Tanner James Blog

New approaches to major public projects?

John Howarth

The Best Management Practice products from the UK Cabinet Office are now widely accepted across Federal and State government agencies – including P3M3®, MSP® and PRINCE2®. What is less widely known is what is being done to fundamentally change the way major government projects are run. 

Will we see these approaches adopted in Australia?

A new approach to leadership

Earlier this year the UK Government unveiled plans for a new Major Projects Leadership Academy which will be created and delivered in partnership with Oxford's Saïd Business School. The new academy will build the skills of senior project leaders across government to deliver complex projects – reducing the over-reliance on expensive external consultancy further and building expertise within the Civil Service.

In future no one will be able to lead a major government project without completing the Academy.

Quotes from the website make it clear that the focus is on building world class project leadership skills within government agencies and thus reducing the reliance on “expensive external consultants”.

Improving project performance for the taxpayer

The Academy will be managed by the Cabinet Office Major Projects Authority (MPA) which was launched in 2010 to oversee major projects and ensure they deliver for taxpayers.

The MPA represents a sea change in the oversight of central government’s Major Projects at both an individual and a portfolio level and aims to address the findings from the NAO report Assurance of High Risk Projects and from a Major Projects Review.

It is a collaboration between the Cabinet Office, HM Treasury (HMT) and Departments with the fundamental aim of significantly improving the delivery success rate of Major Projects across central government.

The MPA is supported by a clear and enforceable mandate and has the authority to:

  • develop the Government Major Projects Portfolio, in collaboration with departments, with regular reporting to Ministers;
  • require Integrated Assurance and Approval Plans for each Major Project or Programme including timetables for Treasury approvals and validation by the MPA and HMT;
  • make a Starting Gate Review (or equivalent) mandatory for all new Projects/Programmes;
  • escalate issues of concern to Ministers and Accounting Officers;
  • provide additional assurance and direct involvement where Projects are causing concern including the provision of commercial and operational support;
  • require publication of project information consistent with the Coalition’s Transparency agenda;
  • work with departments to build capability in Projects and Programme management; and
  • publish an annual report on Government Major Projects.

The Australian approach

Australia has had a number of agencies at both federal and state levels focussed on improving project performance – including the PM&C Cabinet Implementation Unit the AGIMO-led Agency Capability Initiative and DoFD reviews and assessments.

The question is, will we see these current initiatives develop into an Australian Government Major Projects Authority, with an associated Major Projects Leadership Academy? 

And if we do, will that be a good thing? 

What are your thoughts?

Training project managers in project management is dangerous

John Howarth

Your organisation wants to get better at project management. So you send all your project managers on training courses to get project management qualifications. Unfortunately this will not deliver the results you are seeking. This blog explains why, and what you can do about it.

Training individuals does not achieve organisational implementation

Projects are about the delivery of change across organisational boundaries. Effective governance of projects requires decision making structures – Steering Committees, Projects Boards etc – that cut across those boundaries. Everyone who plays a role in these structures must be on the same page, not only about what the project is doing, but how the project is being managed. Indeed, if they do not understand how the project is being managed this is likely to limit their ability to effectively contribute in terms of what the project is doing.

It follows that the most effective way to train is to do so on a project-by-project basis, not a person by person basis, so that everyone in a project management role learns in the same context as their colleagues.

Each project that learns together must then be provided with appropriate support to ensure what they have learned can be translated from the learning environment – classroom or online – into the workplace.

Senior executives must be directly and personally involved in the learning

I have talked previously about the basics of executive involvement (blog 7 ways to get your executives on-side).  In the training context the message is simple – that senior executives who are involved in the governance of projects must be directly and personally involved in the learning.

That is not to say however that you should attempt to put your executives through the same training regime as the project managers. It is highly likely that they will have neither the time nor the inclination to spend several days on a course or hours wading through screen after screen of e-learning.

What most executives want to understand is how does the project management approach relate to the context in which they operate, what is their role in a project, and what do they need to do to ensure effective project management among the people who work for them.

Tailoring is essential

Project management qualifications demonstrate (in most cases) that an individual has attained a certain level of understanding of a particular approach.  What they do not do is equip that individual with an understanding of how the approach should be applied to their particular project.

Project management training is most effective when participants receive not only theoretical knowledge, but specific guidance on how things work in their organisation and the opportunity to apply the theory to their own projects.  This means tailoring must be tailored to suit both the organisation and the types of projects it is running.

For Government agencies that are required to undertake P3M3® assessments and improve capability, it is important to know that P3M3® level 3 maturity requires that training is focused on your organisation (blog P3M3 Training Considerations).

Embedding project management disciplines requires a structured approach to manage the change

Putting these things together at an organisational level is not trivial.  It requires good cooperation between the corporate PMO and HR department responsible for training / people development.

It requires careful consideration of timings – what is the right time to provide training to each project from the perspective of that project, and how does that add up into an overall picture of how the whole portfolio of projects can be supported. If the organisation is running projects in a programme context this must also be taken into consideration.

Putting it together

If you are currently just arranging project management training for individuals, I suggest you:

  • consider changing your training to a project-by-project basis,
  • involving senior executives in the learning; and
  • tailoring that training.

How to put all this together?  I think you already know the answer to this – run it as a project!

Event Wrap - P3M3 Assessment & Capability Improvement Plan Progress

Daniel Oyston

Last week, we attended an event co-hosted by the Institute of Public Administration Australia (IPAA) and the Australian Institute of Project Management (AIPM) which brought together Public and Private sector to talk about how P3M3 assessments and Capability Improvement Plans are progressing.

Ann Steward, Australian Government Chief Information Officer spoke about the continuing importance and focus on P3M3 including goals of the Agency Capability Initiative, the strengths and areas requiring focus and Capability Improvement Plans and their importance in the ICT Two Pass Process.

Our own Chairman, John Howarth, provided views from an Accredited Consulting Organisation, with extensive experience in the P3M3 arena, on what the Capability Improvement Planning process is and how Agency’s are and can manage their CIPS to achieve their target levels.

John  discussed why Agencies need such capability levels, what Agencies can select to manage using the capability they have and how they can implement their improved capability. There was lots of nodding in the room when John advised that the capability improvement planning process must be an exercise in stakeholder engagement.

A video of John’s speech as well as an audio only file are posted below.

Following Ann and John, the audience heard from three Departments who provided case studies on how they are progressing with their original CIP and their second P3M3 assessment including lessons learnt in the past two years.

Case studies were provided by:

  • Michael Carmody AO, CEO Australian Customs and Border Protection
  • Paul Madden, CIO Department of Health & Ageing; and
  • Mandy Newton, National Manager International Deployment Group Australian Federal Police.
You can download a summary of the key points from each speaker here 

Finally, the five speakers came together on a panel and fielded questions from the audience.

 Click the icon below to access an audio only file of John Howarth's address.

Translating a P3M3 Assessment into a Capability Improvement Plan

John Howarth
P3M3 (Portfolio, Programme and Project Management Maturity Model) is a key area of focus for many organisations, especially government agencies. I have touched on P3M3 a few times in previous blogs, but have only once addressed the issue of capability improvement planning.

Many people are now turning their minds to the question of “How do you really translate a P3M3 assessment into a capability improvement plan?” 

Here are some of my thoughts on this next step.

Don’t make the mistake of simply trying to turn your P3M3 assessment inside-out

It is tempting to look at the results of a P3M3 assessment and say “OK, what we need to do is fix the weak areas”. Then the organisation sets about tackling each area one-by-one. The flaw in this logic is that the process perspectives within P3M3 are interrelated, and must be addressed holistically. This is evident from the frameworks that are commonly used as the cornerstones of portfolio, programme and project management capability – MoP, MSP, PMBOK, PRINCE2, P3O etc. They are not designed to be broken into individual stand-alone elements that are used separately from one-another.

So for example, an organisation cannot address benefits management in isolation if it also has significant weaknesses in stakeholder engagement – the two go hand-in-hand.

Be very clear about what you want to use the disciplines for – and why

There are three disciplines measured by P3M3®, which people often talk about in a single breath - Portfolio Management, Programme Management and Project Management.  However they are very different. While there are linkages between them, when it comes to what you do to improve capability they can – and should – be tackled individually.

Having understood that there are three disciplines in play, an organisation needs to make a conscious choice as to what each discipline will be used for. Sound obvious? It isn’t. For example, should your programmes stop at your organisational boundary, or should they work beyond that boundary? Is it sensible to run a single ICT-enabled change portfolio, or should you run multiple portfolios that reflect discrete service or policy areas? It could well be enlightening for your executive team to have a conversation around what kind of activity they think should be managed with each discipline – and why.

The why question is critical. 

You shouldn’t manage key changes with these disciplines because the project management fraternity think that is they way to go. You should do so because doing so will bring some advantage to the organisation – a way to manage uncertainty and complexity, increased certainty of delivery, reduced risk, better communication with suppliers etc. If your executive can’t articulate what they hope to gain through enhanced portfolio, programme and project management, there is no business case for your capability improvement plan. That is a serious problem!

Focus on people not processes

Hang on you cry, isn’t this maturity all about having processes? Yes, but it is about having processes that people really understand and apply because “That is the way we manages changes here”. There is no value creating management frameworks, manuals and templates which describe a theoretically ideal world but only sit there as shelf-ware while managers do something different.

Your capability improvement plan must be an exercise in stakeholder engagement that brings everyone on the journey. As champions of change, PMO staff and others need to inhabit the world that managers live in and help them learn new skills. The plan must be explicit in identifying which change initiatives will adopt new practices, how and when.

Practice what you preach

By which I mean don’t just write a capability improvement plan as a document, but rather run capability improvement as a change initiative – i.e. as a project or a programme in its own right.

This will both lead you to think about what you are trying to do in a structured way but also serve as an example to others. It helps bring clarity to all the things we espouse to others, such as:

• who is the sponsor for capability improvement;
• what is the business justification for it;
• what are we going to create or change; 
• how will we go about it;
• what resources are required, and 
• what are the risks etc.

P3 Management Maturity – Ask the cleaner

John Howarth

How mature is your organisation’s Portfolio, Programme and Project Management? One way to find out is to conduct a formal P3M3 maturity assessment.  But a more unorthodox way is to ask the cleaner. Here is a light-hearted look at what insights you might gain if you were in an office one evening as the cleaner came round and you asked: 

“So what is this place like then?” 

“It depends which floor you are on.” 

“The people on the first floor are nice enough but I have no idea what they do. They are always working back late, having meetings and long discussions. As far as I can see there always seems to be some sort of crisis or urgent activity and they are figuring it out as they go along. The folk on the third floor are the total opposite. Also really nice but I hardly ever see them unless I am on the early shift. They seem to know what they are on about, only have short sharp meetings and spend their time doing stuff rather than running around between each other’s offices. ”

 Maturity insight – Which floor is level 1? Which floor is level 3?

 “It’s nice when you know who you are talking to.”

 "Over time I’ve picked up the names of some people on the first floor because I see them so much, but I’m still not sure who the boss is or how they fit together. There are no names or signs on the doors or anything. The other thing is that people seem to come and go a fair bit, I don’t know if they get the wrong people in or something or people don’t like working there. 

On the other hand, the third floor is great for new cleaners. Everyone has their name on the door, what their job is and the project they work on. Each project seems to have all the people sitting near each other. I asked one lady what she did the other day and she explained it really clearly. I told her that I thought that was pretty impressive for a newcomer, but she just smiled and said that that was why they had recruited her, because of her skills and experience in that type of a role. Made sense.” 

Maturity insight – Are roles & responsibilities defined with competencies and used to secure appointments?

“I love looking at the walls.”

“I love looking at the walls on both floors. The first floor is great. They have Dilbert cartoons everywhere, funny posters, and signs with witty remarks on them. Hilarious, who thinks up this stuff? I could spend hours reading them all.

On the third floor it’s very different. They have plans everywhere – big schedules and stuff, these huge colour things. They all seem to have them, they even look a bit the same if you stand back. I’ve noticed they all change them regularly. They must take ages to stick together. If ever I do see a few people working back late they are often standing talking about one of these plans on the wall trying to figure out what to do.”

Maturity insight – Are plans developed to a central standard, kept up-to-date and used for decision-making?

“I reckon you could grow plants in some of them.”

“The first floor has piles of paper everywhere. Not just on their desks, but on the tables, floors, everywhere. Some of them have been there ages like compost heaps – I reckon you could grow plants in some of them. I just clean around them. The third floor is the complete opposite. You’d reckon they don’t use any paper files, but I know they do. They have nice clean desks and the only things you see are these official looking blue files in everyone’s tray. Looks very professional and organised.”

Maturity insight – Are there organisation-wide standards on confidentiality, availability and integrity of information and documentation?

Which floor are you on?

OK, I admit, you might not be able to conduct a full P3M3 assessment just by interviewing the cleaner (though it might be fun to try!). However, what does your work environment say about the way you manage your programmes and projects?

Avoiding the Traps in a P3M3® Self-Assessment

Daniel Oyston

For the last two years P3M3® (Portfolio, Programme and Project Management Maturity Model) has been mandated by the Federal and Queensland State Governments for assessing the organisational capability of agencies to effectively manage ICT-enabled investments. The results have been mixed, not just in terms of how mature agencies are, but also in terms of how the assessments have been conducted.  Federal Government agencies will undergo another round of P3M3 assessments before the end of September with results to be reported to the Secretaries’ ICT Governance Board. There are a number of traps that agencies should be aware of when considering a self-assessment.

Trap 1 - Misunderstanding what 'self-assessment' really means

There was considerable confusion when the term ‘self-assessment’ was first introduced, not least because there were two distinct meanings being used. In the Federal Government context, self-assessment originally meant that assessments were to be run by agencies themselves and that it would not involve a central agency arranging each P3M3 assessment or ‘judging’ individual agency capability. The P3M3 model itself, however, offered self-assessment questionnaires as one of a number of ways for an organisation to begin to explore the P3M3 model.

Most agencies have now recognised that a P3M3 assessment is something they must own As such, the question of self-assessment then becomes “To what degree can we do this ourselves and to what degree do we need external assistance?”

Trap 2 - Not ensuring the right level of experience is involved

The P3M3 model is relatively simple to understand in structure; however a deeper level of understanding is required to grasp which elements of the model are the cornerstones of maturity measurement. There is a significant level of detail in the model and not all of it carries equal weight when undertaking an assessment.

In order to assess portfolio, programme and project management maturity, it is also important that the assessors understand what the disciplines of portfolio management, programme management and project management look like when they are well defined and applied in practice. Agencies must consider whether internal assessors have the skills and experience to make such a judgement. Many agencies have the requisite experience in relation to project management, but it is less common for portfolio management and programme management.

Trap 3 - Misinterpretation

The assessments undertaken to date show that consistent interpretation is a critical ingredient in a valid assessment. It is why assessments undertaken using online surveys are of questionable value – those responding to the survey must place their own interpretation on the meaning of the model without the benefit of an experienced assessor to guide them.

A simple example of this issue is interpretation of the word ‘programme’ – if people interpret it to mean ‘Government program’ rather than ’change programme’ when undertaking a survey then the  P3M3 assessment results will be invalid.

Trap 4 - Using unskilled interviewers

The accepted method for undertaking a P3M3 assessment relies primarily on interviews with people in key management roles – programme managers, project sponsors, investment committee members etc.  It is important that the correct people are selected for interview, and that the assessors are skilled interviewers. The APMG Group provides third-party accreditation of Registered Consultants who are qualified to undertake P3M3 assessments.

P3M3 is here to stay – What are the next steps?

Agencies are implementing their capability improvement plans. They will complete their next P3M3 assessment, to compare their actual capability to their target capability, and report the results to Secretaries’ ICT Governance Board, by 30 September 2012.

From September 2012, agencies are required to complete regular P3M3 assessments of their portfolio, program and project management capability and report to Secretaries’ ICT Governance Board on progress against their capability improvement plans.

Agencies must obtain independent validation of their current capability before undertaking major ICT projects. The Government considers agencies’ capability as part of the ICT Two Pass Review process to strengthen the link between policy formulation and implementation.

P3M3 is here to stay. While I hate to use the blog as a ‘sales tool’, it is important to note that Tanner James can help agencies undertake a self-assessment in the optimum way – using APS resources to build internal skills and reduce cost while benefiting from external expertise arising from having conducted many assessments.  Conducting an assessment this way can produce a valid assessment for less than half the cost of having a full external assessment undertaken.

If you have undertaken a self-assessment before, or started to explore the self-assessment questionnaires, then I would welcome your questions, observations or lessons learned.

Are We Running a Programme (or a Program) or a Project?

John Howarth

Are we running a programme or a project?  That is a common question and one that attracts an increased level of debate when there is a P3M3® assessment underway.  So I will share my thoughts and invite other people to enter the discussion based on their experiences.

Spelling doesn’t matter

OK, let us get this one out of the way.  It doesn’t matter whether you using the spelling ‘programme’ or ‘program’. What does matter is the meaning attached to the word.  For this reason I have suggested to Government agencies – admittedly with very little success so far – that they use the spelling ‘program’ for traditional Government programs, and use the spelling ‘programme’ for delivery of major change initiatives.  Bottom-line: be clear what it means in your organization.

Definitions do matter

I want to put reference some definitions here, not just for the sake of it, but because I think it is central to answering the headline question.

The parliamentary website defines a program as:

“Activity that delivers benefits, services or transfer payment to individuals, industry and/or the community as a whole, with the aim of achieving the intended result specified in an outcome statement.” (An outcome is “the intended result, consequence or impact of government actions on the Australian community”.)

In its best management practice guidance the UK Cabinet Office defines programmes and projects as:

“Programme: a temporary, flexible organization structure created to coordinate, direct and oversee the implementation of a set of related projects and activities in order to deliver outcomes and benefits related to an organization’s strategic objectives.”

“Project: a temporary organization that is created for the purpose of delivering one or more business outputs according to a specified business case.”

The answer:  It is a matter of choice

Have another look at those definitions because therein lies the answer to the question.  The key words are “temporary” and “create”. From a best practice perspective - P3M3®, MSP®, PRINCE2® etc - a programme is a programme or a project is a project because you choose to create a temporary management structure. Nothing is inherently a programme or a project, it is simply an initiative with certain characteristics. Sure, if you look at the management tests they will provide ‘compare and contrast’ listings examining the characteristics of each. Ultimately, however, it is a choice that needs to be made: “should we run XYZ as a programme or a project?”.


In my opinion the implications are significant in that Government agencies in particular should be very clear about who is making these choices and on what basis.

  • Should you run the establishment of a new program as a programme?
  • Should you run a new program as a programme from cradle to the grave? 
  • Should you run some of the program as a project? 

I think these questions deserve a far more considered response than “That’s not how you spell it”.

Who is making these choices in your organization and on what basis?  I’d love to hear your views.

Capability Improvement – 5 Ways To Get The Ball Rolling

John Howarth

I said in my P3M3 – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly blog that an assessment does not automatically identify what you must do to get better at the delivery of change using P3 disciplines. Nor does it tell you how to get there.

So how do you do it?  That is a challenge many people face and it is one of those challenges that can appear harder and harder the more you think about it. Trying Google provides a plethora of highly complex results and sometimes it can feel like you’ll never accomplish anything.

So where to start?  To my way of thinking it’s another case of back to basics.  Here are five things you can easily do to get the capability improvement ball rolling.

1. Talk to people

Take a break from sending out emails, writing procedures and creating new templates and get out their and talk to people. Ask them what they think portfolio, programme or project management is all about. You might be surprised where the conversation leads.

2. Inform your executives

If the senior leaders of the organisation don’t know what portfolio, programme or project management can do for them it won’t get much attention. Which means you need to understand what their problems are and where P3 disciplines might help. But equally important is that you understand where they won’t help.

3. Focus on fundamentals not details

Frameworks like MSP®, PRINCE2® and P3O® are very comprehensive. This is great for highly experienced practitioners but can be intimidating and unhelpful for both organisations and individuals who are new to such approaches. Don’t confuse a comprehensively defined framework with the manner in which it is applied – get the principles understood before you reach down into techniques.

4. Start by putting the theory into practice

People often do formal training in a framework then spend lots of time figuring out how it should work in their organization and/or on their project. They can be paralysed in trying to create a perfect process. My advice is to have a go. Try it. Use the bits that make the most sense to you and appear most valuable. It doesn’t matter whether it is perfect - what matters is that the frameworks have helped you think differently.

5. Find a buddy

It doesn’t have to be someone from your team, in fact it may be better if it isn't. Just find another person who you can talk your ideas through with and you’ll find it a whole lot easier.

If anyone else out there has ideas they’d like to share on how to get things moving I’m sure there are plenty of like-minded people working on capability improvement who would love to hear them so please leave them in the comments section below.

P3M3 – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

John Howarth

The P3M3 has been adopted by Federal and Queensland State Governments as a model to assess the capability maturity of agencies and departments.  This has created a little industry in its own right and now it seems everyone in the Australian project management community has a view on the model. 

There are lots of regular information pages on the net, so let’s cut straight to the juicy bits, Clint Eastwood style... (cue music)

The Good


The UK Cabinet Office has involved lots of clever people in creating the model. So, you can rest assured it is pretty solid, coming out of the same stable as PRINCE2, MSP and other best management practice frameworks.


There’s a full scheme in place to make sure that if you employ accredited consultants to conduct an assessment then you can be confident they know what they are talking about.


You don’t need a degree in Microsoft Excel formulas to understand the model and the results.


Interestingly, one of the great benefits of the Federal Assessments has been the resultant involvement of senior executives and business-side sponsors who may have previously not got too close to portfolio, programme or project management disciplines. 

But the model requires them to be interviewed for the assessments and once they’ve got involved many have happily shown quite an appetite to know more – great news for advancing the cause of some of the less well established approaches such as (proper) benefits management and (proper) stakeholder engagement.

The Bad

It’s only a measurement tool

The same as a speed camera doesn’t teach you how to drive, a P3M3 assessment doesn’t tell you how to fix things. It is simply there to measure capability once you’ve done some things to attend to the weak areas in your last assessment. It’s up to you to figure out what those areas are – easier said than done though.


Early experiences in the Federal Government pilots showed this can be a disaster zone. The problem is the unconscious incompetent – people who really have no idea about what best practice looks like then score themselves about the same as the most advanced organisations in the world.  Which brings me on to…


A P3M3 assessment is subjective. I’ll say that again in case you missed it the first time: a P3M3 assessment is subjective. With the best will in the world it is about experienced consultants trying to make a consistent professional judgement.  Sure there are criteria and the like, but there is still a huge degree of interpretation involved. So it’s the same old story, garbage-in = garbage-out or ‘lies, damned lies and statistics'.

The lunatic fringe

You always know when something is having an impact in the project management community when the lunatic fringe turn up. You know the sort - over-analysing, highly-opinionated, off on tangents. They love to push their pet theories at industry body meetings. Harsh? Perhaps, but let these people loose in front of your executive team and you might see months of careful education unravelled based on a semantic argument about statistical correlations they have invented for themselves. Very frustrating.

Software – automation is better-faster-cheaper, right?  Wrong.  Using software to undertake a P3M3 assessment is self-assessment gone mad.  The heart of a valuable P3M3 assessment is skilful professional judgement.  You won’t find any of that in a ‘click here to find your maturity’ product.  It’s about the same as my 15 year-old telling me what a great driver he is based on the online road rules theory test even though he’s never driven a car on the road.

The Ugly


Question (but think hard before you answer ): What is it that you are going to assess?

In the case of Federal Government, P3M3 was pointed at ICT-enabled change. Sounds straightforward, but there were wide variations in what people thought this meant – ranging from ‘just the list of projects run in the CIO’s shop’ to ‘every policy initiative our agency implements’.


Which initiatives do you look at, which people do you interview? These are important questions, because the outcome depends wholly on what you assess and what people tell you. 

Fortunately I think there is a (relatively) easy answer – get the right senior sponsor for the assessment, and ask them directly: “If we assess these initiatives by interviewing these people are you confident that will provide a representative view of the agency’s capability?”. If the answer is 'yes' then you are good to go.


This is one of those aspects which people miss until they actually sit down to do a P3M3 assessment interview. They do not consider how to interpret the model, and what the interviewee has told them, in their particular situation. A huge part of this comes down to language, and great care is required to ensure the interviewee understands what the model means by such terms as “programme” or “benefit”.  Sounds simple?  It isn’t, especially with business sponsors who may have a dislike for ‘P3 jargon’. This question of interpretation is, by the way, one of the primary reasons a software-based self-assessment is highly unlikely to be of any real value.


And finally, the ‘so what?’ issue. An assessment is an assessment. It does not automatically identify what you must do to get better at the delivery of change using P3 disciplines. Nor does it tell you how to get there. Creation of a Capability Improvement Plan is a whole different ball-game. I feel another blog coming on…

So those are my thoughts. Perhaps not as good as a spaghetti western but hopefully food (pun deliberate) for thought. I would love to hear from clients, fellow assessors and - dare I say it - even the lunatic fringe(!)

Take aim and fire your opinions back...

Delivering the Promise

John Howarth
“As the challenges facing governments increase in complexity, the need for robust and methodical implementation becomes vital”. 

Senator the Hon. Penny Wong, Minister for Finance and Deregulation, addressing the Better Government: Improving Program Implementation and Delivery forum hosted by the Institute of Public Administration Australia and the Australian Institute of Project Management, Canberra, 15 November 2011.

Most APS agencies have now completed at least one P3M3® capability maturity assessment.  P3M3  provides organisations with a model to assess their performance in portfolio, programme and project delivery and an assessment can be used as a baseline for organisational capability improvement.  In response to the findings of these assessments, many agencies have sought to develop a Capability Improvement Plan. 

One of the greatest challenges an organisation faces is to manage the complexity of all the change programmes and projects it has in flight.  The need to prioritise investment and focus on those activities that deliver the organisation’s strategic needs has never been more important.  It is critical that organisations identify the right programmes and projects to deliver and in the portfolio delivery cycle, that they make sure that these continue to align with strategy and deliver the benefits they promised.  The use of portfolio management provides a coordinated collection of strategic processes and decisions that together enable the most effective balance of organisational change and business as usual.  It ensures the organisation invests (and continues to invest) in the ‘right’ change initiatives and delivers them the ‘right’ way.
The key methodologies for implementation are:
  • Management of Portfolios (MoPTM) approaches the management of change projects and programmes from a strategic viewpoint. It provides an overview of all change activities including what activities are in the portfolio, what it is costing, what risks are faced, what progress is being made, and the impact of change upon business as usual activities and the organisation’s strategic objectives.
  • Managing Successful Programmes (MSP®) which provides a proven and structured framework for implementing business strategies and initiatives.  It provides a mechanism for managing the pace of business change and for actively driving the outcomes and benefits from that change. Projects will be aligned to strategy and risks will be systematically managed.
  • PRINCE2® is an internationally accepted project management method describing how to manage a project in a logical, organised way.  It is a structured project management process, which can be easily tailored and applied to all types of projects and situations and embedded in business processes.
  • P3O® (Portfolio, Programme and Project Offices) ensures consistent delivery of programmes and projects across an organisation.  P3O is a set of principles, processes and techniques which facilitate effective portfolio, programme, and project management through enablement, challenge and support structures.  P3O bridges the gap between the policy makers at the strategic level of the organisation and the implementation of policy via the project delivery arm of the organisation. 

The structure and discipline inherent in the effective use of these methodologies underpins far greater levels of creativity and innovation in policy implementation by facilitating much more effective identification and management of risks and issues.  Risk is a given in any policy implementation process but the inherent structure of these methods provides a means to address complexity, ambiguity and uncertainty.