Tanner James Blog

P3M3 Training Considerations

Daniel Oyston

One aspect of P3M3® that many people are less familiar with is the generic attributes.  One of the generic attributes is Capability Development.  Within the P3M3® model this attribute specifies what kind of training arrangements need to be in place in order to achieve level 2 (repeatable) or level 3 (defined) process maturity:

Level 2 states “generic training may be provided in key concepts, and there may be individuals undertaking qualification training.  Local sharing of knowledge may exist but mostly ad hoc.”

Level 3 states “training is focussed on the organisation’s approaches and raising competencies of individuals in specific roles.  Forums exist for sharing organisational experience to improve individual and organisational performance.”

The key message here is that training must be taken into account as part of capability improvement.  If training provision is uncoordinated, with little or no knowledge sharing, an organisation will have its maturity rated no higher than level 1 (awareness), no matter how highly it has rated for the seven individual process perspectives.

The implications of this one generic attribute are significant.  Organisations who use P3M3® must carefully consider the difference in the nature of training that underpins level 2 and level 3:

If you are only targeting level 2 it is fine to send staff on generic courses to obtain qualifications and to use products such as e-learning which provide a basic level of understanding of portfolio, programme or project management disciplines.

If you are targeting level 3, however, the training must be focussed on your organisation’s approaches and raising the competencies of individuals in specific roles.  This necessitates a tailored approach based on face-to-face engagement and rules out ‘one-size fits all’ training such as e-learning or generic qualification training.

Have a look at your capability improvement plan – does it adequately address the need for tailored training in those areas where you are targeting level 3 maturity?

Good Morning and Welcome

John Howarth

“Good morning and welcome” - I’ve said it more times than I care to remember at the start of a training course. And I’ve heard it plenty of times as well.

Those are the words I heard in 1985 at the start of a two-day training course. To be precise, a PROMPT II Team Members Course. The acronym stands for Project Resource Organisation Management and Planning Techniques. PROMPT II was the predecessor to PRINCE, which was – to state the obvious – the predecessor to PRINCE2. (PROMPT I was not the predecessor to PROMPT II but that’s another story.)

I loved that course. It explained to me exactly what needed to be done to turn a bright idea into an actionable plan and bring people along with you. It explained how to review a document in a simple fashion without endless arguments about how it should have been written. It explained how to really manage progress and keep track of whether everything has been completed the way it was supposed to be completed.

What I didn’t know was that course was to be the start of an adventure.

I was working for the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) at the time, managing IT projects to pay grants to farmers (MAFF is where, incidentally, I met my wife, which I have to say as we had our first date exactly 26 years ago today, on 16 April 1986).

The adventure led me to set-up an infrastructure team to look at the fabric of how the Division managed things; it led me to run a Quality Assurance and Methods Group during privatisation of the electricity supply industry. It also led me to leave the UK and take up a job in Australia in 1989, where I was the person to stand up and say “Good morning and welcome to this project management course”.

And in 1994 the adventure led me to found this company Tanner James, in the belief that we could help people manage projects using structured methods.

Tanner James introduced PRINCE2 to Australia, and we ran the very first PRINCE2 training course in this Country in 1997, where I stood before some poor Army officers and Department of Defence employees and once more declared “Good morning and welcome”. 15 Years later and we are still going and the adventure continues.

So the next time you attend one of our training courses, and our presenter says “Good morning and welcome”, be ready for the start of an adventure. You never know where you might find yourself 27 years from now…

P.S. I must acknowledge Ken Bradley, the presenter on that 1985 course, who helped ignite my passion for project management.

Is Less More? Towards Better Commonwealth Performance

Daniel Oyston

Last month, Finance Minister Penny Wong released a discussion paper Is Less More? Towards Better Commonwealth Performance. 

In today’s Australian Financial Review, Verona Burgess reports with the headline Finance on reform warpathI thought there were a few interesting passages from the article including: 

The purpose of the paper, Finance says, was to analyse the financial framework from first principles “to ensure [it] supports high-quality resource management. There is a few that over time there has been a shift in emphasis towards controls and compliance at the expense of flexibility and performance,” the report says. “There has been a tendency to respond to perceived risks and failure with more rules and tighter controls, including the reimposition of some prior controls”; and 

The discussion and proposals are grouped under seven themes: enhancing transparency and accountability; more effective governance arrangements; improving performance; engaging with risk; building capability and culture; simplifying requirements; and clarifying obligations. Each includes a list of propositions.

 Interesting stuff indeed. 

You can download a copy of the report here.

7 ways to get your executives on-side

John Howarth

One of my points in my blog Capability Improvement – 5 Ways To Get The Ball Rolling was “inform your executives”.  I said “understand what their problems are, and where P3 disciplines might help. But equally important is that you understand where they won’t help”. 

This blog offers some more suggestions for how to get your executives on-side. 

1. Ask questions

 It’s amazing how many people enthusiastically espouse the value of P3 disciplines without understanding the perspective, role and priorities of the person they are speaking with. Sometimes it is as basic as picking the right time to speak and seeking permission to have the conversation.

I suggest asking “There are some approaches available which I think might help us deliver the new change programme – would you be happy to have a chat with me about this for 15 minutes next week?”

2. Understand their problem

Make sure you have a reasonable appreciation of what it is the executive is doing and what challenges that presents to them.  If you can describe the challenges your executives face better than they can then you can bet they’ll listen carefully to your ideas for how they might be tackled.

3. Provide context

Do you think telling an executive: “So what you need to do is invest in some change management training” will result in a polite “Why should I?” response or even an outright dismissal?

I suggest something along the lines of: “The front-line managers will have a significant role in making the new systems work.  Introducing such systems requires a very different skill set to their usual day-to-day job.  Do you think it would be worth educating them in some of the approaches they might use?”

4. Educate (but don’t patronise)

Please keep in mind that you may well be talking to someone who already knows more about the subject than you ever will but you can test understanding with phrases like “Are you aware that there are frameworks available that set out how we could manage our portfolio of change and what an Enterprise PMO needs to do to support that?”.

Some of the most significant progress I have seen in P3 implementations occur when a senior executive becomes aware of something they didn't previously know about and thus they re-frame the way they look at how things might be progressed.

5. Know your stuff

“It’s really important that every project must have someone in the role of Project Board Executive from day one.” 

That’s a great statement to make, provided you can back it up with a clear rationale when asked “Why?”

Warning: “Because the PRINCE2 Manual says so” isn't a compelling answer.

6. Give examples

I'm a trainer and consultant so I spend way too much time talking in the abstract.  Don’t fall into the same trap.  Make it real.  Talk about the change initiatives in your organisation.  Be specific about how the P3 disciplines can help.

Be compelling. For example, “In two days with the stakeholders we can nail down the staff redeployments we expect in the next three years, including who is going to make them happen, and which jobs will be re-designed”.

What isn't compelling is saying “We should use benefits mapping and profiling”.

7. Be realistic

As much as I hate to admit it, portfolio, programme and project management disciplines are not the answer to the world’s ills. They provide helpful ways to manage change, but that is all.

As a wise consultant said to me many years ago, when I was a youthful and enthusiastic manager of a quality assurance and methods group, “John, the method won’t turn bad managers into good ones.”  He then added, with a twinkle in his eye, “but it will expose the bad ones”.

If there are any executives out there reading this the please feel free to add your views – or comment on mine!

Four ways to break the cycle of overstated business cases

Daniel Oyston

David Bryant | Consultant & Trainer

David specialises in maximising the Return on Investment by working with organisations to better align activities with the organisational objectives. David holds an MBA as well as PRINCE2, MSP and P3O qualifications.


When Julia Gillard recently commented that the “pre-GFC world was never coming back”, it made me wonder if the recent resurgence in interest in Federal Government business cases and benefits realisation is a result of the GFC? 

A 2008 study of 100 European Organisations attitude to business cases and project results found: 

  • 96% of organisations required business cases as part of their project startup;
  • 69% said they did not quantify their benefits; and
  • 38% said they overstated benefits to obtain funding. 

In the pre-GFC period, many organisations were starting projects with ‘delusional optimism’ i.e. overstated benefits which meant the unfortunate Project Manager was doomed from day one. 

Stephen Jenner, in his book Transforming Government and the Public Service, claimed that many of these overstated business cases amounted to fraud. 

So how do we break this cycle of overstated business cases that usually sit on the shelf after funding is approved? Here are four ways to make a start: 

  1. do a complete analysis of benefits - not just financial but the non-financial as well;
  2. revisit the business case regularly and adjust costs and benefits i.e. periodically check the viability of the project or programme;
  3. make sure you actively realise the benefits - don’t rely on ‘silver bullet’ thinking; and
  4. communicate benefit realisation to the organisation so the culture changes to recognise business cases as fact, not fiction. 

As Julia and Wayne attempt to bring our budget back to surplus, I expect there will be greater scrutiny of business cases and the claimed benefits in Federal Government in the coming months. 

I would be keen to hear your thoughts about business cases in Federal Government?