Tag Archives: Project Controls

The Shergold Report calls for better governance and better project controls!

Shergold2The recently released report by Professor Peter Shergold, ‘Learning from Failure: Why large government policy initiatives have gone so badly wrong in the past and how the chances of success in the future can be improved’ (the Shergold Report), sets out a framework designed to improve the delivery of major Australian Government programs.  But the framework is not limited to government; the concepts can be usefully applied by any organisation seeking to initiate a major program of works.

The report focuses on making practical recommendations to enhance the capacity of the Australian Government to:

  1. Design and implement large public programmes and projects;
  2. Develop robust and effective governance and accountability arrangements for such programmes and projects;
  3. Understand the broader environment in which programmes and policies are designed and implemented;
  4. Identify, understand and manage risks; and
  5. Provide accurate, timely, clear and robust advice to ministers and within the APS.

Substitute ‘organisation’ for ‘Australian Government’ and ‘senior stakeholders and governors’ for ‘ministers and within the APS’ and the value of the document to the wider community becomes apparent.

The Shergold Report does not make specific recommendations to the government; rather it reaches a series of immutable conclusions based on the narrative in each section and is intended to spark public comment and discussion from a wide spectrum of people both within and outside of the Australian Public Service.

The Shergold Report contains 28 proposals for improvement; the key conclusions are reproduced below are reformatted as recommended good practices for any organisation planning to undertake a major program of works:

Ensuring Robust Advice: Good governance is founded on good policy, and good policy depends on good advice. To this end, executives and managers should be held accountable for the quality of advice they provide. Significant advice should be provided in writing and records maintained.

Decision Making: The importance of decision-making, and the circumstances under which it occurs, underscore the need to have well-functioning support systems in place.

Creating a Positive Risk Culture: Moving the organisation from reactive, defensive risk management; to proactive, performance-focused risk engagement. The major challenge is to embed the new approaches within a strong risk culture. This requires: understanding appetites for risk on individual programs and across the portfolio, appointing a Chief Risk Officer, at a senior executive level, proposals should be supported by an endorsed Risk Management Plan, and preparing a bi-annual whole-of-organisation Risk Assessment for the governing body, analysing the system-wide impact of operational, financial, strategic, legislative and procurement risks faced by the organisation.

Enhancing Program Management: Program and project management are too often seen as control activities; they are actually creative processes!  They require discipline and professional expertise to maintaining single point accountability while being open and flexible to the opportunities of networked governance structures. To achieve this requires:

  • Defined standards of proficiency for project and program managers, with active support through career development opportunities, continued education and participation in professional communities of practice such as the upcoming Project Governance and Controls Symposium.
  • For each project or programs[1], a clear understanding of who accepts end-to-end responsibility for managing implementation (typically the Sponsor[2]), wields delegated authority and where accountability resides.

Opening up to diversity: A diversity of perspectives in the workplace and the boardroom improves performance. Diversity increases critical analysis of information, results in better decision-making and challenges ‘groupthink’. Program advisory groups should be established that include representation drawn from outside the organisation in order to capture a broader diversity of perspectives and knowledge.

Embracing adaptive governance: Organisations that thrive are flexible. They seize opportunities, learn rapidly and recognise that partners will be needed to deliver long-term goals. When they enter uncharted territory they respond fast, start small, test new approaches, watch market responses, learn from doing, scale-up their activity or, if necessary, try again.

Most importantly, they are honest about failure. They recognise that mistakes happen, interrogate why they occurred and set in place remedial measures to ensure that they perform better next time. Failure and its lessons are an inevitable part of entrepreneurial life but are also central to maintaining organisational competitiveness. This means (where possible) new proposals should include a trial or demonstration stage, allowing new approaches to be developed fast and evaluated early. Large projects should incorporate staged decision-making[3].

Conclusions

Good governance is focused on creating good outcomes, not developing a straightjacket of impenetrable and restrictive procedures – the person or organisation that has never made a mistake has never made anything! The art of effectively using project and programs to create a new and desirable future is effective governance, backed by prudent risk management and effective, adaptive delivery and change management processes. The Shergold Report concludes that:

  1. Policy is only as good as the manner in which it is implemented
  2. Policy advice can only be frank and fearless if it is supported by written argument.
  3. Deliberations, oral and in writing, need to be protected.
  4. Deliberative documents need to be preserved, whether written on paper or delivered by digital means.
  5. It is up to ministers (the governing body), not officials (management), to make policy decisions.
  6. The effective management of risk is just as important in the public sector as in the private – perhaps more so.
  7. As the public service fully commits itself to measuring results by outcomes, program management needs to be accorded far greater professional status.
  8. Good governance increasingly depends on collaboration across sectors.
  9. The APS needs to be further opened up. Diversity and external inputs to the organisation.
  10. An adaptive government (organisation) can respond rapidly to changing circumstances without taking unnecessary (and unforeseen) risks.

The one area missing from the Shergold Report is recognition of the importance and difficulty of implementing organisational change (and the disciplines of change management and benefits realisation). The concepts are implicit in many aspects of the report but would have benefitted from direct discussion.

These limitations aside, the Shergold Report is a very deep and well considered document, well worth the effort of reading by both private and public sector mangers and governors. It highlights failures and the learning that can be taken from the experiences to improve future outcomes. To quote Confucius “By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest”. Learning from other’s experience may not be the ‘noblest’ option but is far preferable to repeating avoidable mistakes.

We will be commenting further on this report in future posts and I’m sure it will feature prominently in discussions at the upcoming Project Governance and Controls Symposium that is being held in Canberra in May.

Shergold1

The full report can be downloaded from: http://www.apsc.gov.au/publications-and-media/current-publications/learning-from-failure

From a completely different source, the Australian Infrastructure Plan Priorities and reforms for our nation’s future (Feb. 2016), recommendations under Chapter 9 – Governance calls for very similar processes to the Shergold Report.  These reports, and many previous, have consistently promulgated the same message.  We know what needs to be done, understanding why its not being done is the real challenge.


 

[1] To understand the difference between a project and a program see: http://www.mosaicprojects.com.au/WhitePapers/WP1002_Programs.pdf

[2] For more on the role of the Sponsor see: http://www.mosaicprojects.com.au/WhitePapers/WP1031_Project_Sponsorship.pdf

[3] For more on ‘gateway reviews see: http://www.mosaicprojects.com.au/WhitePapers/WP1092_Gateways-Scorecards.pdf

Construction CPM -v- PGCS

We have just returned from a very enjoyable and successful trip to New Orleans for Construction CPM and now its time to focus on making our Project Governance and Controls Symposium (PGCS) in Canberra equally successful!

Construction CPM is probably the world leading event for project scheduling tools and advances in the field of major project scheduling. There were nearly 300 delegates, speakers and partners attending events over 7 days (the Construction CPM conference was 3 days in the middle).  The papers we presented were:

The emerging trends in New Orleans were firstly risk, new tools and many papers on the challenge of uncertainty and surprisingly ethics and stakeholders (more on these later).

Project Governance and Controls Symposium (PGCS) is designed to enhance the connection between governance and project controls in government department and corporations. It’s too soon to identify the trends that will emerge in May but we already have an impressive line up of Keynote Speakers. See more at: http://www.pgcs.org.au/

Both events have an emphasis on building knowledge through networking and social events.  However, the PGCS program, which includes a reception in the ADFA Officers Mess pales in comparison to Construction CPM.

Some of the things you will not see or experience in Canberra include:

Plated hot breakfasts starting at 6:30am with the first presentations at 8:00am (we run a more ‘civilised’ program starting around 9:00am……).

Our own Mardi Gras Parade……

NOL1NOL2

 

 

 

 

 

The Konstruction Krew consisting of 250+ project controls professionals following a jazz band (complete with police escort and waving umbrellas) in their own Mardi Gras Parade through the French Quarter to Bourbon Street.

Burbon-St

Last drinks and a locally rolled cigar at the Bourbon Heat from 9:00pm to 2:00am (if you have the staying power) When I bailed out at midnight, Bourbon Street was still going strong!!

Float

A totally different definition of ‘Float’ – several of the official Mardi Gras Parades – each organised by a different ‘Krew’ passed in front of our hotel in Canal Street.

CharmaineCharmaine Neville and her band playing inthe conference ‘Jazz Club’ from 9:00pm……..  PMOZ was renowned for its parties – Construction CPM is at least as good! In total there were 11520 ounces of alcohol consumed at the official events (plus cash purchases).

NOL3One final ‘only in New Orleans’ – ice cream daiquiris in the place they were invented……

Add  4 Keynote Speakers, 79 Breakout Sessions a mock trial, pre-arranged dinners with ‘5 new friends’ each evening and you have an intensive enjoyable learning experience.

The next Construction CPM is earlier then usual, December at the Swan Resort, Walt Disney World, Orlando Florida.

Our PGCS Symposium in Canberra will be a bit more subdued (after all there is only one ‘New Orleans’).  Where we will be as good, if not better, is in the quality of the speaking program.  PGCS speakers already confirmed include Lisa Wolf of Booze Hamilton Allen, Melinda Penna of Telstra, and Kim Terrell of Department of Human Services.  For regular updates on the progress of PGCS  see:  http://www.pgcs.org.au/

Some ideas for making project management effective and efficient in 2016

SuccessIt’s a New Year and by now most of us will have failed to keep our first set of New Year resolutions! But it’s not too late to re-focus on doing our projects better (particularly in my part of the world where summer holidays are coming to an end and business life is starting to pick up). Nothing in the list below is new or revolutionary; they are just good practices that help make projects successful.

Most projects that fail are set up to fail by the organization and senior management (see:  Project or Management Failures?).  80% of projects that fail don’t have a committed and trained project sponsor. An effective project sponsor will:

  1. Give clear project objectives.
  2. Help craft a well‐defined project scope.
  3. Remove obstacles that affect project success.
  4. Mediate disagreements with other senior stakeholders.
  5. Support the project manager.

The role of the project or program sponsor is outlined in: WP1031 Project & Program Sponsorship.

Customers or end‐users are critically important to the success of ‘their project’. Unfortunately there is an extreme shortage of ‘intelligent customers’.  A ‘good customer’ will:

  1. Help refine the project scope – no one gets it 100% correct first time.
  2. Convey requirements fully and clearly
    (see: WP 1071 Defining Requirements).
  3. Avoid changing their minds frequently.
  4. Adhere to the change management process.

Every project team needs expertise – this is frequently provided by external experts. Subject‐matter experts should:

  1. Highlight common pitfalls.
  2. Help rather than hinder decision making.

The work of the project is done by ‘the team’. A committed and motivated project team will:

  1. Buy into the project’s objectives.
  2. Identify all of the required tasks and ensure the schedule is complete and accurate.
  3. Provide accurate estimates.
  4. Report progress and issues truthfully.
  5. Deliver their commitments.
  6. Focus on achieving the intended benefits
    (see: WP 1023 Benefits and Value).

Finally, the project manager

  1. Recognises that there is no “I” in project and works with the team and stakeholder community to create a successful outcome
  2. Resolves issues and risks that may arise from the 18 items above quickly, efficiently and effectively.

Making Projects WorkAlmost all of the items listed require action by people other than the project manager – this highlights the fact that projects are done by people for people and the key skill required by every project manager is the ability to influence, motivate and lead stakeholders both in the project team and in the wider stakeholder community.

For more on Making Projects Work see: http://www.mosaicprojects.com.au/Book_Sales.html#MPW

ICL 1900 PERT – 50th Anniversary

1900 PERT, the definitive version of the ICL mainframe PERT software systems, was released on the 11th January 1966 by a team that included Raf Dua.

 

ICL 1900 Computer

ICL 1900 Computer

British Tabulator Machines (BTM) one of the forebears of ICL (and Raf) were involved in the earliest days of the PERT development in the USA, providing tabulating machines used to process the punch cards that held the schedule data.

ICL2

The computer I used at college was an Elliott-Automation Mainframe.

For more on this see: http://www.mosaicprojects.com.au/PM-History.html#HistoryControls

The 1900 PERT code was later used to develop the Micro Planner range of software, the first version being released on the Apple II in 1980 I managed the Australasian part of the Micro Planner business from 1987 to 1999. For more on the history of Micro Planner see: http://www.mosaicprojects.com.au/Company_People_MPI.html#history.

1900 PERT lives on in the current range of Micro Planner software, with Raf still involved as the owner and Managing Director of Micro Planning International: http://www.microplanning.com.au/index.php

I will be presenting a session on the latest version of Micro Planner X-PERT at the Construction CPM conference in New Orleans later this month: http://www.constructioncpm.com/.  If you’ve got the time I look forward to seeing you in the Big Easy….

GAO Schedule Assessment Guide released

GAO-TimeOn 22nd December, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued the final version of its Schedule Assessment Guide: Best Practices for Project Schedules (GAO-16-89G), this guide is a companion the GAO Cost Estimating and Assessment Guide published in 2009. The Government Accountability Office is an independent, nonpartisan, agency that exists to support Congress in meeting its constitutional responsibilities, and works to improve the performance of federal government programs.

The Schedule Assessment Guide applies to civilian and defence projects managed by either government entities or private contractors in the USA; it is also an extremely valuable reference for all projects world-wide. On its release, Gene Dodaro, Comptroller General of the United States and head of the GAO said “A well-planned schedule is an essential tool for program management. The best practices described in the guide are intended to help agencies create and maintain schedules that are comprehensive, well-constructed, credible, and controlled.”

Over the last 5 years, the GAO has worked with experts in cost estimating, scheduling, and earned value management from government agencies, private industry, and academia to develop and formalise scheduling the best practices outlined in the Schedule Assessment Guide. The ten best practices associated with a high-quality and reliable schedule defined in the Schedule Assessment Guide are:

  1. Capturing all activities. The schedule should reflect all activities necessary to accomplish a project’s objectives, including activities both the owner and the contractors are to perform.
  2. Sequencing all activities. All activities must be logically sequenced and linked. Date constraints and lags should be minimised and justified.
  3. Assigning resources to all activities. The schedule should reflect the resources (labour, materials, travel, facilities, equipment, and the like) needed to do the work.
  4. Establishing the duration of all activities. The schedule should realistically reflect how long each activity will take. Schedules that contain planning and summary planning packages as activities will normally reflect longer durations until broken into work packages or specific activities.
  5. Verifying that the schedule can be traced horizontally and vertically. The schedule should be horizontally traceable with “hand-offs” defined. And vertically traceable; lower-level schedules are clearly consistent with upper-level schedule milestones.
  6. Confirming that the critical path is valid. The schedule should identify the program’s critical path.
  7. Ensuring reasonable total float. The schedule should identify reasonable total float on activities.
  8. Conducting a schedule risk analysis. Using a statistical simulation to predict the level of confidence in meeting a program’s completion date. Programs should include the results of the schedule risk analysis in constructing an executable baseline schedule.
  9. Updating the schedule using actual progress and logic. Progress updates and logic provide a realistic forecast of start and completion dates for program activities. Maintaining the integrity of the schedule logic is necessary to reflect the true status of the program.
  10. Maintaining a baseline schedule. A baseline schedule is the basis for managing the program scope, the time period for accomplishing it, and the required resources. Program performance is measured, monitored, and reported against the baseline schedule.

In its 224 pages the Schedule Assessment Guide provides detailed explanations of each of the best practices, supported by case studies and includes ‘key questions’ and the ‘key documentation’ to be used by auditors in assessing schedule compliance.

The development of the Schedule Assessment Guide has been lead by 2014 PGCS keynote presenter Karen Richey, her presentation to the symposium outlining the challenges faced by the USA government auditors can be downloaded from: http://www.pgcs.org.au/index.php/download_file/view/116/
(see more on the Project Governance and Controls Symposium).

The Schedule Assessment Guide validates many of the concepts defined in our scheduling papers and the CIOB Guide to Good Practice in the Management of Time in Complex Projects , see: http://www.mosaicprojects.com.au/Planning.html

To download your copy of the Schedule Assessment Guide go to: http://www.gao.gov/products/gao-16-89g

Scheduling Acronyms – use the correct terms!

Critical path scheduling has only been around for 60 years, is well documented by the originators of the discipline and central to the practice of project management. However, through ignorance, overt commercialism or laziness, far too many scheduling professionals continue to confuse the terms and degrade the practice.

If we can’t use the same correct term consistently for a function or process in scheduling why should anyone else take us seriously. The originators of the various concepts knew what they called each of the items discussed below, it is both professional and polite to respect their intentions and legacy.

CPM = Critical Path Method. (Also called CPA – Critical Path Analysis) This term emerged in the 1960s to describe the two variants of CPM, ADM and PDM. CPM uses a single deterministic duration estimate for each activity (or task) to calculate the schedule duration, activity start and finish dates, various floats and the ‘critical path’. CPM focuses on the activities.

ADM = Arrow Diagramming Method. Also called AOA (Activity on Arrow).  ADM was the first of the CPM techniques developed by Kelley and Walker in 1957.  This style of network diagramming has largely faded from use.

Activity-on-Arrow Diagram

Activity-on-Arrow Diagram

 

PDM = Precedence Diagramming Method. Also called AON (Activity on Node).  PDM was the second of the CPM techniques developed by Dr. John Fondahl, and published in 1961.  PDM is the standard form of CPM networking used today.

PDM

Precedence diagram

 

PERT = Programme Evaluation Review Technique. PERT was developed by the US Navy in 1957 in parallel with CPM and used an identical ADM network.   PERT differentiates from CPM in several ways.  Its focus in on the probability of achieving an event (eg, the completion of a phase or activity), the expected duration of each activity is calculated from three time estimates using a ‘modified Beta distribution’ (optimistic, most likely and pessimistic).  The ‘PERT Critical Path’ is calculated using the ‘expected’ durations and very simplistic probability assessments can be made based on the variability in the three estimates (but only on a single path).  PERT calculations for the ‘expected’ durations can be applied to PDM networks but are only of value if all of the links are ‘Finish-to-Start’. PERT is simplistic and significantly less accurate than the modern Monte Carlo analysis. For more on this see: Understanding PERT.

Summary

Calling any deterministic CPM schedule a PERT Chart is simply wrong; PERT is defined by three time estimates! Using PERT when you could use Monte Carlo is stupid – the information generated is less accurate. And inventing new names for existing processes is confusing and damaging.

Guild of Project Controls Compendium and Reference (GPCCAR)

GPC-LogoThe global community of time and cost practitioners / managers are collaborating to develop The Guild of Project Controls Compendium and Reference (GPCCAR) .  The GPCCAR is a suite of process-based documents that demonstrate what 1000’s of contributors believe constitutes Project Controls.

The GPCCAR is intended to be an evolving global statement as to what we, the practitioners, believe constitutes our role as “project controllers”. The exciting part is that anyone with an opinion (and justification) is free to propose amendments and additional references.

The first section has been released; each week ‘The Guild’ be releasing the next module. At the footer of each of the Modules there are details of how you can get involved to change or improve upon this initial baseline.

To access the GPCCAR see: http://www.planningplanet.com/guild/GPCCAR/

Registration is required, membership of the Planning Planet web community (free – you just need to create a profile), or the Guild of Project Controls.

The Guild of Project Controls will be using the GPCCAR to underpin its emerging project controls certification framework.