Complementary Disciplines: Communication and Benefits

Sharp-eyed readers may notice that I specialise in creating Value, through benefits. This means creating improvement in individuals, in organisations, and in projects.

I don’t think it’s a secret that all improvement requires change. But not all change leads to improvement.

Making change happen is, however, vital. Making change happen requires communication. Here’s a blog on CHANGE (the Change Consultancy) that I wrote this week that might be of interest:

An Age of Benefits and Value Management?

Project Management is an ancient profession – we can certainly trace it over 1,000 years, although project managers would have been called “Administrators”, or “Architects”. Project Management as a discipline goes back at least 100 years, as does the Iron Triangle.

I argue on the APM (Association for Project Management) website that Project Management has lost its way recently, and we need to refocus.

Procurement for Benefits and Value

When you are contracting to buy, what are you hoping to buy? The specific thing you asked for? Or would you like a bit of innovation? And how can you help your prospective suppliers to innovate in ways that add value?

Valerii Tkachenko [CC BY 2.0 (]

Ideally, you need a way to tell your prospective suppliers what the solution Must have, Should have, Could have and definitely Won’t have (MoSCoW).

But there are contractual implications.

To discuss this, APM (Association for Project Management) has arranged a workshop in London to discuss exactly this. Book here: . Please remember to book.

I look forward to seeing you there!

Benefits Management – still a success story

Benefits management has got a bad name. I’ll go into the reasons for this later. But it isn’t terminal, and I’m presenting a workshop on the subject in the very lovely Durham University Business School on 23rd May 6pm. Book here

Durham University Business School from the quadrangle - courtesy DUR.AC.UK
Durham University Business School – courtesy of

What’s the problem with Benefits Management?

Benefits Management (BM), or Benefits Realisation Management (BRM), have been used to justify projects after the event. Someone with a strong personality gets a decision to proceed, sometimes bypassing the gateways and robust business cases normally needed. Then the luckless person assigned the title “benefits manager” gets told to find enough benefits to justify the costs of the project. To make it Value for Money.

Even the name Benefits Realisation Management (or Benefits Realization Management, since it’s defined by the PMI (Project Management Institute)) gives the game away – the benefits were named by someone else, and the BR Manager is given the job of realising them somehow. Not-very-useful things get given a suit and tie, and presented as “benefits”.

How do we fix it?

Well, come along to the workshop, of course! at Durham University Business School, Mill Hill Lane, Durham, DH1 3LB

Basically, start at a different starting point.

  1. the big benefit for any project is WHY? (or Y?). What’s the problem you are trying to solve (reducing costs, improving the economy, a regulation change)? Or is it an opportunity you want to take advantage of (getting into a new market, launching a new product)?
  2. Use Benefits Management to define the problem (or opportunity – the process is exactly the same), and only once you have defined the problem, have a look at possible solutions, some of which may be projects
  3. To build a business case, define a set of planned benefits, and quantify them. Do the expected (planned) benefits, including the big Y benefit, justify the business case? Do they represent VALUE ie more benefits than costs/ investment of other sorts? You may need to convert “soft” benefits (customer retention, employee satisfaction, Intellectual Property) into cash value equivalent. You may need to convert investment value into cash value equivalent as well!
  4. Do your project. At all stages, Benefits Management plays a part – instead of trying to get to the next milestone by keeping within tolerance, think “how can I maximise value?” You’ll find that benefits multiply when you take this approach.
  5. Finally, after handing the solution over to users, THAT’s when you realise benefits. You may even find a whole lot more benefits that you hadn’t even thought of before – make sure that the users exploit the additional benefits to get real value for the investment, and it’s also quite motivating.
APM Association for Project Management - Benefits and Value SIG logo
APM Association for Project Management - North East branch logo

I look forward to seeing everyone at It’s a joint event between the Benefits and Value SIG and North East Branch.

“We have to change – where do we start?”

Does this sound familiar? In my experience, many organisations get the wrong results because they make the wrong changes because they don’t make a proper diagnosis.

Some companies (you know who you are!) point the finger of blame in completely the wrong place – for example terminating any root cause analysis that may criticise senior management.

I’ve put some thoughts over here on the Change Consultancy website, and would be interested in your feedback:

High Speed links between airports

Originally published 7th July 2013.

Bringing jobs to the North East, to the English Regions, to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, is going to take a bit of imagination. Our focus needs to be on infrastructure, on creating links with the rest of the world and on demonstrating that the United Kingdom is, in fact, United.

This can be done with Infrastructure – high speed rail links linking not the cities, but the airports.  So a commercial traveler passing through can stop in two airports (one for arrival, another for departure) and talk to two lots of suppliers or importers, and the jobs will follow those conversations.

An app on my smartphone shows the way.

England with aeroplanes
FlightRadar Screenshot of aircraft over England on Sunday noon (c) Hugo Minney

Look at this picture of air travel, Sunday at noon, taken from the screen of my Android smartphone.  The London air space is pretty crowded – and this is a weekend!  Building another runway, or even another airport, isn’t going to help London’s air space.

Notice also the flights to and from other airports within UK.  They take up around half of Heathrow’s capacity – in other words, we could nearly double Heathrow’s capacity for international flights by moving the high speed links between UK’s airports to ground level.

Why is it important?  Well if you are flying in from North America to speak to clients in Europe, you often stop over for a couple of hours in Heathrow or Gatwick to talk to potential clients or suppliers on your way past – no moment wasted!  The size of the business parks and industrial estates for both of these airports bear witness to this.

What if you could fly in to Newcastle, speak to potential suppliers and clients there; then take the shuttle to Heathrow, speak to more key contacts there, before carrying on to your final destination in Europe?

That’s why I’d like to see high speed rail links between our MAJOR AIRPORTS.

Not between the major cities, where there are all sorts of problems building the final mile through city, and where there are inevitable arguments how many places it stops along the way – but from one airport to the other, making use of the airport-city links that each major airport has.  Heathrow to Leeds-Bradford.  Leeds-Bradford to Newcastle.  Newcastle to Edinburgh.  Edinburgh to Aberdeen.  Newcastle to Heathrow in under 2 hours (getting close to the amount of time it takes to change terminals at London Heathrow), with only one stop on the way.  Perhaps even carriages which are Air Side?

How much would these links cost?  To tell the truth, I don’t know.  But I bet it’s on a par with the cost of another runway at Heathrow, and certainly less than Boris Island, to run the high speed link up the East Coast.  Heathrow already has links with London – Paddington Express for West London, Picadilly Line for Central London.  Leeds-Bradford airport already has high speed links to its local cities.  Newcastle, Edinburgh, the infrastructure to get from city to airport are already in place.  We might need some new high speed links between local airports, say Glasgow and Edinburgh, Newcastle and Durham/Tees Valley, when the idea catches on.

How much would we get back?  Well BAA (British Airports Authority Limited, in turn owned by the Spanish group Ferrovial) might lose out, as all of those domestic flights don’t need to pay landing charges, so they might object.  Boris and the South East might object to the number of jobs being created in the rest of the country, because they might reduce the monopoly that London has on high paying jobs.  But the regions would benefit handsomely.

An investment to create jobs

UK with rail links joining airports
High speed rail links between airports will save air traffic and pollution, and be low cost

International business travelers, landing at one airport and departing from another, would generate masses more business locally.  Of course the airports would be busier and generate more income (including income from business lounges where our intrepid travelers met the potential suppliers and customers).  But the key increase in wealth would come from the extra links between businesses internationally, the increased opportunities to buy and sell, to import and export, to collaborate creatively and create wealth, and with the wealth creation, to create jobs.

At the moment, many of the England Regions, and three of the four nations that make up the United Kingdom, are heavily dependent on public money, on public jobs.  This is because many of the commercial jobs are concentrated in the south east.  Even though manufacturing is out here in the regions, the bits that make a profit are the companies that import and export, or the head offices of these big manufacturing companies.  And they are in the majority in the South East – because the transport links to suppliers and to customers (international) are in the South East.

This investment will create jobs.  And that’s what we want?  Yes, that’s what we want.  I want to make the North East great again, as great as it was when the North East of England exported gospels and scriptural teaching to the whole world; as it was when we exported wool to the whole world; when British inventions and British industry was known worldwide; when we built the best ships; and we can be great again. Of course the exports will be new, but it will be great.

If I were running the country, what would I do?  Well, I’d create more jobs, and more jobs in the regions, for a start.

Originally published 7th July 2013.  Revised 16 February 2014.

The business case for HS2 continues to show poor ROI, with a benefits approach that attempts to create “benefits” for a political decision.