Understanding why your projects aren’t working

Understanding why your projects aren’t working

Mike AcasterDoes your organization have a problem with delivering projects and are you wrestling with the question: “how do we start to improve our projects?”

It might seem like a simple question but the answer is more complex. This is because there is no universal right answer, as different organizations will face different problems, rendering a “quick fix” very difficult or even impossible. Training people might be a vital element in solving these problems, but can be decided only once you’ve taken an important first step: identifying what problems you’re trying to solve:

  1. It might be that the projects don’t line up with or fully deliver the organization’s strategy. This could be caused more by project selection, i.e. portfolio management, than how the organization runs projects once authorized.
  2. It may be how projects are initiated and run: the UK’s National Audit Office and Cabinet Office have identified common causes of project failure, such as getting the project off on the right foot and senior leadership/engagement.

These are just examples of the possible problems your organization has with projects. There could be a multitude of others which you need to pinpoint before working out the optimal course of action. And this needs a comprehensive and structured approach.

Multiple Plans

Starting with something like AXELOS’ P3M3® is one way of determining the cause of your problems. P3M3 is a best practice approach that provides Project and Programme Managers with the evidence they need to understand whether their organization’s projects, programmes and portfolios are working or not and delivering a return on investment.

Using the P3M3 assessment within this so-called maturity model considers a variety of elements that can influence the success of project delivery:

  1. Organizational Governance – this deals with how you select initiatives and how they align with the company’s strategy and business plan. This perspective focuses more on the selection of projects by the organization rather than on how the individual projects are run.
  2. Management Control – this is about the internal controls of initiatives with the focus on achieving the objectives within tolerances to deliver something of value to the organization and the users of the product that the project produces/delivers/creates.
  3. Benefits management – deals with how the organization defines and manages the value that it anticipates from the initiatives.
  4. Risk management – is about how the organization manages not only threats to the initiatives but also opportunities arising from them that could not be identified at the start.
  5. Stakeholder management – deals with the processes used to engage stakeholders in order to achieve the objectives of the initiatives.
  6. Financial management – focuses on the initiation and release of funds for the initiatives.
  7. Resource management – deals with how initiatives acquire and utilize all resources other than cash.
Undertaking a P3M3 assessment will help PPM practitioners and their organizations determine:
  1. How well are we performing? Or, in other words, where we are today against these perspectives
  2. How well do we need to perform? Or, in other words, where do we want to be on the maturity scale (Hint - not all organizations need to be level 5)?
  3. What is our improvement plan? Or, in other words, how are we going to get there?
  4. How will we know if our improvement plan is working? Or, in other words, how will we monitor progress towards our goal?

Because we are all different we need to understand where we are starting from before we can address how to improve our project delivery. P3M3 allows an organization to understand how well its PPM processes are embedded with the organization rather than just looking at an individual project. It asks: is this organization ready and able to undertake this type of project by addressing its current capabilities and performance in delivering projects?

P3M3 is available as a self-assessment to help organizations dip a toe in the water before undertaking a more robust assessment using an AXELOS Consulting Partner to deliver an independent understanding of the organizations capability to deliver initiatives).

More detail can be found at https://www.axelos.com/best-practice-solutions/p3m3.

Read Mike Acaster's previous AXELOS Blog post, How can we be sure if our programmes and projects are delivering successful results?

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