Benefits Realization: Demonstrating Initiatives’ Value

Debbie Crawford just taught a refreshed version of our Benefits Realization class. The topic is one that bedevils PMOs, largely because it takes a while to figure out that it’s not a closing phase task. In other words, it has to be planned, executed, monitored, controlled, and delivered…just like any other initiative deliverable. Below is an overview of the class:

Benefits are not just another dimension of portfolio management, but are the basic rationale for any investment of funds.  As such, benefits should drive those investment or change decisions from initiation through implementation and beyond. It is the methodology needed by any organization intent on effectively demonstrating that desired benefits are achieved in practice.

This course, built on a wealth of real world experience and lessons learned, will engage the participants in achieving:

  1. Increased organizational ability to forecast benefits which are complete, realizable, and represent real value for the money. In other words, we are investing in the right things and getting them done.
  2. Realize forecasted benefits in practice by ensuring the required enabling, business, and behavioral change takes place; ensuring that the performance of the benefit matches the business case promise.
  3. Realize benefits as early as possible and sustain that realization for as long as possible.
  4. Capture and leverage emergent or unplanned benefits (and minimize any dis-benefits) to optimize the benefits realized and the value for money is achieved.
  5. The organization’s ability to demonstrate the above – not just as part of the framework of accountability but also so that we learn what works as a basis for continuous improvement.

Find Your Best Project Leaders

My last post noted that filling gaps, improving skill mastery, and driving behavior change are the improvements that organizations need. But how can you design these objectives into your talent improvement program? If you have had a program in place, how do you know you have the right mix? And how do you  measure its impact on the organization?

Who are the truly competent initiative leaders in your organization? And how do you know?

Any competency improvement plan starts with identifying what the “truly competent” project or program manager looks like for the particular organization. We intuitively know that more competence pays for itself. And there is strong evidence for that intuition: it’s in our Building Project Manager Competency white paper (request here). But lasting improvement will only come from a structured and sustained competency improvement program. That structure has to begin with an assessment of the existing competency. Furthermore, the program must include clear measures of business value, so that every improvement in competence can be linked to improvements in key business measures.

My experience with such programs is that PMO and talent management groups approach the process in a way that muddles cause and effect. For example, a training program is often paired with PMO set-up. Fair enough. However, if the training design is put into place without a baseline of the current competence of your initiative leaders, then that design may perpetuate key skill or behavior gaps among your staff.  You may hit the target, but a scattershot strategy leans heavily on luck.

In addition, this approach will leave you guessing about which part of your training had business impact. You may see better business outcomes, but not have any better idea about which improved skills and behaviors drove them. Even worse, if your “hope-based” design and delivery is followed by little improvement, then your own initiative may well be doomed.

So how should you fix your program, or get it right from the start? We at PM College lay out a structured, five-step process for working through your competency improvement program.

  1. Define Roles and Competencies
  2. Assess Competencies
  3. Establish a Professional Development Program with Career Paths
  4. Execute Training Program
  5. Measure Competency and Project Delivery Outcomes Before and After Training

These steps were very useful for structuring my thinking, but they’re more of a checklist than a plan. For example, my PMOs almost always had something to work with in Steps 1 and 3. Even if I didn’t directly own roles and career paths, I had credibility and influence with my colleagues in human resources.  However, the condition of the training program was more of a mixed bag. Sometimes I would have something in place, sometimes I was starting “greenfield.”

The current state of the training program informs how I look at these steps.

  • Training program in place: My approach is to jump straight to Step 5, and drive for a competency and outcome assessment based on what went before.  I assume steps 1-4 as completed – even if not explicitly – and position the assessment as something that validates the effectiveness of what came before. In other words, this strategy is a forcing function that stresses the whole competence program, without starting anew.
  • No training program in place: I use the formal assessment to drive change. As PMO head I have been able to use its results to explicitly drive the training program’s design. More significantly, these results are proof points driving better role and career path designs, even if HR formally owns those choices.

PM College has a unique and holistic competency assessment methodology that looks at and assesses the knowledge, behaviors, and job performance across the project management roles in your organization. As always, if your organization would like discuss our approach, and how it drives improved project and business outcomes, please contact me or use the contact form below. We’d love to hear from you.

FYI: For more reading on competency-based management, check out Optimizing Human Capital with A Strategic Project Office.

High performing project management orgs are more agile — PMI

The Project Management Institute’s latest “Pulse of the Profession” report just came out, and it’s full of provoking findings. It clarifies the benefits of high-performing project management, and it highlights what the top organizations do differently. By the way, the “PMI Pulse” is a nice complement to the McKinsey report on building capabilities I wrote on last week.

So what does it mean to your organization if it’s a project management top performer? It means that you deliver more value and waste fewer resources:

…these organizations meet original goals and business intent two-and-a-half times more often than those in low performing organizations (90 percent vs. 36 percent). High-performing organizations also waste about 13 times less money than low performers. — PMI Pulse, page 6

Did you know that these top performers used agile techniques more often than other organizations? This use of agile, iterative, and incremental methods drove better organizational agility. In turn, this better agility allows for faster and more effective responses to competitive, technological, regulatory, or other external challenges. PMI found that the most agile delivered against business, cost, and schedule goals between 20 to 50 percent better than the least agile. Agile also means better top and bottom lines: the PMI Pulse report references a MIT study that found agile firms grew revenue 37 percent faster than non-agile firms, while generating 30 percent better profitability.

To that end, PM College has greatly expanded it’s agile curriculum, from the basics, to an Agile Bootcamp, to negotiating Agile vs. Waterfall, to PMI Agile and ScrumMaster certification prep.

Agile principles have a been a lifesaver on a number of my projects and programs. If nothing else, an agile education gets you and your organization thinking and working the agile way…even before you implement any methodology at all.

Week 10 Performance Report — Operation Dunk 2010

As you may have guessed by the absence of performance reports, Operation Dunk 2010 was stalled for a bit.  I allowed the demands of work and family to get in the way, but we’re back on the beam.  Luckily, the damage wasn’t too great, as I have remained active. 

  • Weight — Up2.5 lbs from week 4 (251.5 from 249)
  • Wii Age — I’m at 37, which is down from my last two reading of 45 and 55.
  • My balance and endurance has been clearly improving.  I believe that stems from my concentration on the obstacle course, as that contains a jumping motion and gives a pretty decent 2-5 minute workout per run.

    Week 4 Performance Report — Operation Dunk 2010

    Making good and steady progress.  I’ve made higher and higher scores on some of the multi-player games, but unfortunately I can’t seem to save and track my ongoing progress on those.  Of course, my son regularly humiliates me on the snowball fights so maybe I should be grateful for no tracking!

    • Weight — Down 4.5 lbs from week 2 (249 from 253.5)
    • Wii Age — I’m still at 55, though the missing week’s age turned out to be 45.

    The balance tests are still a bit of a problem.  I’m standing straighter — my center of balance is just about in the middle now — but I still have some issues w/ shifting my weight.  Also, I find that my right leg is feeling the workouts more.  There clearly was something I missed in rehabbing from my long-ago broken pelvis.

    Week 3 Performance Report — Operation Dunk 2010

    Now that I finally have published that promised post on performance reporting, I owe an update on Operation Dunk 2010.

    • Weight — Down 3.5 lbs from week 2 (253.5 from 261)
    • Wii Age — Forgot to measure this week… will assume I’m still at 55.

    I’m using the games to get some basic endurance and balance improvements underway.  I notice the difference already in the pace that I can keep up in my 1/4 – 1/3 walk to my office from the parking lot. 

    Finally, I’ve started the WiiFit strength training.  This has put some pressure on my balance issues, as the calisthenics in the program need me to balance on one leg often!

    Week 2 Performance Report — Operation Dunk 2010

    I was about to post on how unreliable performance reporting — progress, status, and forecast — is one of the first signs of project trouble.  However, I realized that I hadn’t posted on my own “Operation Dunk 2010” performance, so here goes:

    I’ve made some progress on my weight (the weight reduction KPI is related to the improvement of my jumping capability):

    • Weight — Down 3.5 lbs from week 1 (257.5 from 261)

    Also, I forgot to mention that I’ve started work on my balance and coordination capability with my Wii Fit.  There is a basic balance test that combines with my BMI to give me a Wii Age.  That’s probably as good a proxy for balance and coordination improvements as any, so it will be KPI #2.

    • Wii Age — Down six years from week 1 (55 from 61).

    What will I need to “build” so I can dunk?

    Per my last full post, I want to re-build my capability to dunk.  And to make sure that we all “know what done looks like”, by dunk I mean to dunk a men’s regulation basketball in a 10-foot goal by EOY 2010.   As I broke down the work, there are at least three sub-capabilities I need to have:

    1. Sufficient jumping ability to get my hands far enough above the rim.
    2. Sufficient “ball skills” to dribble or manipulate the ball (so it can be in my hands far enough above the rim).
    3. Sufficient balance and coordination to manage those two capabilities.

    My dim memory of basic physics (see this site on vertical jump power), my awareness of my ever-expanding waistline, and multiple years of rust on my jumping muscles will have me focus on jumping ability first.  This will involve reducing the amount of mass I’ll need to move — KPI #1 — and increasing the acceleration I can impart on that mass (not sure the KPI for this one yet).

    BTW: The KPI #1 baseline is 261 lbs as of 1/4/2010.  I have a Q1 target at home, but I don’t have it handy (probably in the 240’s).

    Building capabilities for the New Year

    I’ve struggled to find relevant topics for a while now.  It was far easier for me to post good stuff while at SAP because it was part of my job.   It is far harder to at Mead Johnson because the most interesting material is best left unaired.  I’ll try to throw out nuggets where I can, but I’ll need to be discreet.

    I hope that I’ve found a better “hook” to keep me posting on leadership and project management — having my New Year’s Resolutions focus on building capabilities.  I went through a litany of ideas — weight loss, exercise, savings, etc. — when I realized that these were pretty abstract goals.  In fact, most were essentially measures without any reference to the capabilities I should get from them.

    Call it a flash of inspiration or a flight of fancy, I decided that my New Year’s Resolution for 2010 would be to build the capability to dunk again by year-end.   I’m in the midst of building deliverables and measures to support that goal.  I’ll post on my baseline shortly!

    Why dunking?  As I watched a college hoops game last week, I realized that it had been 20 years (plus) since I had dunked a basketball.  In fact, that would be about the last time I had motored around the court with any purpose.  Watching that game reminded me why so many of my New Year’s Resolutions had failed.  They had been abstract objectives — tied to deliverables or capabilities — that failed to inspire or motivate me.

    Innovation portfolio planning — using stage gates to manage risk

    Innovation portfolio planning — from a Gary Hamel and Lowell Bryan interview (here) on The McKinsey Quarterly site (registration required) — starts with a plan to build capabilities (earlier post here).   Of course, building these capabilities require projects and programs.

    Once you’ve designed your master plan, you can launch a series of initiatives aimed at achieving your goals…. The thing that really stops innovation is risk. CEOs can be terrified of organizational disruption because it can put at risk a company’s ability to meet quarterly earnings, which in turn is often what causes CEOs to lose their jobs. So part of what you need is a bridge so that they can be innovative but also keep their jobs.

    The addition of program and project portfolio standards to the PMI standards inventory has been welcome.  The PM community needs to master these disciplines in order to drive good practices like the stage gate approach Bryan outlines below:

    [S]tage-gate your investments in organizational innovation, [so] you can first learn what works and then scale it, without taking excessive risk.  None of us are smart enough to see in advance the ultimate answer, because the real answer lies in discovering the operating detail to make new ideas work in practice.  You can see the broad directions, but you… can’t even understand the secondary and third-level consequences of the design decisions you make. Those have to be discovered through trial and error.

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