Project Governance and Controls Symposium (PGCS) Canberra

Four years ago I was looking for a name to describe the governance and controls ‘conference’ we were intending to spin out of the PMOZ conference.  There appeared to be a real opening for a ‘focused event’ looking at the mutual interdependence and almost symbiotic relationship between governance and project controls, and Canberra seemed to be the ideal location.

The synthesis between good governance and effective controls is obvious, if not well understood or implemented:

  • Project controls cannot operate effectively without the protection of senior management. Frank and fearless reporting of status and issues cannot be assumed if the middle levels of management have the capability to restrict negative information.
  • Conversely, executive management decisions depend on accurate and realistic assessments of risk, schedule and cost. Creating a culture where this type of information is not only available but accepted and used properly is the key governance issue within the project, program and portfolio domain.

Finding a name was a different challenge….

The first bit was easy if the KISS principle is applied.  ‘Project governance and controls’ – we knew the program was intended to cover a lot more than just ‘projects’; at a minimum, programs, portfolios, benefits realisation and change management were in the mix but can all fit under the general umbrella of ‘projects’.

More challenging was deciding on what type of event we wanted and therefore what name to use……   Symposium is a slightly old fashioned word but it has a long history and a quite specific meaning that fitted perfectly with the type of event we were planning.

The modern definitions are a good starting point:

  • A formal conference or meeting at which several specialists deliver short addresses on a topic or on related topics or a collection of essays or papers on a particular subject by a number of contributors. Fits perfectly, we have a clearly defined topic, internationally recognised experts, and after May, will have most of the presentations from the last four symposia indexed and freely available on our website.
  • A social gathering at which there is a free interchange of ideas or a convivial discussion. One of the key elements in the PGCS design is facilitating the exchange of ideas both within Australia and with the wider international community.

The origins of the term are slightly less focused on knowledge transfer and learning.   Symposium originally referred to a drinking party or convivial discussion, especially as held in ancient Greece after a banquet (and notable as the title of a work by Plato).

Symposium

Certainly in the late 16th century a ‘symposium’ denoting a drinking party: via Latin

  • from Greek sumposion, from sumpotēs ‘fellow drinker’,
  • from sun- ‘together’ + potēs  ‘drinker’.

The annual PGCS reception at the ADFA Officers Mess fits here although we do expect professional behaviour. The reception flows on from the conclusion of day one’s formal presentations – the hot topic for discussion this year should be the ‘One Defence’ presentation by Ms. Roxanne Kelley, accompanied by Air Vice Marshal Neil Hart.

After the reception, here is plenty of time for visitors to Canberra (not to mention locals) to move ‘down town’ and enjoy one of the many excellent restaurants in Civic or further afield. Whilst not a formal part of the conference, I can recall a number of memorable evenings for the first three years and I’m looking forward to what eventuates this year…… (but reporting on attempts, if any, to emulate the ‘Ancient Greek’ version of ‘symposium’ is proscribed by Chatham House Rules).

Certainly the three events to date have lived up to the modern concept of a ‘symposium’ and have demonstrated that both ‘governance’ and ‘controls’ can be usefully discussed in a convivial atmosphere.

It’s not too late to sign up for the next PGCS, hosted by Platinum Sponsors, UNSW Canberra; the symposium will be held at the Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA) on the 6th and 7th May, more information see: http://www.pgcs.org.au/

New Articles posted to the Web #24

BeaverWe have been busy beavers updating the PM Knowledge Index on our website with White Papers and Articles.   Some of the more interesting uploaded during the last couple of weeks include:

And we continue to tweet a free PMI style of exam question every day for PMP, CAPM and PMI-SP candidates: See today’s question and then click through for the answer and the Q&As from last week.

You are welcome to download and use the information under our Creative Commons licence

History of PM in Australia

Lessons-from-HistoryI’m pleased to announce the publication of the AIPM web portal outlining the history of project management in Australia and the Australian Institute of Project Management (AIPM). Hopefully the site, as launched today, will be the foundation for developing a comprehensive ‘living source’ of information on our history and the on-going development of AIPM and the project management profession.

I was able to contribute to this initiative in two ways, firstly Mosaic was one of the commercial sponsors who helped fund this important work, secondly after the passing of my friend, and inveterate hoarder, Brian Doyle, several years ago I inhered a large box of old paperwork stored by Brian over the decades (on the basis I have an abiding interest in the history of project management).

Once I was aware of the AIPM history project, a careful sorting of the papers uncovered many original documents from Brian’s time as the Founding Secretary of the then PMF (now AIPM).  I’m pleased to say these papers are now part of the AIPM archive.

Why does this matter??  My belief is no practice can evolve into a well rounded profession without a good understanding of its origins and development. Project Management is starting to emerge as a distinct profession and being aware of our history and the development of ‘modern project management’ is a key underpinning of that journey towards becoming a fully recognised profession, supported by a distinct academic discipline.

My hope is the other major institutions world-wide such as the APM (UK) and PMI (USA) follow suite and not only record their history and make it easily available, but also establish proper archives so these documents and interviews are retained for use by future researchers.

History is always an interpretation of information – current interpretations (including mine) are always subject to review and challenge and having access to first hand accounts and original documents will enable this process to continue into the future.

The AIPM’s newly minted web portal is at https://www.aipm.com.au/resources/history-of-pm-in-australia

My contributions towards documenting the broader sweep of project, and project controls, history is at: http://www.mosaicprojects.com.au/PM-History.html

Making Projects Work: Effective stakeholder and communication management

Making Projects WorkMy third book, Making Projects Work is now generally available in hardback and Kindle editions.

Making Projects Work: Effective Stakeholder and Communication Management focuses on the skills needed by project management teams to gather and maintain the support needed from stakeholders to make their project successful.

The underlying premise in the book is that projects are performed by people for people. The key determinants of success are the relationships between people in the project team and between the team and its wider community of stakeholders. This web of relationships will either enable or obstruct the flow of information between people and, as a consequence, will largely determine project success or failure.

Making Projects Work provides a framework for understanding and managing the factors required for achieving successful project and program outcomes. It presents guidelines to help readers develop an understanding of governance and its connection to strategy as the starting point for deciding what work needs to be done. It describes how to craft appropriate communication strategies for developing and maintaining successful relationships with stakeholders. It highlights the strengths and weaknesses of existing project controls and outlines effective communication techniques for managing expectations and acquiring the support required to deliver successful projects on time and under budget.

Features – the book:

  • Provides a framework for understanding and managing factors essential for achieving successful project and program outcomes.
  • Facilitates an understanding of governance and its connection to strategy as the starting point for decisions on what work needs to be done.
  • Describes how to craft appropriate communication strategies to develop and maintain successful relationships with stakeholders.
  • Supplies an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of existing project controls.
  • Outlines effective communication techniques for managing perceptions and expectations and to acquire the support necessary for successful delivery.

For links to more information on this, and my other two books, start at: http://www.stakeholdermapping.com/stakeholder-management-resources/#Books

One Defence – A Governance and Controls Perspective

The report of the First Principles Review Team into the workings of the Australian Defence Department and the Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO) will be a hot topic of discussion at the upcoming Project Governance and Controls Symposium (PGCS) in Canberra next month.

The report found that a holistic, fully integrated One Defence system is essential if Defence is to deliver on its mission in the most effective and efficient way.  The major consequence of the reports recommendation to ‘Establish a single end-to-end capability development function within the Department to maximise the efficient, effective and professional delivery of military capability’; is the decision to disband DMO and integrate procurement back into the main functions of the Department. All but one of the reports 70 recommendations have been accepted by Government [Download the report].

Three aspects of the report closely align with the objectives of the PGCS.

First, at the macro level, the report recommends ‘Ensure committed people with the right skills are in appropriate jobs to create the One Defence workforce’ one of the key objectives of PGCS is to bring knew knowledge and research to the governance and controls community.

Second, the need for effective controls systems was simply seen as a ‘given’.

finally, at a more specific level, many of the report findings suggest there is a singular lack of effective governance and controls within the DMO procurement processes. Effective governance and controls is not measured by the quantity of processes, procedures and committees, but by the effectiveness of the project and programs being governed and controlled in meeting their objectives.

The reported need for acquisition teams to comply with over 10,000 Defence Materiel Organisation specific policies and procedures which include 35 policy and procedure artefacts totalling around 12,500 pages on procurement processes and controls is appallingly bad governance.  The consequence of this paper mountain is that the average government submission is 70 pages long, takes 16 weeks to move through the Cabinet preparation process and an average of 46 months to progress from first pass initiation through to second pass approval.  The result is slow delivery, high cost and inefficient procurement.

Add to this around 200 active committees in the organisation and lack of clear responsibility and reporting lines completes the picture of an organisation that has spent decades adding more processes, procedures, committees and check points to ‘all future projects’ every time an issue occurred in one project – one size does not ‘fit all’ and adding process never prevents the occurrence of other issues.

The proposed business model will go a long way to eliminating many of these unnecessary checks and reviews.

OneDefence

The essence of good governance is to have the right balance of checks and reviews supported by reliable information from an effective controls system, customised to meet the needs of different sizes and types of project and program. This statement has a number of key components:

  • Reliable information also requires a clear understanding or the inevitable risk and variability inherent in every forward estimate – there is no such thing as a certain estimate.
  • The governance system and the organisation’s ‘governors’ need to actively support this controls infrastructure and protect it from the inevitable attacks.

The objective of the PGCS is to develop the linkage between governance and controls.  Many of these capabilities have been developed within the UK government including its ‘Major Projects Authority’ and the successful approach used to develop Cross Rail, the London Olympics and two new mega projects, Thames Tideway and the HS2 railway from London to the ‘North’.  We can learn a lot from the UK experience.

One of the PGCS keynote speakers is Steve Wake, Chairman of the Board of the Association for Project Management (APM) in the United Kingdom. His presentation is focused on the status of project management and project governance and controls from an international and British perspective.

If you want to join us and be part of the discussion now is a good time to book your place at the PGCS, full details are on the website at: http://www.pgcs.org.au/

I will be posting more on the lessons from the One Defence later.

New Articles posted to the Web #23

BeaverWe have been busy beavers updating the PM Knowledge Index on our website with White Papers and Articles.   Some of the more interesting uploaded during the last couple of weeks include:

And we continue to tweet a free PMI style of exam question every day for PMP, CAPM and PMI-SP candidates: See today’s question and then click through for the answer and the Q&As from last week.

You are welcome to download and use the information under our Creative Commons licence

For Stakeholders, 2×2 Is Not Enough!

The world loves 2×2 matrices – they help make complex issues appear simple.  Unfortunately though, some complex issues are complex and need far more information to support effective decision making and action.  The apparent elegance of a 2×2 view or the world quickly moves from simple to simplistic.

One such situation is managing project and program stakeholders and convincing the stakeholders affected by the resulting organisational change that change is necessary and potentially beneficial.  As a starting point, some stakeholders will be unique to either the project, the overarching program or the organisational change; others will be stakeholders in all three aspects, and their attitude towards one will be influenced by their experiences in another (or what others in their network tell them about ‘the other’).

The problem with a simple 2×2 view of this complex world is the assumption that everyone falls neatly into one of the four options and everyone categorised as belonging in a quadrant can be managed the same way.  A typical example is:

power-interest

Power tends to be one dimension, and can usually be assessed effectively, the second dimension can include Interest, Influence, or Impact none of which are particularly easy to classify.  A third dimension can be included for very small numbers of stakeholders by colouring the ‘dots’ typically to show either importance or attitude.

The problem is you may have a stakeholder assessed as high power, low interest who opposes your work, who you need to be actively engaged and supportive – ‘keep satisfied’ is a completely inappropriate management strategy.

The Salience Model developed by Mitchell, Agle, and Wood. (1997) introduces the concepts of urgency and legitimacy.

Salience

Urgency refers to the degree of effort the stakeholder is expected to expend in creating or defending its ‘stake’ in the project, this is an important concept!  However the concepts of ‘legitimate stakeholders’ and non-stakeholders are inconsistent with stakeholder theory[1] and PMI’s definition of a stakeholder – anyone who believes your project will affect their interests can make themselves a stakeholder (even if their perception is incorrect) and will need managing.  This model also ignores the key dimension of supportive / antagonistic.

The three dimensional Stakeholder Cube is a more sophisticated development of the simple 2×2 chart. The methodology supports the mapping of stakeholders’:

  • Interest (active or passive);
  • Power (influential or insignificant); and
  • Attitude (backer or blocker).

Ruth_MW

This approach facilitates the development of eight typologies with suggestions on the optimum approach to managing each class of stakeholder (Murray-Webster and Simon, 2008[2]). However, the nature of the chart makes it difficult to draw specific stakeholders in the grid, or show any relationships between stakeholders and the activity. However, as with any of the other approached discussed so far, the classifications can be used to categorise the stakeholders in a spreadsheet or database and most of the key dimensions needed for effective management are present in this model. The two missing elements are any form of prioritisation (to focus effort where it is most needed) and the key question ‘Is the stakeholder in the right place?’ is not answered.

Information needed for a full assessment

The factors needed for effective stakeholder management fall into two general categories, firstly the information you need to prioritise your stakeholder engagement actions; second the information you need to plan your prioritised engagement activities.

The two basic elements needed to identify the important stakeholders at ‘this point in time’ are:

  • Firstly the power the stakeholder has to affect the work of the project. This aspect tends to remain stable over time)
  • Secondly the degree of ‘urgency’ associated with the stakeholder – how intense are the actions of the stakeholder to protect of support its stake? This aspect can change quickly depending on the interactions that have occurred between the project team and the stakeholder.

I include a third element in the Stakeholder Circle® methodology[3], how close is the stakeholder to the work of the project (proximity) – stakeholders actively engaged in the work (eg, team members) tend to be need more management attention than those relatively remote from the work.

The next step is to assess the attitude of the important stakeholders towards the work of the project.  Two assessments are needed, firstly what is the stakeholder’s current attitude towards the project and secondly what is a realistically desirable attitude to expect of the stakeholder that will optimise the chance of project success?

Attitudes can range from actively supportive of the work through to active opposition to the work. The stakeholder may also be willing to engage in communication with you or refuse to communicate[4].  If you need to change the stakeholder’s attitude, you need to be able to communicate!

From this information you can start to plan your communication. Important stakeholders whose attitude is less supportive than needed require carefully directed communication. Others may simply require routine engagement or simple reporting[5].

If this all sounds like hard work it is! But it’s far less work then struggling to revive a failed project. This theme is central to my new book, Making Projects Work, Effective stakeholder and communication management[6]. You generally only get one chance to create a first impression with your stakeholders – it helps to make it a good one.

Making Projects Work

[1] For more on ‘stakeholder theory’ see:
https://mosaicprojects.wordpress.com/2014/07/11/understanding-stakeholder-theory/

[2] For more information see www.lucidusconsulting.com

[3] For more on stakeholder prioritisation see: http://www.stakeholder-management.com/shopcontent.asp?type=help-4

[4] For more on assessing stakeholder attitudes see: http://www.stakeholder-management.com/shopcontent.asp?type=help-6

[5] For more on the ‘three types of stakeholder communication’ see: http://www.mosaicprojects.com.au/Mag_Articles/SA1020_Three_types_stakeholder_communication.pdf

[6] For more on the book see: http://www.mosaicprojects.com.au/Book_Sales.html#MPW