How many top priorities should you have?

Do you have 2 or 3 top priorities that appear to make sense, but in reality they often seem to conflict? How can you get real clarity? It isn’t easy, but it is straightforward 

Fig 1: checklist Image by evondue on Pixabay Licensed for commercial use

Follow the link to the article https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/how-many-top-priorities-should-you-have-hugo #projectmanagement#changemanagement#portfolio#strategyexecution

Doctor Book Scheme – Vitamin B12 deficiency in clinical practice

In order to promote the Doctor Book Scheme, I’ve put the following up on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/enough-energy-get-through-day-announcing-doctor-book-hugo/?published=t

Book cover (c) Hugo Minney

Vitamin B12 deficiency is widespread, but too many people don’t recognise it and it isn’t getting diagnosed or treated.

The B12d charity is offering to send copies of the book for free to any doctor or nurse in UK who requests a copy. If you aren’t a doctor or nurse then you can download it for free on www.b12d.org/book, or buy a copy from Amazon

Business intelligence – or business stupidity?

Artificial Intelligence – AI to its friends – is touted as the answer to everything.

Technology has always been seen as a “quick fix”. I can remember colleagues recording lectures on tape recorders, claiming they would “listen to them later”. Of course they never did, but there was the comfort blanket of knowing that you had the recording (although comfort blankets don’t help much at exam times).

AI certainly has its advantages. There are a huge number of things that AI can do, analyses that would be too expensive to do by any other means, self-driving cars that are 10* safer than human drivers (yes, I know a lot of human drivers …), optimisations that require every possible combination to be tried out which is almost impossible for a human.

But are there limitations? Have a look at my blog on www.thechangeconsultancy.co web site

Procuring for Benefits and Value – what happens

There are many situations where it’s better to work together, and the individual specific interest groups within a professional association are no exception.

Association for Project Management (APM – the Chartered body for the Project Management Profession) has 12 Specific Interest Groups, and two, Contracts & Procurement and Benefits & Value, worked closely to deliver a recent event in London.

You’ll find out more about it here: https://www.apm.org.uk/news/procuring-for-benefits-and-value/

APM Body of Knowledge v7 – First Impressions

APM Body of Knowledge 7th edition
APM BoK7 Cover (c) APM.org.uk used with permission

The Association for Project Management (APM)’s new Body of Knowledge published on 2 May 2019 is an exciting development.  On one hand, it’s much more readable than previous Body of Knowledge’s.  On the other, it’s no longer designed to dip into – it’s a “read start-to-finish” kind of document.

Purchase from: https://www.apm.org.uk/book-shop/apm-body-of-knowledge-7th-edition/ (permission APM)

Is this an improvement or not?  I give my first impressions below, what do you think?

Readability

Project Management is about making a whole lot of things happen at the same time, whilst keeping control of all of them.  It makes sense to take the reader through the process from start to finish, and that is the approach followed here.  The chapters are: Setting up for success, Preparing for change, People and behaviours, and Planning and managing deployment.  That’s a logical progression through the options, choices, preparation and activities required to run a successful project.

Some sections may seem irrelevant to the project manager tasked with delivering a specific aspect of the project; but that was never what the Body of Knowledge (or any Body of Knowledge) is aimed at.  The project sponsor needs to understand how project management works, in order to sponsor correctly.  A junior project manager probably wants to understand project management more broadly so as to contribute and lay the groundwork for more responsibility in their next deployment.  An experienced project manager wants a quick catch-up with the state of project management in the second and third decades of the 21st century.  That’s (every one of these people) who this document is aimed at.

Style and consistency

The book is very pleasant to open – it follows a STOP (Sequential Thematic Organisation of Publications) approach, with each subject introduced by a page of text, a half page illustration, and a half page more text.

photo by author (Hugo Minney) used with permission of APM

Each chapter begins with who will benefit, and explains how the chapter is laid out.  This means that it’s easy to follow, and easy to remember what you read.  There are few examples or case studies, but the authors have listed Further Reading which includes both the relevant APM Specific Interest Group publications giving more detail in each topic, and where to find case studies.  Further Reading is where it needs to be, section by section.

On the whole, it reads with the smooth professionalism of business books written by seasoned writers.  The fact that it leaves you wanting to find out more is a good thing – if it didn’t build some sort of desire, you’d go away thinking that you know far more than you in fact do.

Level of Professionalism

The Body of Knowledge 7 makes the assumption that you may have no prior knowledge, but that you are quick to understand.  If you already know all about Project Management, then you’ll appreciate the clear definitions and rapid progression into the meat and bones.  If you have gaps in your knowledge (whether you have identified them or not), then it completes the jigsaw puzzle.  Even if you are a complete beginner, the Body of Knowledge will give you the skeleton or foundation on which to build your knowledge further.  This makes it a good book for Board Members and Students alike. 

It explains about practical activities such as contracting and time management, which project managers always need to be aware of.  The book feels like a friend, guiding rather than patronising, and even with many years of experience I didn’t begrudge the time taken to read through parts that I think I understand already.

Structure drawn by author (Hugo Minney), (c) donated to APM

No book is a substitute for training and experience, but this book certainly gets a new project manager a long way, and for the experienced project manager or board member, it rounds out their knowledge if they have always focused on one area more than others, and of course more in Table of Contents and Index.

Forward thinking

As chair of the Benefits and Value specific interest group, I was specifically looking for mentions of “benefits”.  There are 243 (excluding book titles and the mention of our specific interest group) in the body of the document which has 208 pages of text.

Benefits and value are woven throughout project management.  The need for a project is defined by the need to achieve benefits, whether the benefit is to solve a problem or take advantage of an opportunity.  Rightly (in my opinion), it only takes until the third sentence of page 1 to emphasise “beneficial organisational change”.  This is in keeping with our thought leadership, that benefits management is key to problem definition which precedes project definition, and that benefits planning, discovery, and realisation and value optimisation carry on right the way through to benefits realisation management after the project has been handed over to users.  As well as Benefits, Value gets 187 mentions and Benefits realisation (including the above 243) 42 mentions, and Data analysis gets one mention.

The Body of Knowledge weaves the other key principles through the whole of project management: change, risk, governance, professionalism, communication, and so on.  That’s absolutely right.  It puts the emphasis where it should be – that the project manager has a lot to keep track of and manage.  The project manager needs to remain constantly aware of the business, and ensure that what will be handed over to users is fit for purpose. 

Conclusion

All in all, I think APM can consider it a success.  Any Body of Knowledge tries to be All things to All people, and that’s impossible.  But people new to project management can get a foundation, a skeleton to hang their future learning on, in a matter of hours by reading the Body of Knowledge from front to back.  Its style will appeal to senior management and board members who find themselves managing or sponsoring projects without formal training.  For experienced project managers, it still has a lot to offer, as it brings the principles up to date in an easy-read format.

Hugo Minney declares an interest, is co-chair of APM’s Benefits and Value Specific Interest Group (SIG). Hugo was lead author on the Benefits Management section of BoK6 in 2012.

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
https://www.apm.org.uk/blog/an-age-of-benefits-and-value-management/ 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 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Red_square_Moscow_cityscape_(8309148721).jpg

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:
https://www.apm.org.uk/event/procurement-for-benefits-and-value/ . 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 https://www.apm.org.uk/event/benefits-management-can-we-fix-it-yes-we-can/

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

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! https://www.apm.org.uk/event/benefits-management-can-we-fix-it-yes-we-can/ 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 https://www.apm.org.uk/event/benefits-management-can-we-fix-it-yes-we-can/. 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: