Monday, 20 December 2010

Public Sector Innovation by Pentacle

Public Sector Innovation

Things change...

That 'Change' happens,
I must agree
But why, oh why
Must it happen to me!
Eddie Obeng


Thursday, 16 December 2010

Big Cuts, Big Society, Excellent Execution and Happy Citizens. Why Project management is better than being lucky…

The plane is almost full. The luggage racks overhead have been badly packed with bags wheels sideways instead of front to back, neat leather briefcases and coats mis-arranged to make them neither brief nor tidy. My wheelie bag would only fit if I spent half an hour rearranging the mess and perhaps asking a passenger or two to put their jackets back on. Someone should have been periodically reviewing as the racks were filled, shuffling moving, checking and changing. Now it looks to difficult to try, so I add to the problem. I ask the person in seated in the aisle if he minds me stowing my hand baggage under the seat using between us for my luggage. He doesn’t object but observes that there might yet be someone to sit between us. Bringing even more luggage and requiring that I move mine. I reply brightly, “We’ll be lucky – I prefer to ‘do lucky.’”


Now I watch anxiously as the last passengers join the flight. I am so intent on this that I forget the challenge of my day. I’m going to Ireland to work with 120 executives from the construction and building industry. My job is to help them to flesh out and plan the execution of new and challenging strategies. But the real challenge is that their strategies – developed over the previous months are probably already obsolete. As if planning to make life more difficult, the government had spent the previous week announcing that all was well, only to follow it by accepting a massive IMF bail out package along with the additional austerity and uncertainty that it would bring. Excellent Execution in this situation will require flexible, responsive and amazing programme and project management.

I open my newspaper to discover that the UK government, as part of its “Big Society” vision, intends to measure the nations “Happiness” – well not really happiness more sort of ‘quality of life.’ The opposition, commentators and journalists are having a field day, condemning it as a waste of public money, hare-brained and impossible to measure.

In the end I am lucky. The hostess alerts us to safety and the flight departs without me having to retrieve my bag from under the chair. And now I can reflect. Not only on how lucky I have just been but how unlucky the two countries have been.

Unlucky because for decades they could have been run by project managers but instead were run by economists, lawyers, intellectuals and civil servants.

I began to imagine if UK PLC or let’s call it ‘The UK Project’ had been run by a project or programme manager over the past few decades.
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What happens at the moment…



Purpose:: Based on constantly changing Hard measures (growth, % employment, number of crimes.  Significant effort goes into deciding on policies. Many focused on inputs (we will provide an extra 2000 rail carriages) and outputs (we will have 20,000 more graduates) or processes (all hospitals will be stem cleaned) rather than on establishing the outcomes and benefits


Type of Change: All change is shoehorned into a Painting by Numbers template. If it cannot be delivered as such the risk is transferred and multiplied by outsourcing it someone else who doesn’t know how to execute it


Stakeholder management: Citizen needs are guessed at and written up well in advance (in a manifesto) and then largely ignored later.  Stakeholders are treated as recipients of the project and are not encouraged to participate or partner in the activities.  It appears crazy to check if your stakeholders are happy.


Learning & review: 5 yearly review process of the overall programme carried out without any objective tools.  After the completion or non completion of the projects, long reviews leading to thousand page documents of recommendations led by a member of the ‘great and good’ who may or may not be impartial.  Because the programme is organized in the same way as the luggage racks were packed on my flight, big cuts every 20 – 30 years
Planning coordination and Risk Elimination: All budgetary processes on a three year comprehensive spending review cycle.  Micromanagement during execution to try to resolve issues and keep things on track


Leadership: Line management rather than leadership. Periodic reshuffling of the line managers responsible


Team development: Team is the Government and the civil service/ Public sector

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How it could have been if run by a good programme / project manager…



Purpose: Success is in both Hard (Fast – Good - Cheap) and Soft (Relationships, learning, personal involvement, security, ease of use etc) arenas (Big Society?)


The business case containing hard and soft outcomes is developed early. Like every good programme a FutureMapping exercise is carried out to ensure that the ere are no unexpected negative consequences of the programme


Type of Change: Recognition that a successful programme will include all type of projects from ‘Quests’ to ‘Making Movies’ to painting by numbers.


Stakeholder management: Stakeholder needs are re-checked at the start of each project and managed through the review process.  The stakeholder is an integral part of success. Stakeholders re encouraged to try, review and even lead and execute parts of the projects in the programme. Stakeholder ownership of both the process and the result is important.  It’s essential and normal to check if your stakeholders are ‘Happy’.


Learning & review: Reviews on different parts of the programme at different times depending on the project type. Foggier projects are subject to a frequent drumbeat (progress vs. learning and current need0, Painting by Numbers is checked at the milestones (progress vs. plan) Open, rapid and immediate ActionReplays during the project to capture the learning and build a plan for the future

Planning coordination and Risk Elimination: All budgets are as business cases created with a GapLeap.
Metrics are Onba-l-ance , clear hard and soft, internal/external. absolute/relative and are established at the start.  Risks reviewed and eliminated early to keep activities on track

Leadership: Different leaders and leadership styles to be applied to the different projects


Team development: The team for each activity is selected for their relevance to the project and their ability to deliver. E.g. painting the local playground shed – local parents, building aircraft carriers – not local parents
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As the plane lands in Dublin I conclude that if only countries were run by good programme and project mangers, we wouldn’t need to be lucky, instead we would avoid Big Cuts, not need to even talk about a Big Society, Execute Excellently and have Happy Citizens.

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FutureMappingTM - A process through which the implications of a strategic change are mapped, unexpected consequences removed or modified



Quest ChangeTM – Change where the goals I swell understood and agreed upon but the method or process to reach it are not


Making Movies ChangeTM is the typical solution looking for a problem. The process and method are determined before the outcome


Foggy ChangeTM – is change where there is real uncertainty of what to do or how to do it but urgency that something must be done.


DrumBeatTM – fixed time period review cycle


ActionReplayTM - Dynamic review process comparing what was planned/ not planned with what has worked/ not worked


GapLeapTM – A rapid hard and soft business case development method looking at outcomes with/ without the intervention and the barriers to Excellent Execution


Onba-l-anceTM – is a way of checking that the metrics actually measure success full outcomes and benefits