a structure that brings together project and change management into a cohesive approach that will successfully deliver the strategic objectives of the organisation

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Project activity increasing for September

Tonight I am watching two news items: rioting in London and Birmingham; heightening of tension in the financial markets in Europe and the U.S. Part of my job is to try and predict the future and work out what organisations will be concentrating their efforts on in the next 12-18 months.

Given the news coverage it is hard at times like this not to be pessimistic and think that the immediate future will be dominated by restructuring and redundancy programmes. However, I am cheered by the number of organisations that are rushed off their feet this August as they cope with 'opportunity overload' - holding workshops now to plan and define new projects and programmes so that the work can start as soon as everyone returns (although the amount of holiday being taken this summer is definitely lower).

This stream of new initiatives provides lots of opportunities for getting involved and making lasting improvements in our approach to work, our levels of innovation and customer service. If you are not sure how to get started have a look at the guidance I have put together to explain project, programme and change management:, and

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Using performance management to increase project success

One of the most interesting aspects of my job is explaining the relevance of project management to those who are not directly responsible for managing projects. This week I met with an HR Director was fed up with projects which she saw as creating more problems than solutions as staff struggled to adopt the new deliverables.
We discussed the need to manage the implementation of what projects deliver as closely as we manage their development during the project lifecycle. Whilst PRINCE2 and other project approaches mention the need for effective implementation and handover, the activities are often specified as project closure activities rather than being embedded in the project from the beginning.
The HR Director asked me to include updating the performance management system as a standard project activity in her organisations project methodology.
Her reasons for this are simple. We know that people prioritise the tasks for which their performance is measured so if we want to drive use of project deliverables after we the project has closed and the project team has disbanded then we should plan for this. We can use performance management to ensure that the new ways of working are identified during testing and training and new performance metrics agreed and incorporated into job descriptions. We have to pass on the responsibility for use of the project deliverables as well as project deliverables that meet the user requirements.
Not unsurprisingly the HR Director said that this was such a simple step, she did not understand why it wasn’t mentioned in project management guidance. My answer was to explain that as project managers many of us do not have extensive experience in performance management because we are not line managers (I have built a career around avoiding the need to line manager large numbers of staff!) so the need to develop job descriptions, performance metrics and carry out staff appraisals is not in our DNA.

Monday, 25 July 2011

No summer slow down this year

Today is the start of the school summer holidays, and traditionally many of us would be jetting off for a couple of weeks in the sun. However, this year there are lots more people who are using their holiday entitlement to go on training courses and get new qualifications. Those that have a job want to make sure they keep it by enhancing their CVs (in some cases they are paying for the courses themselves) and those looking for work are keen to make sure they don't lose time over the summer and are fully qualified and ready for job hunting during the busy September period.

This atmosphere has also extended to a significant number of our clients who are holding training events during the normally quiet August period, ignoring the 'summer slowdown' and just getting on with the work. It doesn't appear that anyone has the time to take a break.

Certainly the Maven workload reflects this - we have so many pieces of work that we need to have ready for September when everyone is back to work that the next 6 weeks are going to fly by.

What is your experience of the summer this year - are things going to quiet down in the next 6 weeks, or are we all going to maintain our manic pace, with no let up on deadlines and the need to get on and deliver?

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Agile project management

I was going to post a thought leadership piece about closing projects but I have had so many requests for our new Quick Guide on Agile Project Management that I thought I would just post this up again for you all to access -

If you want to book the next course its on the 22nd August -

Monday, 11 July 2011

Chief Programme Officer

I was really interested to see an advert for a Chief Programme Officer in the Appointments section of the Sunday Times yesterday. This is still a rare event, but this job role is becoming better known and I think reflects the changes in how project and programme management is seen within organisations now.

In the last five years there has been a growing recognition that programmes and all the projects and change initiatives that they deliver are the mechanism for realising the strategic objectives of the organisation. This recognition is driving a change in the perception of the importance and relevance of those that manage these significant transformational change programmes.

At board level there are well understood processes for strategy formulation, backed up by lots of executive training in the models and theories of strategy including evaluating the environment, identifying target markets and setting quantitative targets.

Setting objectives and working out how they will be realised are very different disciplines. Who should be responsible for identifying what the organisation should do and how it should do it is not as clearly defined.

The board needs to ratify the decision on what programmes are required. However, the reporting lines between those who scope the programmes (programme managers) are not formally represented on the board. There is a gap that is usually filled by the CIO or COO, which is an imperfect situation.

Programmes are cross functional and to imply they sit within the remit of either of these directors is not strictly true. The remit of the programmes is transformational change, touching every part of the organisation and cannot be pigeon holed as either the responsibility of operations or IT.

By trying to funnel the responsibility for cross functional programmes into one functional reporting line the organisation creates a management structure that runs counter to the matrix management environment that it is asking its staff to embody.
Forward thinking organisations are now addressing this gap in their management hierarchies by creating the role of Business Transformation Director, Chief Programme Officer or Chief Projects Officer.

This role is a board level appointment that complements the more traditional CIO, CFO, COO roles by creating a ‘single version of the truth’ regarding the progress of all the change activities that are taking place, irrespective of the business function that is sponsoring them.

It is an important piece in the career path for those interested in a long term future in project and programme management. If you want to plan your career path, view this link for ideas on the different types of roles available:

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Popularity of business transformation

Continuing my theme, I was researching most popular project and programme management jobs currently being advertised in the market and the most common term amongst all the job adverts right now is business transformation. If you are looking for your next role, check your CV against the terms on my wordle diagram (the biggest words are the most popular), drawn from 50 job adverts posted this week for project and programme management roles earning over £40,000 per annum.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Business Transformation

I went to a meeting of the Change Management Institute on Tuesday night which included a presentation from Simon Moran, the Head of Process and Change at London Underground. imon described how over the last 6 years he had been building an internal capability for managing and effectively implementing change. Simon and his team support change initiatives by helping staff understand how people react to change, and providing them with a lifecycle model so that they can clearly see the steps that will take them from the current state to delivery of the change vision. I thought it was really interesting that London Underground have had this team in place for so long, because many organisations that Maven are working with are just beginning this journey. There is definitely a demand from organisations to get better at implementing change, and a realisation that this capability does not happen by accident. If you are facing a similar challenge, have a look at this Quick Guide for ideas on how to get started in managing change: If you are interested in formalising your knowledge about change management, have a look at this Quick Guide:

Monday, 27 June 2011

APM Qualifications

I regularly receive so many questions about the differences between PRINCE2 and the APMP that I have put together a couple of quick guides to these different sets of project management qualifications.

Pls share the links with any of your colleagues who are thinking about career development:

Our career development pages also provide guidance if you are checking which qualifications are right for you:

Thursday, 23 June 2011

I went to a meeting of the APM Portfolio Management SIG last night, where we discussed how to get portfolio management accepted into organisations. Go to this link for a summary of the discussion and ideas for how to implement portfolio management

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

I was in a department store last week and overheard a conversation between one of the sales assistants and her manager about career development. The sales assistant was expressing her desire to get on in the company, and was explaining the extra responsibilities that she had recently taken on and how she was enjoying the experience. Her manager replied that her enthusiasm was great, and that all she needed to do for her career was keep working hard as she was doing.

I was so annoyed I nearly interrupted her because I felt the managers advice was just plain wrong. I think staff development is a combination of hard work, continually increasing experience by taking on new work and studying for qualifications. Studying enables employees to stretch their own thinking about how best to perform their role, see links between their role and other parts of the organisation and identify how they can make a wider contribution and increase their career satisfaction.

I think the discipline of studying and gaining qualifications is so important that I don’t even think it always has to be directly relevant to the role that an employee is currently performing. Studying is about stretching the mind and developing an ability to analyse and process new information and draw conclusions. These are skills that are transferable in any role.

If this has prompted your own interest in gaining further qualifications, you might find the paper I have written about project, change, programme and risk qualifications of interest -

Let me know your thoughts

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Creating the right environment for change

So much of the work that I am currently doing is about transformational change - helping programme managers to define their programmes of transformational change, and helping to establish what needs to be in place for change to happen. One of the critical success factors to effective change is encouraging an environment that encourages everyone to participate and ensures that they are supported during the stress and difficulties of learning to do things differently. To summarise some of the most important criteria for this environment, I have written a new web page:

If you are interested in transformational change and are in London this week, come to my free briefing on Thursday afternoon -

Monday, 9 May 2011

Career development through business transformation

Business transformation is gaining momentum. As firms emerge from recession they are committing to radical change that meets the needs of a price sensitive market place which demands even higher levels of added value than was the case before 2008.

If you are in a project management role, business transformation is very relevant to your career development. Projects and programmes do not spontaneously occur in organisations. They are commissioned in response to the need for change. Not all projects will be part of a wider transformation agenda as some change will always be relatively small scale and contained within an individual department. However, with the increase in enterprise wide technology solutions (SAP, PeopleSoft etc) departments and functions do not operate independently of one another, so any change has a domino effect, impacting on the next process and team in the chain i.e. it is large-scale transformational change even if that were not the intention.

Business transformation aligns the organisations improvements in people (staffing levels, roles and responsibilities, training and development remuneration and reward), process and technology to the business strategy.

For me, business transformation brings together excellence in a number of critical management disciplines:
- Strategic and commercial understanding - appreciation of the customer, technology and regulatory environment and ability to conceive of changes that exploit opportunities in these offered as these environments evolve
- Change management - ability to plan and implement the required changes (
- Project management - ability to deliver new capability upon which the changes are based (
- Stakeholder engagement - ability to communicate the reasons and benefits for the changes in a compelling and exciting way, answering the question 'what's in it for me?'

This range of skills is reflected in the job specifications that recruitment agencies are posting under the heading of 'business transformation':
Strategic and commercial understanding
"Develop and implement strategies and solutions to meet organisational business goals and objectives."
"You will be the owner of the strategy space, defining the roadmap and blueprint of the strategic vision."
Change management
"The main purpose of this role is to act as the point of reference and centre of expertise in managing and implementing process improvement changes across the organisation."
Project management
"You will drive delivery via the application of strong project management processes, ensuring that requirements are analysed for their benefits, risks and costs and that project plans to deliver these requirements are clear and have the agreement of all their stakeholders."
Stakeholder engagement
"You will shape all communications and engage change champions across multiple business units to transition and embed the change to the new operating model."

If you want to find out more about this topic and you are in London on May 26th, come along to my free briefing where I will be looking at how to get started in change management

Thursday, 5 May 2011

New Quick Guides launched

I get so many questions about how to get started, either by those asked to manage a project for the first time, or those that have been given a change management assignment and are looking for clues about what to do first that I have created a couple of Quick Guides -

These guides are simple slide presentations that explain the basics, the most common mistakes and some solutions for avoiding the mistakes - I hope you find them useful, but as ever, I would love to hear your comments.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Planning the future

One long weekend gone, one to go! It might seem strange to be talking about work during what feels like a holiday week, but its a great time to think about the future, and that includes career planning.

As the head of a training company, I spend my time with senior managers who are responsible for succession planning across their teams, units and departments. One of the things I have noticed is that those they single out for additional training, inclusion on development programmes and for promotion are those that are already taking a very proactive approach to their own development. The irony is that those who don't search out training opportunities are often the ones left out. If you want to get ahead, either in your current organisation or up against the competition when applying elsewhere, make sure you have a good answer to the question "What do you do to develop your knowledge and skills?"

I have put together a short presentation explaining the basics of CPD - continual professional development. I hope you find it useful -

Monday, 4 April 2011

Today all the excitement in the office is about launching our new free briefing – “How effective is our approach to change management?”

It has been designed for people who want to find out:
-How to baseline your organisations readiness for change
-How to create a change management framework and apply it across your organisation
-What actions you can take now to improve how change is implemented in your organisation

For an informative session on effectively managing change, come and see us at 1.30pm on the 26th May at the Maven Centre, 8th Floor, Aldermary House, 10-15 Queen Street, London EC4N 1TX.

Monday, 28 March 2011

I was watching George Osborne deliver his budget speech on Wednesday, trying to be a super cool executive with my iPad propped up on my desk, happily multitasking by sorting my emails, updating a report, painting my nails and eating a cheese sandwich (that list is a powerful argument against open plan offices!)

Anyway, I was half listening/watching George at work and it reminded me of the worst type of project management meetings that I attend as a Project Sponsor. They are bad because the project manager delivers a speech, doesn't draw breath for my questions and tries to sum up each point with a sound bite as if he/she is being interviewed by Sky News.

If the project is being managed by a less experienced Project Manager then I have a degree of sympathy. Talking at someone is a sign of insecurity, not stopping for questions is driven by fear of not knowing the answers to the questions. When it's an experienced Project Manager I think it's a warning sign that they will rush through their presentation, never staying long enough on one topic for penetrating questions to be asked.

If this applies to you either as a Project Sponsor or a Project Manager my recommendations for a meaningful two way exchange of information, opinion and decisions are:

If you are the Project Manager:
- Give the progress report using milestone reporting - don't give a blow by blow account of every activity but concentrate on the results of that activity I.e. Milestones
- Keep your information factual and in a way that enables each piece of information to be compared. For example, report each milestone as on or over schedule, the reasons for this and what you are doing about it
- Check that there is agreement with your actions (don't forget that this is a chance to ask for advice and guidance)
- Identify when a milestone has been reached and closed off, in contrast to those milestones that are reached but in doing so have identified interdependencies and knock on effects to the next period of activity
- Check that there is agreement with your assessment of the interdependencies (again, don't be afraid to ask for guidance - use the experience of others to check your assumptions and your analysis of the situation)

If you are the Project Sponsor:
- Remember that aggression or impatience generally leads project managers to reduce the information they provide for fear of criticism
- Ask questions that enable you to ensure four outcomes:
o Understanding and agreement of the progress made so far
o Clear instructions on any rework or amendments that are required and the resourcing of these activities - are you prepared to delay other work in order to fix something, or will you authorize overtime, temporary staff etc?
o Agreement to the work proposed for the next period
o Clear instructions on any reductions or increases in expectations for this next period and their impact on resource plans
- Use your experience of other projects to give advice and guidance to the Project Manager

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Creating a compelling change story

At Maven we have a reputation for continually growing and changing and the number of new products and services that we create for our customers is high.

As we get ready to roll out a new accredited course in Management of Portfolios (MoP) I have been thinking how we ensure that all parts of the company hear the same message about this latest change.

Its my job as the sponsor for the MoP project to make sure everyone is excited and engaged with each launch that we do, and so this is the check list of points I use when creating a ‘change story’. I hope you find it useful, as ever, I welcome your comments:

Sense of urgency – why this change is needed now
 Describe the problems that the change will fix
 Explain the opportunities that can be exploited as a result of making the change
 Outline the risks if the change is not successfully implemented

Desirable outcomes – positive description of the result of the change
 How it feels to work for the organisation
 What type of work the organisation does
 How it is viewed by customers and suppliers
 The reputation it has with regulators and media

Impact – an acknowledgement of the scale of change
 List the biggest changes
 Identify those who will be impacted the most

Call to action – how employees can participate
 Brief description of key actions that senior management are taking
 Options for activities that employees can become involved in

Monday, 14 March 2011

Red Nose Day campaign

Just launched campaign have given the team red noses and deeley boppers to wear throughout the week. Bought the 'Giggler' which is a soft nose that laughs whenever its picked up - definitely going to drive us crazy by the end of the day, with a good chance its dropped out the window before Friday

Monday, 7 March 2011

Using change management to scope my project

I continue to write the new book on how project management needs to take the lead in managing change if projects are ever to realise their benefits. This week I am putting together a series of Mini Workshop Guides to help project managers address the key issues of change management including:

1. Understanding the context for the change i.e. seeing the bigger picture by asking how the change will contribute to strategic objectives, who is driving the change that the project will support, who are the likely winners and losers from these changes, how time sensitive is the delivery of the benefits from the change

2. Understanding the detailed changes that the project is supposed to bring about including changes to information used for a process, the process itself, the outputs including information used for the next process, the decisions that need to be taken, the reports that are produced etc, changes in the size and make up of the teams involved in the process, changes in the level of authority and reporting line for each team member

3. Understanding the communication that is required to ensure everyone is informed about the proposed changes and has a chance to comment on them and engage with them prior to the changes taking place

I am interested in how these 3 areas fit with the scoping and the requirements gathering that project managers are responsible for at the start of the programme, but also how this information needs to be reviewed and updated as the project progresses and how this can lead to requests for change.

What are the most important questions you ask before getting started on a project – do you ask about the bigger picture, do you get to know the winners and the likely losers before you plan the project? As ever, all comments and emails welcome.

Monday, 28 February 2011

How do I implement change?

Maven is getting ready to change its booking system over to a new learning management system. We have piloted it with a few of our courses, but we are now planning the full launch. As a company that trains change management courses I feel the pressure to get this change right, which I think means that no-one outside of the company notices any differences and it feels just like business as usual.

One guide I use when planning any change is the warning I was given by one of my first managers “people don’t leave their jobs, they leave their managers”. Although it’s the managers at Maven who have identified the need for the new system, decided the high level functionality and selected the supplier, everyone in the company will be using it. Failure by the management team to involve, engage and inspire people will lead to failure in the adoption of the system.

That’s why this week we are busy putting up posters with quotes from staff about why they think the system is going to make things easier, and why we are putting up a chart showing our progress through each of the baby steps we are taking between now and Easter to get the system up and running. Every time we achieve one of these tasks we cross it off this ‘journey planner’ as a visual guide to how close we are to success.

We are using the information we gained from a survey ( we did last week that asked everyone in the office to rate from low to high their level of annoyance with the current system, their level of excitement for the new system and their level of confidence with our ability to move to the new system. This generated lots of points from people which were very relevant to their jobs but which had not been fully appreciated by the project team – we will do this survey again before we go live so we can check out any more comments, concerns and ideas.

What do you do to make change feel real and exciting and in your office – as ever let me know your thoughts.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

MSP made easy?

Today I had to try and explain MSP to a group of senior managers who have no formal experience of Programme management - I say formal because anyone who has reached a senior position will have had experience of managing multiple initiatives and delivering strategic outcomes. Anyway, I was trying to explain how the structure of MSP can help make sure that any piece of work stays on track. By using the governance themes we have a ready made agenda for testing viability and progress. See below for my agenda for any decision point:

• Organisation – ensure that the roles, responsibilities of the programme remain fit for purpose (too many people involved, overly bureaucratic application of responsibilities stifles action and progress)
• Leadership and stakeholder engagement – ensure identification of stakeholders and their level of influence and the amount the programme is impacting them is current
• Vision – ensure that vision remains aligned to strategic objectives of the organisation and that nuances in drivers for change are communicated to the programme manager
• Blueprint – ensure that further details are added as more is known and that there is challenge of the blueprint in line with changes to the vision/strategic direction of the organisation. Ensure that current and next tranche of the blueprint continue to ‘make sense’
• Business case – ensure that analysis is reworked on the basis of changes to resources, duration of activities, risks and activities elsewhere in the organisation
• Benefits realisation – ensure expected benefits are challenged against changes to strategic objectives, drivers for change and programme progress. Ensure that measurements of ‘As Is’ have been recorded as evidence base for success of programme
• Planning – ensure alignment with other areas of the organisation including: Financial control, Resource planning and protocols for use of external resources
• Risk management and issue resolution – ensure that information from the programme is being escalated and communicated across the organisation and that impacts from other initiatives are being drawn into the programme (prevent programme becoming too internally focused)
• Quality management – ensure that quality processes are aligned with overall strategic direction

Monday, 14 February 2011

Change your location, change your motivation

As always I have too much work to do and not enough time to do it, and recently its got to a point where I go home after a really busy day, not having done anything on my To Do list – which is becoming such a size that its now a database rather than a list!
This week I hit a wall – too much doing X not enough thinking = no productive work!

So I took the advice of some of my learners on a recent Project Leadership course – remove yourself from your current environment, your location, the people you are with, the systems you are using. Change your physical perspective to change how you feel. By changing your perspective you break the negative cycle which in my case was being busy on all the wrong things because I could not see the wood for the trees.

Of course, being me I followed the advice to the max and booked myself into a hotel on Park Lane! But it definitely worked, a swim, some sleep, some room service and I got my motivation back and could take a more analytical approach to prioritising my work.

So what works for you – where do you go when you need to change your perspective? As ever, let me know, I love hearing from you.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

What can portfolio management do for you?

I have just attended the MoP launch which included two useful presentations from people who are applying portfolio management:

David Pitchford is the Executive Director of the Major Projects Directorate (Cabinet Office) and is responsible for creating the portfolio of major projects for the UK government. He started his presentation by explaining that in common with many organisations the UK government does not have a complete understanding of all the major projects planned or already underway. Different government departments run multiple projects and change initiatives and whilst some of these are already visible because of their impact on society or their political sensitivity/media interest there are many more that are not included in the wider view of everything that is happening.

From a cost saving perspective this is interesting because research shows that merely by forming a portfolio an organisation can expect an upfront cost saving of 20% to 30% by removing duplication and stopping low value initiatives.

David made a strong case for the benefits of establishing a portfolio and how this is essential in ensuring transparency of where money and effort are being spent.

Paul Hirst is Head of Project and Programme Management at HMRC. He explained how HMRC have completed the ground work for making portfolio management work. Part of their planning included the creation of a governance structure where responsibilities, levels of authority and relationships with other groups has been agreed, overseen by the Senior Responsible Owner who is also the Chief Executive (I cannot think of a more effective way of gaining senior management commitment to the portfolio that putting the CEO in charge).

Paul talked about the reality of the austerity measures and the need to cut as a result of strategic need and not sentiment. He was very clear that authorisation of each element of the portfolio will be driven by evidence based evaluation of project ideas and the era of ‘pet projects’ has ended. Whilst this might seem a threatening message for some, in common with David’s first speech, Paul believes that the transparency offered by portfolio management is an essential element of getting a grip on expenditure and is a strong force for good in any type of organisation.

If you are interested in finding out more about portfolio management download my free whitepaper or sign up for the Effective Portfolio Management Workshop on the 30th March

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Become a Registered Project Professional

Last night I went to a presentation by the APM about their new standard called the Registered Project Professional (RPP) which hopes to be the forerunner of the Chartered Project Professional (ChPP). RPP has been introduced because the APM are still waiting for their status as a chartered body to be awarded which they hope will be soon.

To become an RPP you will have to demonstrate the capabilities of a responsible leader, have the ability to manage a complex project and the ability to use appropriate tools, processes and techniques.

To demonstrate your capability you will need to evidence that you have knowledge and experience across 29 core competencies. This might sound like a lot but there are 47 competencies defined by the APM as important for effective project management!

To demonstrate your knowledge you will need to evidence the qualifications that you have in project management and related skills ensuring a breadth of coverage across all the areas. PRINCE2 alone does not provide this so if you have not yet upgraded your qualifications to include the APMP now is the time to do so - remember if you are a PRINCE2 practitioner then you can take the APMP with prior learning which takes 3 days instead of 5(

To demonstrate your experience you will need to put together a portfolio of evidence which is a brief description of how you have led and managed others in different project situations. I did say to the APM last night that I wished they had not called it a portfolio just when we are launching the new Management of Portfolio (MoP) course!

The total fees for becoming a Registered Project Professional are £595, paid in two parts, when you first submit your portfolio and again when you attend the interview to discuss your experience with 2 assessors, trained by the APM.

I spoke to several people who had undergone the application process during the RPP pilot and they all said that it was a really useful process for reviewing their career and helping them to identify all of their achievements. One of them also mentioned how rare it was to look back and really ask themselves ‘what bits didn’t I do so well, and how can I improve my approach?’

Tony Caccavone was one of the successful RPPs presented with his certificate last night, and he explained that it took about 35-40 hours to complete the portfolio of evidence and putting together the whole application. His approach was to ‘brain dump’ every project experience he could remember for the last few years, and then go back and assign the different examples to the different competencies. Tony has young children so he found it easier to come in early and stay late in the office to complete the application, but even then, it only took a few weeks, not a few months.

To maintain your status as an RPP you will have to commit to doing 35 hours of continual professional development each year but this is no different to the current recommendation from the APM for all of its members.

Applications for the RPP begin in early March, so I will be putting more information up about it then. Meanwhile, please post a quick comment to let me know whether you think it’s of interest as I am always keen to find out if what the professional associations are developing for us are really what we in the profession want/need.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Michael Porter (famous management guru – Porters 5 forces) has written an article in this months Harvard Business Review setting out how he believes companies should operate using long term value and not immediate profits as their goal.

Part of his argument is to stress the importance of the social value of an organisation i.e. what it offers its customers, the environment and the world around it. To me, social value is about the bigger picture, and how we are offering something more back to our customers i.e. added value.

As a company training company, our value is our specialist knowledge and all the tips, techniques and practical advice we offer to our learners. To me, social value is about how we make as much of this available to our economy as possible because ultimately, making things better is what drives everyone at Maven. We want to ensure that our clients improve their ability to manage projects, implement changes, control risks and deliver benefits.

That’s why we put so much effort into developing pre-course materials that allow you to prepare ahead of your course, so that when you are with us you are getting as much as you possibly can from the service you have paid for. We want to interact, to discuss your issues, and help you see them in the context of the best practice that’s available.

We believe that project management touches every area of our lives, and that if we improve the ability of everyone to deliver projects successfully then we are improving our environment. Ultimately, it’s this drive to pass on our knowledge (learned by making countless mistakes) that is the core of our value to you.

That’s why we make so much of our knowledge available to you – go and look at to see the free stuff that we regularly post for you to use. I hope it helps and keep the link close to hand as we are adding to it all the time. Or if you want to hear it first hand, come to my regular free briefing held every fortnight in London -

Monday, 17 January 2011

The future of project management...

Rather portentous title but I was at a lunch on Friday where part of my role was to explain where next for our industry. The imminent launch of the best practice guide for Management of Portfolios (MoP™) from OGC is leading us to question what happens next.

I think we are coming to the end of the development of best practice which dominated the last decade and a half, starting in 1996/1997 with the launch of PRINCE2, leading to the creation of guidance on risk management (MoR®) and Programme management (MSP®) and now finally MoP™.

I think that how best practice is applied and evidence of the improvements it creates has been a focus for several years and effective application of best management practice will continue to dominate the thoughts of those responsible for the operational management of our organisations. I am being specific about operational managers because I think there is still a distinction between these leaders and chief executives who operate strategic leadership, often in an unstructured way, but implicitly relying on the underlying management infrastructure, which is where best practice comes in.

I think organisational governance is growing in recognition and importance - probably becoming a senior management discipline for this decade.

Organisational governance has many definitions but I think it has two components - a structural/procedural piece and an interpersonal component which is the leadership ability of senior management to sell the benefits of applying the governance structure to everyone in the organisation, whatever their grade or length of service.

We need to explain how organisational governance is a key contributor to organisational excellence and how the best practice established at project (including technical and interpersonal skills), Programme (encompassing change and benefits management disciplines) and portfolio management (evidence based judgement and decision making) are interlinked.

I think this gives those of us involved in delivering projects and change initiatives plenty of scope for getting involved in shaping how our employers operate, and will ensure project management becomes embedded as a mainstream management discipline.

As always, let me know what you think, but if you want to want to know more, please go to or come and here me speak at one of my free briefings

Monday, 10 January 2011

Latest on MoP exams

Last Friday, along with 15 of my Maven colleagues, I sat the new Management of Portfolio (MoP) qualification. OGC are about a month away from launching their latest best practice management guide for identifying, prioritising and planning all the projects and programmes needed to achieve the organisations strategic objectives.

The guide will form the basis of a course and there will be a chance to sit a Foundation qualification and later in the year a Practitioner qualification. It is aimed at all those involved in the selection and delivery of business change initiatives including: members of management boards and Directors of Change; Senior Responsible Owners (SROs); portfolio, programme, project, business change and benefits managers.

Taking the exam reminded me how important it is that as trainers we repeat the instructions, help people stay calm and provide as much exam technique as possible to help people cope under these stressful situations.

I cannot believe how many mistakes I made on my application form, because although I thought I was really concentrating, a large part of my brain had gone into ‘panic mode’. The mistake that made my colleagues laugh the loudest was that I couldn’t even get my name right – I wrote my husbands name instead of mine!

Taking the exam itself was stressful as I never feel I can give as much time to each question as I want to, because I am worrying that I have not got enough time. I should have worked out how many minutes I had for each question and stuck to it which would have helped.

One thing that I do at the start of every exam that I do is to write a quick list on the question paper of the processes, or definitions or roles and responsibilities that I think I might need before I start answering questions. This reassures me that I do know what I am talking about and gives me something to check my answers against, particularly if I am starting to doubt the answer or it’s a sequence type answer where I need to get the information in the right order.

We won’t get our results until later this week, so wish me luck, and I hope it gives you some comfort to know that your trainer has suffered just as much exam stress as you are going through!