Governance System Outputs

November 24, 2012

In a number of blog posts and White Papers we have argued that:

  1. Governance and Management are separate systems and have separate functions
  2. Governance is the exclusive responsibility of the ‘governing board’ of the organisation
  3. The three functions within any organisation are:
    • the governance functions that establish the objectives for the organisation;
    • the management functions that direct and organise the work needed to achieve the objectives; and
    • the productive functions performed by workers to create the knowledge or products required to fulfil the objectives.
  4. PPP Governance is an integral part of organisational governance (not something separate)

These systems and functions are discussed in depth in WP1084 – Governance Systems & Management Systems and two linked White Papers on Corporate Governance and PPP Governance.

In my last post I looked at the communication challenges faced by the governing board, this post looks at the unique outputs created by the governance system.

As a starting point for the discussion, if governance and management are different systems, they should have different functions creating different outputs. We believe this is the case.

The functions of management were defined by Henri Fayol (1841 – 1925) in his general theory of business administration as:

  • Forecasting.
  • Planning.
  • Organising.
  • Commanding.
  • Coordinating.
  • Controlling.

Inherent in these functions are decision making and the primary output from management can be defined as information and instructions that have to be communicated to others. The communication is firstly to the workers so they understand what has to be produced, where and when; secondly to the governing body to provide assurance that the right decisions have been made and the right things are being produced in the right ways applying the organisation’s policy framework correctly.

The governance system operates at a higher level and is responsible for governing the organisation to create sustainable success for the organisation’s owners. This is of necessity, a multi-faceted process that requires the careful balancing of different, frequently contradictory, objectives from different stakeholder groups.

The governance function has two key aspects; the first is deciding what the organisation should be and how it should function. These governance decisions are communicated to management for implementation and the primary outputs from this part of the governance system are:

  • The strategic objectives of the organisation framed within its mission, values and ethical framework.
  • The policy framework the organisation is expected to operate within.
  • The appointment of key managers to manage the organisation.

These aspects are best developed using a principle-based approach that recognises and encourages entrepreneurial responses from all levels of management.

The second aspect of the governance system is oversight and assurance. The governing body should pro-actively seek assurance from its management that the strategic objectives and policies are being correctly achieved or implemented. The assurance and oversight functions include:

  • Agreeing the organisations current strategic plan (in conjunction with executive management). The strategic plan describes how the strategic objectives will be achieved.
  • Suggesting or approving changes to the strategic plan to respond to changing circumstances.
  • Requiring effective assurance from management that the organisations policy framework is being adhered to.
  • Requiring effective assurance from management that the organisations resources are being used as efficiently as practical in pursuit of its strategic objectives.
  • Communicating the relevant elements of the assurances received from management to appropriate external stakeholders.
    • Assurance to the organisation’s owners the strategy and policies are being adhered to by management and the organisation as a whole.
    • Assurance to a wider stakeholder community (including regulatory authorities) the organisation is operating properly.

As my previous post suggested, the governance communication challenges are significant! However, by clearly defining the different roles of governance and management the functioning of an organisation will be enhanced, and the communication challenges will be reduced.


Communication!

November 13, 2012

The recently released Sixth edition of the APM-BoK consists of four major sections: context, people, delivery and interfaces. Typical ‘hard’ project management processes such as scope, schedule, cost, resource, risk, integration and quality comes in the section focused on delivery. This is after the section concerned with people and interpersonal skills and the first area featured in the APM-BOK under the people area is communication. The APM-BoK recognises that communication is fundamental to the project management environment, and makes a very powerful statement: “None of the tools and techniques described in this body of knowledge will work without effective communication”.

To an extent the PMBOK is playing ‘catch-up’ with other key standards including the Association of Project Management (UK) Body of Knowledge (APM-BoK) 6th Edition and ISO 21500. The good news is all three standards now see identifying the important stakeholders in and around a project or program and then communicating effectively with each stakeholder as the fundamental driver of success.

The recently released Sixth edition of the APM-BoK consists of four major sections: context, people, delivery and interfaces. Typical ‘hard’ project management processes such as scope, schedule, cost, resource, risk, integration and quality comes in the section focused on delivery. This is after the section concerned with people and interpersonal skills and the first area featured in the APM-BOK under the people area is communication. The APM-BoK recognises that communication is fundamental to the project management environment, and makes a very powerful statement: “None of the tools and techniques described in this body of knowledge will work without effective communication”.

The PMBOK® Guide 5th Edition has followed PMI’s standard practice of retaining existing chapters and adding new sections at the back so the positional prominence in the APM-BoK is not possible. However understanding the changes between the 4th and 5th Editions and comparing these to ISO 21500 does show the extent of the increased focus in the PMBOK on communication and the stakeholders you communicate with.

MANAGE STAKEHOLDERS

This is a new section in the PMBOK® Guide 5th Edition (Chapter 13). It is based on two processes moved from the communication section of the 4th edition and has been expanded.

Identify stakeholders is a beefed up version of the same process in the 4th Edition, focused on understanding who the project’s stakeholders are.

Plan Stakeholder Management is a new process that describes how the stakeholder community will be are analysed, the current and desired levels of engagement defined and the interrelationships between stakeholders identified. It highlights the fact that levels of engagement may change over time.

Manage stakeholders remains basically the same as in the 4th Edition and is similarly defined in ISO 21500.

Control Stakeholder Management is a new process that ensures new stakeholders are identified, current stakeholders are reassessed and stakeholders no longer involved in the project are removed from the communication plan. The process requires the on-going monitoring of changes in stakeholder relationships the effectiveness of the engagement strategy, and when required, the adaption of the stakeholder management strategy to deal with the changed circumstances.

As with ISO 21500, the early parts of the PMBOK discussing the management or projects in organisations also has a strong emphasis on stakeholders (Chapters 1, 2 and 3).

COMMUNICATIONS MANAGEMENT

This section of the PMBOK® Guide 5th Edition has been consolidated and expanded and is very similar to ISO 21500 in its effect.

Plan Communications remains basically unchanged, the key input is the stakeholder analysis.

Manage Communications is a new process that amalgamate the 4th Edition processes of Distribute Information and Report Performance, and in doing so removes a lot of unnecessary confusion. This new process goes beyond the distribution of relevant information and seeks to ensure that the information being communicated to project stakeholders has been received and understood, and also provides opportunities for stakeholders to make further information requests. ISO 21500 has an interesting additional function (not in the PMBOK) which is the management of the distribution of information from stakeholders to the project in order to provide inputs to other processes such as risk management.

Control Communications is a new process that identifies and resolves communications issues, and ensures communication needs are satisfied. The outputs are accurate and timely information (resolved communications issues) and change requests, primarily to the communication plan.

Summary

Communication is the means by which information or instructions are exchanged! Communication is the underpinning skill needed to gather the information needed to make project decisions and to disseminate the results from all of the traditional ‘hard skills’ including cost, time, scope, quality and risk management. Good communication makes these processes effective, whereas poor communication leads to misunderstood requirements, unclear goals, the alienation of stakeholders, ineffective plans and many other factors leading to failure

The common theme across all three standards is that communicating the right information to the right stakeholders in the right way (and remembering communication is a two-way process) is fundamental to success. The basic requirement is to deal effectively and fairly with people, their needs, expectations, wants, preferences and ultimately their values – projects are done by people for people and the only way to influence people is through effective communication.

Project communication skills include expectation management, building trust, gaining user acceptance, stakeholder and relationship management, influencing, negotiation, conflict resolution, delegation, and escalation.

What’s really pleasing to me is how similar these ‘standard’ requirements are to the ideas embedded in my Stakeholder Circle® methodology, books, blogs, White Papers and tools. I have no idea how much influence my writings have had on the various standards development teams but it is pleasing to see a very common set of ‘best practices’ emerging around the world. Now all we need is the management will to implement the processes to improve project and program outcomes.


PMBOK 5th Edition some key changes #1

October 20, 2012

We are starting work on the updates to our training courses needed for next year and rather like most of the enhancements in the 5th Edition (due for publication on 31st December). Over the next few months we will be posting a number of commentaries on the changes and improvements. This post looks at some of the key changes.

The new PMBOK® guide now has 47 processes (up from 42) and a new Knowledge Area:

Four planning processes have been added: Plan Scope Management (back from the 3rd Edition), Plan Schedule Management, Plan Cost Management, and Plan Stakeholder Management. This change provides clearer guidance for the concept that each major Knowledge Area has a need for the project team to actively think through and plan how aspects from the related processes are planned and managed, and that each of the subsidiary plans are integrated through the overall project management plan, which is the major planning document for guiding further project planning and execution.

The addition of a new knowledge area called ‘Stakeholder Management’ making 10 Knowledge areas is great news!! In keeping with the evolution of thinking regarding stakeholder management within projects, this new Knowledge Area has been added addressing Project Stakeholder Management. Information on stakeholder identification and managing stakeholder expectations was moved from Project Communications Management to this new Knowledge Area to expand upon and increase the focus on the importance of appropriately engaging project stakeholders in the key decisions and activities associated with the project. New processes were added for Plan Stakeholders Management and Control Stakeholders Engagement. We will be discussing this important initiative in later posts.

Data flows and knowledge management concepts have been enhanced:

The PMBOK® Guide now conforms to the DIKW (data, information, knowledge, wisdom) model used in the field of Knowledge Management. Information/Data is segregated into three phases:

Work Performance Data. The raw observations and measurements identified during the performance of the project work, such as measuring the percent of work physically completed.

Work Performance Information. The results from the analysis of the performance data, integrated across areas such as the implementation status of change requests, or forecasts to complete.

Work Performance Reports. The physical or electronic representation of work performance information compiled in project documents, intended to generate decisions, actions, or awareness.

Understanding the information in the reports and making wise decisions are functions of the competence of the individual manager reading the report and are therefore beyond the scope of a process (for more on effective communication see: http://www.mosaicprojects.com.au/PM-Knowledge_Index.html#PPM07)

Annex A1 – The Standard for Project Management of a Project created.

This new annex has been designed to serve as a standalone document. This positions the Standard for Project Management away from the main body of the PMBOK® Guide material allowing the evolution of the Body of Knowledge material to be separated from the actual Standard for Project Management. Chapter 3 remains as the bridge between Sections 1 and 2 and the Knowledge Area sections and introduces the project management processes and Process Groups as in the previous editions of the PMBOK® Guide.

More next time.


Thoughts on communication

October 8, 2012

There have been a couple of ‘stories’ in the Australian media of late that suggest a fundamental change in the communication landscape is emerging. One is the ongoing furore around a comment in very bad taste made by radio presenter Alan Jones at a private function organised by a political party, the other concerns perceptions about one of our political leaders. For the purpose of this post, the facts of the two situations are less important than the trends they suggest are emerging.

The Australian government does not try to moderate good taste and within sensible limits around defamation, incitement and vilification we enjoy the privilege of freedom of speech which I believe is critically important; therefore:

Alan Jones has a right to exhibit bad taste and make his comment and the 1000s of other people who are using social media to express their objection to the comment have an equal right to ‘free speech’ and the whinging from the 2GB management (Jones’ radio station) about the effect of the social media campaign on their advertisers is also ‘free speech’.

Having said that, what I believe is really interesting is the shift in power that is evident. As a high profile radio presenter, Jones used to have almost complete power, he controlled the microphone, could rubbish detractors on air and cut off their response. That power still remains but has been circumvented by social media; a sustained campaign by the ‘twittering classes’ has cost 2GB hundreds of thousands of dollars in cancelled advertising – a new paradigm for directors and managers to deal with.

In a similar vein, the ongoing ‘noise’ around opposition leader Tony Abbot’s attitude to women will be interesting to watch through to a conclusion, if one is ever reached……

But even at this early stage there are a number of observations that are likely to become increasingly important in an effective stakeholder engagement and communication model for any entity; both individuals and organisations.

  1. Negativity is becoming a very dangerous weapon to deploy. American politicians of all persuasions have been running negative advertising about politicians of the other persuasion for many years. The negative advertising has worked, the America public consistently place politicians at the very bottom of any list based on ethics, trust, etc. Used car salesmen and journalists are preferred to politicians and the situation is not much different in Australia. If you start using negativity, the power of social media to spread the negativity almost guarantees it will come back to damage the initiator. In the connected age, negativity is rapidly becoming a WSD (of similar power to a WMD but read ‘weapon of self destruction’).
  2. Perceptions are easily created and hard to dispel or change. I have no idea how Tony Abbot actually works with women, but a negative perception has emerged. Perceptions are frequently wrong, but they are based on what people believe they saw or heard. Consequently this type of social perception cannot be changed by people with a vested interest telling others they are wrong, to quote Margaret Thatcher “Power is like being a lady… if you have to tell people you are, you aren’t” – the same applies to perceptions. Perceptions can be managed but they are built over time and have to be changed over time and this can only be achieved with a sustained change in observed behaviour – words are not going to do anything.
  3. There seems to be an emerging disconnect between perceptions and emotions and reality. This was the focus of my blog post Credit, Trust and Emotions. What’s not mentioned in the blog, but is in the RBA report, is that non-mining business investment has been increasing rapidly despite the flat business sentiment. The real economic situation and actual investment levels are aligned, but the business sentiment is failing to recognise business reality.

Managing a corporate image, your project’s image within the organisation or your personal image is certainly getting to be a whole lot harder. What I’m wondering based on the above is, are we starting to see a real shift from positional power, supported by negativity and traditional advertising to something more subtle, distributed and potentially positive, and if so how can this be effectively managed?


Productivity decline should generate more projects

October 6, 2012

Projects and programs are the key organisational change agents for creating the capability to improve productivity through new systems, processes and facilities. But only if sensible projects are started for the right reason.

Declines in productivity seem to be widespread. In Australia, labour productivity in the market sectors of the economy increased at 2.8% per annum between 1945 and 2001, reducing by 50% to an annual rate of 1.4% between 2001 and 2001.

  • The measure of Labour Productivity is the gross value added per hour of work.
  • The ‘market sectors’ measured exclude public administration, education and healthcare where measurement is almost impossible.

Some of this change can be attributed to macro economic factors, there were massive efficiency gains derived from the shift from paper based ‘mail’ and copy typist to the electronic distribution of information, improved global transport systems (particularly containerisation) and the restructuring of manufacturing post WW2. These massive changes in the last half of the 20th century are not being replicated in current.

Whilst this decline in the rate of improvement in labour productivity is significant, the capital inclusive index is a more telling statistic. The multi-factor productivity index which includes the capital invested in production, giving a purer measure of the efficiency with which labour and capital are combined to produce goods and services. In the six years leading up to 2001, this measure of productivity grew by an average of 1.5% per annum, in the decade between 2001 and 2011 this reversed and productivity fell by 0.4% per annum.

Around 40% of the decline in the last decade can be explained by massive investments in mining and utilities that have yet to generate a return on the capital invested. The other 60% represents the massive cost of ‘new capabilities’ in general business for relatively small, or no improvement in productivity.

One has only to look at the ever increasing number of ‘bells and whistles’ built into software systems ranging from high definition colour screens to features that are never used (and the cost of upgrading to the ‘new system’) to understand the problem. 90% of the efficiency gain came with the introduction of the new system many years ago, the on-going maintenance and upgrade costs often equal the original investment but without the corresponding improvement in productivity. Another area of ‘investment’ for 0% increase in productivity is compliance regimes. Whilst there may be good social arguments for many of these requirements, the infrastructure and systems needed to comply with the regulations consume capital and labour without increasing productivity.

In Australia general management have been rather slow to appreciate the challenge of declining productivity, the impact being cushioned by a range of other factors that helped drive profitability. But this has changed significantly in the last year or so. There is now an emerging recognition that productivity enhancing organisational change is an imperative; and smart management recognise this cannot be achieved through capability limiting cost reductions.

Organisations that thrive in the next decade will:

  • Enhance customer satisfaction and service,
  • Enhance their engagement with their workforce, the community and other stakeholders,
  • Enhance their products and capabilities, and
  • Improve their labour productivity.

Achieving a viable balance across all four areas will require an effective, balanced strategy supported by the efficient implementation of the strategic intent through effective portfolio, program and project management capabilities that encompass benefits realisation and value creation.

The three key capabilities needed to achieve this are:

  • The ability to develop a meaningful and practical strategic plan.
  • An effective Project Delivery Capability (PDC); see: WP1079_PDC.
  • An effective Organisational Change Management Capability; see: WP1078_Change_Management.

Improving productivity is a major challenge for both general management and the project management community; and the contribution of stakeholder management and project management to the overall effort will continue to be a focus for this blog.


Credit, Trust and Emotions

September 26, 2012

Last night we attended the Deakin University, Richard Searby Oration, delivered by Dr Guy Debelle, Assistant Governor (Financial Markets), Reserve Bank of Australia. His topic was: Credo et Fido: Credit and Trust.

The 2012 Oration explored the importance of credit and trust within the financial system and how the breakdown in trust post 2007 and the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) is severely hampering the global recovery.

Debelle’s hypothesis is that there is no credit without trust because there is always asymmetrical information in a loan transaction, the borrower always knows more about his/her/its financial situation and intentions than the lender and trust is needed to bridge this knowledge gap and allow the loan to be made.

This is as true of a depositor lending to a financial institution as it is of a bank lending to a borrower or importantly one financial institution lending to another institution. When trust breaks down, the lending process slows up or stops altogether. For more on the value of trust see: WP1030_The_Value_of_Trust.  

However, trust implies risk, the root cause of the GFC was overconfidence, leading to lax lending practices, supported by a lack of effective due diligence, leading to a chronic underpricing of risk. This allowed highly unethical, if not criminal practices to develop exponentially with institutions offloading risk to other institutions at a fraction of the real price. This complacency and ‘lazy trust’ allowed vast ‘bubbles’ of underpriced risk to develop across the whole financial sector. When the finance system was eventually forced to take a severe look at its situation, trust evaporated, credit dried up and the GFC destroyed value around the world.

The sovereign states (ie, governments) as lenders of last resort were in many cases unable to counterbalance the situation because trust in their ability to repay debt also evaporated. Pricing risk requires a reasonable degree of confidence that the parameters of the ‘unknown’ are knowable and a reasonable probability can be assigned to a defined risk exposure. Post GFC the breakdown of trust and confidence in financial markets has lead to uncertainty. When lenders ‘don’t know’ what the risk is they cannot price the risk, set a reasonable premium and use the information to strike a loan rate. If lender cannot set an interest rate for a loan, there is no loan (or the rates are exorbitantly high and the loan periods very short).

On-going banking scandals in Europe and the USA are continuing to erode trust and slow the rebuilding, despite money supply being expanded by the central banks. Having money is no good if you cannot trust anyone to lend it to.

The thread of argument that can be drawn from the above is that access to the credit needed to fund economic growth is based on a large proportion of a society having enough confidence in their financial systems for a reasonable degree of pragmatic trust to be extended by lenders to borrowers (and the borrowers having sufficient confidence in the situation and system to seek loans). This is as much a function of the underlying emotional settings within a society as the actual facts of the situation.

Australia is an interesting example. The GFC had minimal overall effect on the economy due to much tighter fiscal and banking policies, supported by swift government action. The current situation is also good with relatively low debt and the Reserve Bank has significant options open to keep the economy growing.

The overall strength of the economy was outlined in a speech entitled ‘The Glass Half Full’ given by Glenn Stevens’, Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA), in his address to the American Chamber of Commerce (SA) AMCHAM Internode Business Lunch held in Adelaide on the 8 June 2012 (see: http://www.rba.gov.au/speeches/2012/sp-gov-080612.html).

One of the key charts presented by Stevens shows the inflation adjusted per capita GDP in Australia has hardly missed a beat – the GFC had a flattening effect but overall business conditions for the last 5 years have remained basically the same and are improving.

GDP = Gross Domestic Product and is directly correlated to the spending power per person (compounded by the growth in the Australian population). The only significant change highlighted in Steven’s report was a shift from an unsustainable growth in personal borrowings back towards a more sustainable savings rate which under any normal circumstance would be seen as good economic sense, particularly given the disasters in places like Ireland, Spain and Iceland caused by excessive borrowing.

So given the basically solid performance of the Australian economy, one would expect a similar trend in business confidence?? Unfortunately this is not the case:

A survey of business confidence by DBM Consultants shows confidence crashed in the period between 2007 and 2009 and continues to ‘flat-line’ with the vast majority of businesses being concerned about the economy. This flows through into low expectations for increasing employment and taking on borrowings (see: www.dbmconsultants.com.au).

The question is why is there such as big disconnect between the financial facts as presented by the RBA and the emotional distrust expressed by business in the DBM report?

My feeling is the key driver is the almost unrelenting stream of negative reporting in the press focusing on ‘bad news’ stories such as plant closures rather than good news stories such as the overall growth in employment (even in the manufacturing states such as Victoria), supported by a similar campaign by the federal opposition for short term political gain. This combination of unrelenting negativity will undoubtedly lower the level of optimism in the community (shown by numerous surveys) and lower the levels of trust in the government which as the ‘lender of last resort’ flows through into the financial and business communities.

Given the press appear to believe bad news sells papers and the opposition has a vested interest in winning the next election, both legitimate objectives, one wonders what needs to happen to start the shift in confidence highlighted as essential in Dr Debelle’s oration? The belief highlighted in the DBM report above has to be having a direct effect on the rate of growth in the economy because businesses are not investing, not training staff and not employing at the levels they could if there was more confidence – to an extent, the emotions are self-fulfilling.

As individuals we cannot do much at a national or international level, but we can learn from the wider world. When dealing with your team and/or communicating with stakeholders a proper balance is needed between achievements and issues. Focusing only on bad news and you will damage future prospects – unrelenting negativity is likely to be self-fulfilling; whilst unfounded optimism is a recipe for disaster if you ignore prudent good practice.


The value of stakeholder management

August 13, 2012

One of the questions I’m regularly asked is to outline the business case for using stakeholder management in a business or project. This is a difficult question to answer accurately because no-one measures the cost of problems that don’t occur and very few organisations measure the cost of failure.

The problem is not unique; it is very difficult to value the benefits of an effective PMO, of improving project delivery methods (eg, improving the skills of your schedulers), of investing in effective communication (the focus of my September column in PMI’s PM Network magazine) or of better managing risk. The costs of investing in the improvement are easily defined, but the pay-back is far more difficult to measure.

There are two reasons why investing in effective stakeholder analytics is likely to deliver a valuable return on investment (ROI).

  • The first is by knowing who the important stakeholders are at any point in time, the expenditure on other processes such as communication can be focused where it is needed most, generating efficiencies and a ‘bigger bang for your buck’.
  • The second is stakeholders are a major factor in the risk profile of the work, their attitudes and actions can have significant positive or negative consequences and understanding the overall community provides valuable input to a range of processes including risk identification, requirements definition and schedule management.

At the most fundamental level, improving the management of stakeholders is directly linked to improving the quality of the organisation’s interaction with the stakeholders and as a consequence, the quality of the goods or services delivered to the end users or client (ie, stakeholders) as a result of being better informed whilst undertaking the work.

Quality was defined by Joseph Juran as fit for purpose, this elegant definition applies equally to the quality of your management processes as it does to your production processes and to the deliverables produced. And the three elements are interlinked; you need good management systems and information to allow an effective production system to create quality outputs for delivery to the client. A failure at any point in the chain will result in a quality failure and the production on deliverables that do not meet client requirements.

Placing stakeholder management within the context of quality allows access to some reasonably well researched data that can be interpolated to provide a reasonable basis for assessing the ‘return’ likely to be generated from an investment in stakeholder management.

Philip B. Crosby invented the concept of the ‘cost of quality’ and his book, Quality Is Free set out four major principles:

  1. the definition of quality is conformance to requirements (requirements meaning both the product and the customer’s requirements)
  2. the system of quality is prevention
  3. the performance standard is zero defects (relative to requirements)
  4. the measurement of quality is the price of nonconformance

His belief was that an organization that established a quality program will see savings returns that more than pay off the cost of the quality program: “quality is free”. The challenge is knowing you fully understand who the ‘customers’ actually are, and precisely what their various requirements and expectations are, and having ways to manage mutually exclusive or conflicting expectations. Knowing ‘who’s who and who’s important’ is a critical first step.

Feigenbaum’s categorization of the cost of quality has two main components; the cost of conformance (to achieve ‘good’ quality) and the cost of poor quality (or the cost of non-conformance).

Derived from: Feigenbaum, Armand V. (1991), Total Quality Control (3 ed.), New York, New York: McGraw-Hill, p. 109, ISBN 978-0-07-112612-0.

The cost of achieving the required level of quality is the investment made in the prevention of non-conformance to requirements plus the cost of testing and inspections to be comfortable the required quality levels have been achieved.

The cost of poor quality resulting from failing to meet requirements has both internal and external components. The internal costs are associated with defects, rework and lost opportunities caused by tying people up on rectification work. External failure costs can be much higher with major damage to an organisation’s brand and image as well as the direct costs associated with fixing the quality failure.

The management challenge is balancing the investment in quality against the cost of quality failure to hit the ‘sweet spot’ where your investment is sufficient to achieve the required quality level to be fit for purpose; overkill is wasted $$$$. But first you and ‘right stakeholders’ need to agree on precisely what fit for purpose actually means.

Also, the level of investment needed to achieve the optimum cost of quality is not fixed. The better the organisation’s quality systems, the lower the net cost. Six sigma proponents have assessed the total cost of quality as a percentage of sales based on the organisations sigma rating.

This table demonstrates that as the quality capability of the organisation improves, the overall cost of quality reduces offering a major competitive advantage to higher rating organisations. Most organisations are rated at 3 Sigma so the opportunity for improvement is significant.

Within this overall framework, the costs and risks associated with poor stakeholder engagement are significant and follow the typical pattern where most of the costs of poor quality are hidden. Using the quality ‘iceberg metaphor’ some of the consequences of poor stakeholder engagement and communication are set out below:

 

Effective stakeholder analysis and management directly contributes to achieving the required quality levels for the organisation’s outputs to be fit for purpose whilst at the same time reducing the overall expenditure on the cost of quality needed to achieve this objective. The key components are:

  • Effective analysis of the stakeholder community will help you identify and understand all of the key stakeholders that need to be consulted to determine the relevant aspects of fit for purpose.
  • Understanding the structure of your stakeholder community facilitates the implementation of an effective two-way communication strategy to fully understand and manage the expectations of key stakeholders.
  • Effective communication builds trust and understanding within a robust relationship.
    o Trust reduces the cost of doing business.
    o Understanding the full set of requirements needed for the work to be successful reduces the risk of failure.
    o Robust relationships with key stakeholders also contribute to more effective problem solving and issue management.
  • Maintaining the stakeholder engagement effort generates enhanced information that will mitigate risks and issues across all aspects of the work.

Calculating the Return on Investment:

Effective stakeholder management is a facilitating process that reduces the cost, and increases the efficiency of an organisations quality and risk management processes. Based on observations of similar process improvement initiatives such as CMMI, the reduction in the cost of quality facilitated by improved stakeholder engagement and management is likely to be in the order of 10% to 20%.

Based on the typical ‘Level 3’ organisation outlined above, a conservative estimate of the efficiency dividend per $1million in sales is likely to be:

     Total cost of quality = $1,000,000 x 25% = $250,000
     Efficiency dividend = $250,000 x 10% = $25,000 per $1 million in sales.

Given the basic costs of establishing an effective stakeholder management system for a $5million business, using the Stakeholder Circle®, (See: http://www.stakeholder-management.com) including software and training will be between $30,000 and $50,000 the efficiency dividend will be:

      ($25,000 x 5) – 50,000 = $75,000
      (or more depending on the actual costs and savings).

The element not included above is the staff costs associated firstly with maintaining the ‘culture change’ associated with introducing an effective stakeholder engagement process and secondly with actually performing the stakeholder analysis and engagement. These costs are embedded in the cost of quality already being outlaid by the organisation and are inversely proportional to the effectiveness of the current situation:

  • If current expenditures on stakeholder engagement are relatively low, the additional costs of engagement will be relatively high, but the payback in reduced failures and unexpected risk events will be greater. The overall ROI is likely to be significant.
  • If the current expenditures on stakeholder engagement are relatively high, the additional costs will be minimal (implementing a systemic approach may even save costs), however, the payback in reduced failure costs will be lower because many of the more obvious issues and opportunities are likely to have been identified under the current processes. The directly measurable ROI will be lower, offset by the other benefits of moving towards a higher ‘Sigma level’.

Conclusion:

The introduction of an effective stakeholder management system is likely to generate a significant ROI for most organisations. The larger part of the ‘return’ being a reduction in the hidden costs associated with poor stakeholder engagement. These costs affect reputation and future business opportunities to a far greater extent than their direct costs on current work. For this reason, we feel implementing a system such as the Stakeholder Circle is best undertaken as a strategic organisational initiative rather than on an ad hoc project or individual workplace basis.

The path to organisational Stakeholder Relationship Management Maturity (SRMM®) is discussed at: http://www.stakeholdermapping.com/srmm-maturity-model


Stakeholder Circle in the ‘cloud’

May 27, 2012

The Stakeholder Circle® methodology and tools have been in use for several years. However, many potential business users found accessing the system difficult, with company policies preventing the installation of the necessary software.

By moving to ‘the cloud’ and transitioning to a standard Microsoft operating environment these issues should be in the past. Anyone on any computer platform can access the tool running on our secure servers and larger corporations can elect to install the system on their own intranets. The flexibility of ‘the cloud’ has also allowed us to offer an increased range of options to suite organisations of all sizes.

As part of the overall system upgrade, we have also enhanced our websites:

  • Our Stakeholder Relationship Management website has been overhauled and is being progressively developed into the world’s leading resource for stakeholder management information. See: http://www.stakeholdermapping.com
     
  • The Stakeholder Circle website has been simplified and now focuses on the Stakeholder Circle® tools, methodology and a comprehensive help system, see: http://www.stakeholder-management.com

We have set up a separate server to allow interested people to try out the new ‘cloud’ version of the Stakeholder Circle® register on-line at http://www.stakeholdermapping.com/free-trial and your access information will be emailed to you within a few minutes.


Managing risk

April 9, 2012

One of the most overlooked processes for effectively managing the day-to-day uncertainty that is the reality for every single project, everywhere, all of the time, is an effective performance surveillance process. This involves more than simply reporting progress on a weekly or monthly basis.

An effective surveillance system includes regular in-depth reviews by an independent team focused on supporting and helping the project team identify and resolve emerging problems. Our latest White Paper, Proactive Project Surveillance defines this valuable concept that is central to providing effective assurance to the organisation’s key stakeholders in management, the executive and the governance bodies that the project’s likely outcomes are optimised to the needs of the organisation.


Stakeholder Risk Tolerance

April 3, 2012

Managing the inherent risk associated with undertaking any project, anywhere, in any industry is a critical organisational capability. Within the organisations overall Project Delivery Capability (PDC) the maturity of its risk management approaches is central to the organisation’s ability to generate value (see more on PDC Maturity).

Only very immature or deluded organisations seek or expect to run ‘risk free’ projects. To quote Suzanne Finnamore: “Delusion detests focus and romance provides the veil.” Any sensible analysis of any business activity will indicate levels of risk; effective organisations understand and manage those risks better then ineffective organisation.

The skills that a mature organisation brings to the art of ‘risk management’ is to focus effort on managing risks that can be managed, providing adequate contingencies for those risks that cannot be controlled and deciding how much residual risk is sensible. The balance that has to be struck is between the cost and time needed to reduce the risk exposure further (the pay-back diminishes rapidly), the impact of the risk if it occurs and the profit to be made or value created as a result of the total expenditure on a project.

The sums are superficially simple; adding another $100,000 to the cost of a project to reduce its risk exposure by $10,000 reduces the value of the project by $90,000. In competitive bids, increase your bid price too much and the value drops to $Zero because the organisation fails to win the work! However, the situation is more complex; the nature of the risk may require the expenditure regardless of the potential saving (particularly in areas of safety and quality) and whilst expenditures are reasonably quantifiable, the actual cost of a risk event and the probability of it occurring are variable and cannot be precisely defined for a unique project. Our paper The Meaning of Risk in an Uncertain World discusses these issues in more depth.

To develop a mature approach to risk management, each layer of management has a role to play:

  • The organisation’s governing body (typically a Board of Directors) is responsible for developing an appropriate risk taking policy and defining the organisations ‘risk appetite’.
     
  • The Executive are responsible for creating the culture and framework that approached the management of risk within the parameters set by the Board in a capable and effective way.
     
  • Senior management are responsible for implementing the risk management system.

The mark of a mature organisation is the recognition at all levels of management that having implemented these systems, the organisation still has to expect failure! Every single project has an associated risk and properly managed, these risks are at an acceptable level for the organisation. But if there is a probability for success, there has to be a corresponding probability of failure!

Assuming the organisation is very conservative and requires budgets to be set with appropriate contingencies to offer a 90% certainty of being achieved, and this setting is applied to all projects consistently, the direct consequence is an expectation that 1 in 10 projects will overrun cost. Certainly 9 out of 10 projects will equal or underrun cost but there is always the remaining 10%. Mature organisations expect the profits and un-spent contingencies on the ‘9 underruns’ to more then offset the ‘1 overrun’. However, these ‘expected failures’ tend to be totally ignored by immature executives who want to pretend there is ‘no risk’ and then blame the PM for the failure.

There are two aspects of dealing with the ‘expected failures’ implicit in any realistic risk assessment. The first is setting the boundaries of accepted risk at an appropriate level of the organisation. Aggressive ‘risk seeking’ organisations will set a lower threshold for acceptability and experience more failures that conservative organisations. But the conservative organisations will achieve far less.

Source: Full Monte Risk Analysis

Looking at the cost aspect of risk for the project above, the most likely cost for this project is $17,500 but this is optimistic with a less then 50% chance of being achieved. The range of sensible options are to set the budget at:

  • The Mean (50% probability of being achieved) is $17,770.
     
  • Add one standard deviation to the Mean increases the probability of achieving the project to 84%, but the budget is now $18,520.
     
  • Add two standard deviations to the Mean and the probability of achieving the budget increases to 97% but the budget is now up to $19,270.

From this point, the pay-back diminishes rapidly, to move from 97% to 99.99% (six sigma), an additional $3,000 would be required in contingencies making a total contingency of $4,770 to effectively guaranteed there will be no cost overruns. Because of this very high cost for a very limited change in the probability of achieving the objective most projects focus on either the 80% or the 90% probabilities.

However, even within these relatively sensible ranges, making a sensible allowance for risk has consequences. Assuming all projects have a similar cost distribution and the organisations total budget for all projects is $10 million the consequences are:

  • To achieve a 50%/50% probability of projects achieving budget, approximately 1.6% of the budget will need to be allocated to contingencies: $160,000
     
  • To achieve an 84% probability of projects meeting the allocated budget, approximately 5.8% of the budget will need to be allocated to contingencies: $580,000
     
  • To achieve a 97% probability of projects meeting the allocated budget, approximately 10.1% of the budget will need to be allocated to contingencies: $1,010,000

Whilst the mathematics used above are highly simplified, the consequences of risk decisions are demonstrated sufficiently for the purpose of this post (for more on probability see: WP1037 – Probability). To be 97% sure there will be no cost overruns, more than 10% of the available budget to undertake projects will be tied up in contingencies that may or may not be needed, the consequence is less than 90% of the possible project work will be undertaken by the organisation in a year. The projects ‘not done’ are opportunities foregone to be ‘safe’.

In a competitive bidding market, adding 10% to your estimate to be 90% sure there will be no cost overruns is likely to have a more dramatic effect and price the organisation out of the market resulting in no work. In either situation a careful balance has to be struck between accepted risk and work accomplished, this is a governance decision that needs input from the executive and a decision by the Board.

The governance challenge is getting the balance ‘right’:

  • The higher the safety margin the more likely most projects will underrun and the greater the probability some of the contingent reserves will not be used and therefore opportunities to use the funds elsewhere are foregone.
     
  • However, reducing the reserves increases the probability that more projects will overrun (ie, ‘fail’) and this increases the probability that in aggregate the whole project budget will be exceeded.

The challenge for the rest of management is making sure the data being used is as reliable as possible.

The second key feature of mature organisations is the existence of efficient scanning systems to see problems emerging backed up with effective support systems to proactively help the project team achieve the best outcome. The key words here are ‘proactive’ and ‘help’. The future is not set in concrete and timely interventions to help overcome emerging problems can pay dividends. This requires a culture of openness and supportiveness within the organisation so that the root cause of the emerging issue can be quickly defined and appropriate support provided, promptly and effectively. This approach is the antithesis of the approach adopted by immature organisations where the ‘blame game’ is played out and the project team ‘blamed’ for every project failure.

In summary, the organisation’s directors and executive managers need to determine the appropriate risk tolerance levels for their organisation and then set up systems that have the capability of keeping most projects within these accepted boundaries. Understanding and managing risk is a key element of PDC. But having done all of this, mature risk organisations know there are still Black Swans lurking in the environment and remain vigilant and responsive to unexpected and unforeseen events.