Project Management in Practice

Beyond the alphabet soup of PRINCE2, MSP, MoP, PMBOK, ITIL, Agile

Building capability in organisations


My personal reflection time during the week is on Saturday mornings, when I take my children to the local swimming pool for lessons. I was looking at the pool this week, with children of various abilities learning to swim – all in separate lanes. I recalled how my children had gone through the grades. It occured to me that building capability in organisations is an identical process. If you try to go to the quick lane before existing skills are bedded in, you will sink.

Business Change

I have been in the process of delivering a geospatial capability improvement plan for a company in the energy sector. This organisation had expressed a view that it wanted to get the process under way immediately. However, our assessment based on stakeholder feedback and existing capability, indicated the organisation had a low change appetite. This conclusion was accepted by the stakeholders.

As a result, we recommended a multi-phase approach with the first phase centralising disparate systems and processes, a following phase increasing awareness by integration with other business systems and a mature phase looking at bespoke capability for high return on investment analyses. It is however the final phase capabilities that the management is most keen on. In this instance we have been very fortunate to have successfully achieved by in from the stakeholders on the phased approach.

Getting to mature capability from little or no capability is not something that can be achieved successfully. The first two phases and the time it takes to bed those capabilities in are like teaching the children to breath under water and float, before they can be taught the various strokes. Before getting to lane 8, you need to have mastered lanes 1 through 7. Without this you will be swimming upstream – forgive the pun.

Beware trying to deliver the desired future state in one go. Be prepared to go through intermediate states if necessary. Success is not what cool applications the project delivers, it is what business advantages the organisation can achieve through those.

Image Credit: ChinoHills.Com

One response to “Building capability in organisations

  1. Adam September 29, 2012 at 7:22 pm

    Excellent article. I can totally relate and agree with the principle. I myself am implementing a PMO into a company that has a project based environment but treats it as BAU. There was significant resistance to the change from certain key members of staff on the ground so we have chosen a phased approach to reduce the risk of a failed implementation.

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