Why is “Dodge Caliber” my most popular search term?

The Ur-Caliber

The Ur-Caliber

The hottest Crossderry search term over the last few weeks has been “Dodge Caliber”, which brings folks to my “Benefits vs. Disbenefits” post. Probably not quite the take that most link followers expected, but the image does point them to Eric Beckinger’s cri de coeur.

I guess I should opine briefly on why I empathized w/ Eric’s rant: I had just rented a Dodge Caliber. The shape had intrigued me when I first saw it on the road. And though I had read a number of negative reviews, I was eager to give it a whirl once I saw it was my week’s rental.

Frankly, once you look past the profanity, Eric may be understanding the poverty of the Caliber driving experience. It wasn’t just bad, it was depressing. My mantra while driving it was “I’m so glad I didn’t get close to buying one of these.”

Oh, and I kept thinking back to the time I drove a Trabi…

Benefits vs. Disbenefits

Read Eric Beckingers post on why this car shouldnt exist...

Click to read Eric Beckinger's post on why this car shouldn't exist...

As we build the value management components of the next generation of SAP methodologies, I’ve dug in to the program management standards of PMI and OGC.  One of our first principles is to ensure alignment with industry standards; however, for programs and value management we’ll need to mix and match.

One example of a concept not in both standards is the idea of “disbenefits” in OGC’s Managing Successful Programmes (benefits profile outline here).  The concept is illustrated in my comment below about a Dodge Caliber rental…

I still can’t get over how bad the Dodge Caliber was to drive…however, a short test drive could fool the unwary.  Only a bean-counter would think it was a good idea to keep building Calibers. What is more valuable: the additional amortization of the Caliber tooling you get by selling more cars or the lasting emnity of the folks who buy them?

And that’s why considering disbenefits makes all the difference…

Making sure that your deliverables’ benefits are realized

With all my recent scope management posts lately, here’s a timely post on benefits realization (here) at John Gough’s iJourneys blog (here).  I like the theme of his post, that “…benefit realisation does not start when the project ends.”   I also second his point that IT sees itself as apart from the “business” and often has a leadership void at the top.  John puts it plainly:

Get Out of the Comfort Zone — There is a view…that the IT project manager delivers the project (i.e. the delivery of outcomes) but the business is responsible for building capability and realising benefits.  CIOs complain that they are too often sidelined by the business, but they do not always have the balls to … declare that: “we have taken the project this far, now give us responsibility for the business change”.

I’m not very comfortable, however, with his suggestion to:

Ditch the Business Case — The Business Case is designed to justify the project, but too often towards the end of the project, the dusty document is retrieved to “see what the benefits were”. The benefits are the project, and should guide the process from beginning to end, whereas the Business Case is just a means to an end.

My experience is that ditching the business case is what happens too often.  It should inform deliverable definition, the expected outcomes of those deliverables, the relative priority of proposed scope changes, and the benefits expected from the outcomes.  Instead, projects deliver “whatever,” the outcomes and benefits aren’t what were expected, and IT wonders why IT is “sidelined” by the business. 

Hat tip: Elizabeth at Girl’s Guide to Project Management (here)

Keep the focus on outcomes

I’m not sure how I missed this one, but Jonathan at Manage by Walking Around conveys a great story about keeping desired outcomes and performing organizations aligned (here).  Per a number of earlier posts on the triple constraint and scope (here, here, and Bas’s post here), project managers need to get better attuned to the outcomes and benefits of their projects’ deliverables and whether all are aligned.

The [Sarasota, FL] Parks and Rec department struggled with recruiting and retaining lifeguards for the public pools…  Rather than treating this as budget issue, try to optimize processes, or streamline headcount, management went back to first principles to determine what outcome they were trying to achieve. Lifeguards are there to protect citizens… prevent emergencies and quickly provide medical assistance if they do happen.

This step is simple, but it isn’t easy.  Because once you start to look at first principles, it is a short jump to the realization that perhaps one shouldn’t be performing a function (or that the current deliverable won’t generate the desired outcome).  And that’s exactly what happened here…

Once they focused on these outcomes, it didn’t take the Parks and Rec department long to realize that protection, prevention and assistance weren’t their core strengths…  As a result, they transferred responsibility for safeguarding pools to Public Services, giving lifeguards a career path as emergency medical technicians (EMT) or as firemen.  Guess what?  Job satisfaction and retention skyrocketed. 

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