People of a certain age, like me, will eventually be invited to visit the doctor for a health check-up, an invitation which usually strikes fear into the intended victim. Or is that just me?
Oddly, its 5 years since my last confrontation with the latex gloves with no other invitations on the horizon, which seems odd. A health exam gives a snapshot at a point in time, but things change… cheese gets eaten, runs get missed, you go up a clothes size. Or is that just me again?
This got me wondering about events vs processes in the areas of project, program and portfolio management.
Think about it. Most of us treat things that are really processes as if they are events.
Is risk assessment an event or a process? What should it be? What about requirements gathering and validation? What about project prioritization and planning?
Continuous planning – the dream made real
Let's use planning as an example. Many times, there's a planning process that happens once a year. People run around with spreadsheets for a month or two, meetings happen, projects are prioritized, schedules are created and negotiated; job done.The planning "event" is over.
Let's set aside any discussion on whether or not spreadsheets are a good tool for this (they're not) and think about the real world for a minute. The real world is dynamic. Things change. New project requests come in. Resources change. Projects suddenly appear far more complex than we originally thought.
If you treat project prioritisation and planning as an event, you can't react to these changes. It has to be a process that goes on throughout the year. Of course, like any process, you can go too far- reviewing your portfolio mix every day is probably overdoing things- but a little common sense and the right tools can transform your planning meeting into a continuous planning process. Every governance meeting is an opportunity for some continuous planning.
Going from one-off to continuous planning works. We usually see, just from prioritizing your projects better (and I really mean doing it right), increase in value-delivery of 20-40%, but when you add in continuous planning (with good tools to help you plan resource utilization), we’ve seen project success rates double as well.
Time to reflect. What would a demonstrable increase in value delivered of 20-40% mean to the perceived value of your PMO? What effect would a doubling in project success rates have on the confidence of the executive team in your delivery capability?
So why does the UK national health service not do annual health checks? The answer is simple; they don’t have the resources.
For many PMOs, the prospect of achieving value-oriented prioritization and continuous planning seem impossible, but new tools are changing that. Real-time modelling, high-performance optimization algorithms, online collaboration tools all play a role and are more accessible than ever. Moving to a structured prioritization and optimization tools can deliver a reduced planning cycle and value-oriented continuous planning at the same time… with fewer resources, not more!
This is a really important point, so let’s put it another way. Most people think that delivering value-oriented project prioritization and continuous planning is so difficult that it’s practically impossible. That is a perception based on tools (like spreadsheets and most PPM solutions) that simply aren’t up to the job. But new tools not only make it easier, they save you time as well.
You can have continuous planning AND reduce the time spent planning simultaneously. That simply wasn’t true a few years ago, and most people don’t realize the game has changed.
The same principles apply to risk management, etc, and Just like health checks, prevention pays dividends. Catching that wayward project early and taking corrective action will prevent the train wreck later. Adjusting your portfolio quickly lets you optimize value and increase project success rates.
So, next time you're preparing for your project governance meeting, why not use that same meeting to quickly validate that the projects in the portfolio are still the ones that should be there? Why not revisit the scheduling and resourcing of projects. When you're preparing your RAG report, why not spend a minute assessing any changes to the risk profile of the project? Why not use it as a chance to challenge the scope of the projects to improve the value-time-risk equation?
In short, why not turn your “events” into “processes” and then sit back and watch the benefits accrue!
If only we could do the same for the health service. As for me, I'm heading off to do an hour on the rowing machine before eating a particularly delicious lump of cheese... it's a start!