Project Management in Practice

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

Tag Archives: programme

How do I break down silos?

I have been reflecting a on a programme of change we had delivered to a client last year. The organisation had traditionally operated in divisional silos, where each department had competing interests in various operational matters. It was an immensely successful project, winning international awards for both us and our client. I have been trying to reconcile in my mind what went well and what could have been done better. One realisation that hits me on the face is that it is people who make programmes a success or failure, not technology, or ingenuity.

The first ingredient I see for success in any change programme is to have someone with a vision. This needs to be within the organisation where change is taking place. Without this key ingredient any change programme will not succeed. Vision from the outside consultants will never succeed unless an internal champion exists to advocate for it. Vision on its own is not sufficient. You
need a sympathetic ear from someone who can yield a reasonable stick. Time will come when you need someone to bang some heads together to make sure people follow the strategic direction desired by the organisation.

Any significant change programme takes a significant amount of communication, some negotiation, elements of compromise. Then again compromises cannot be about the strategic direction, more about in approaches to get there. You also need to make sure that in search of a better future, you do not compromise the business today. This is always a delicate balance to strike. Breaking down silos and getting people to communicate is the key. How do you do that?

Change by nature is a threat to people. Different people approach this threat in different ways. Getting the first few on board is always the most difficult in a change programme. One thing to remember is that some people will be against the change regardless how you approach it. There will be another group who are ready to be swayed for or against the change. The key is to ensure you focus on getting the fence sitters on your side and find a way to neutralise the active opposers.

The way we approached this task in the programme was to set small targets. We chose to consult widely, but only integrate the systems of two departments that were most enthusiastic about the programme. We ensured technical representation from all the departments and word started filtering out that the programme had a more than even chance of succeeding. It was much easier to bring other departments in the fold.

Regardless of how much momentum you build at any stage of the programme, there always comes a stage when the pace slows somewhat. You need to keep an active vigil for any signs of stagnation. Changes are difficult to implement. If things get too hard, people will go back to old habits. Measure your success as you go and distribute your success story. It builds buy-in from others and keeps morale high for those already converted.

When changes take hold, take the old tools away. It will prevent going back to the old ways.


Can you manage all projects through PRINCE2 or Agile?

Christchurch Quake Map

I have been an avid advocate for PRINCE2 as the project management methodology with agile practices incorporated to deliver the specialised products of the project (software, hardware, service etc.). I have recently been working with the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA) to provide geospatial support required for evidence based decision making as it charts a course for a difficult journey to bring Christchurch city and the Canterbury region as a whole back on its feet. This has led me to ask if PRINCE2 or agile methodologies can be used to deliver a project of this nature.

Let us review the fundamental tenets of the two methodologies. The key to PRINCE2 is the management structure of the organisation. Here I refer to the project management structure with the Senior User representatives as the organisation, rather than the entity which the project is being conducted for. In a state of emergency or its aftermath, most of the staff in CERA are seconded from other government agencies. They are so busy keeping the ‘lights on’ in their existing roles, having an effective Senior User group becomes virtually impossible.

Agile too requires participation of the stakeholders. It is assumed the users have the ability to help plan, prioritise the product backlog and provide timely feedback of stories in progress. Many of the staff simply do not have the time luxury to do justice to that. They are not only involved in the recovery of the region, but also their individual lives. Priorities also change from day to day. While some may argue this is ideal for agile delivery, there is a limit to agility. The fine line between agility and chaos is crossed more often than not.

A factor that has impact on both methodologies is the fact that most data owners are outside CERA and the service provider. Data is owned by the city and regional regulatory authorities, engineering companies assessing the damage. While there are some powers that CERA can use to ensure data requests, it becomes a futile exercise brandishing big guns to achieve small gains. What is required is more of people (or organisation) management to ensure high morale and a sense of accomplishment together.

The key to success here is programme management ahead of time. It is key to have a Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI) where the various agencies can find and harvest data. Encouragement needs to be provided to ensure participation is seen as beneficial to all parties. There is always apprehension about data quality and the likelihood of others discovering those errors. Rather than having those as barriers to participation, it needs to be seen as opportunities to improve data quality through feedback.

When not in emergency, it may seem there is little benefit to undertaking such a programme. Benefits of the programme needs to be judged not on what it is achieving in the existing business processes of the organisations, rather the opportunity costs of not having knowledge or access to the data to undertake more accurate analysis or create additional products. In times of emergency this becomes the information backbone of recovery efforts and policy decision making. This has to be managed as a programme, not a project.

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