Bookmarks I’ve shared on 2011-08-31:
- MSP2011 Brochure
- Building your consumerisation of IT strategy (part 1 of 2) | Simon May
Notes on stuff
Bookmarks I’ve shared on 2011-08-31:
How can visual models improve the flow of work during programme shaping?
This is the sixth post in a series about applying the lessons of lean (especially lean software development) to the shaping phase of programme management.
In previous posts I have talked about amplifying learning, the application of the ideas of flow and a value stream to programme shaping, and touched on sources of “waste” in the typical programme environment.
In this post I want to talk a bit about (visual) models.
I’ve found two sorts of model useful when pulling together a programme – models of the shaping process itself, and models of the programme design.
Modelling the Programme Shaping Process
In previous posts I’ve talked about looking for flow in the programme shaping process. Every organisation, and to some extent every programme, will have a different flow for the shaping process.
For most this will involve some number of iterations of capturing and designing information, creating programme artifacts, and seeking approval from various stakeholders. I have talked about keeping work-in-progress to a minimum, and the classic tool for managing that is a kanban board.
Modelling the Programme Design
The other area where models are vital is in describing how the programme will work and what it will deliver – in other words, the design of the programme itself. Programme documentation has always been a way of sharing a model of how things will work and what will be achieved, but I think there are lessons we can learn from other disciplines to make the documentation more useful.
Many traditional programme documents are heavy on words and light on diagrams. Words are vital for providing detail, but they are not the best choice for communicating the relationships between concepts, nor for illustrating causal chains (for example from enabling projects to capabilities to benefits to outcomes).
I’m suggesting that as programme managers we can usefully make more use of visual models to augment our programme documentation, and to model the relationships between different parts of the documentation.
There are specialist tools (e.g. ChangeDirector) which make extensive use of graphical techniques, however not every organisation will have access to these. I have had some success in using general purpose UML modelling tools to support programme shaping work, and it’s an area I am actively exploring further. One background project that I hope to blog more on later is the creation of a UML Profile for Programme Management
I’d like to hear from other programme managers about their experience with visual modelling.
Picture credit: David Larabee
This is the fifth post in a series of thought experiments on applying Lean/Agile principles to the early shaping stages of a programme.
Again borrowing heavily from the Poppendiecks for my conceptual structure, I want to think about learning in our context, and how we can make it work better.
Programme Shaping as a Learning Process
What are we learning about during programme shaping? A few thoughts:
As we learn more about these areas we progressively build and refine our product – the design of the programme as a system.
This sort of learning process can be likened to the Deming Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle (PDCA).
So our question becomes “how do we iterate the learning cycle faster during programme shaping?”. Drawing on the agile software approach, I suggest the following themes:
If we are going to learn faster about what shape of programme is most likely to be acceptable and successful, we need to increase the speed with which we plan, develop and review our growing programme design. Translating good practice from the agile and lean engineering movements we get the following points:
Build Shared Understanding
A central challenge to effective consensus building comes from the intangible nature of the concepts under discussion and the relationships between those concepts. Approaches that offer visual modelling to support rapid understanding of conceptual relationships, supported by the right blend of numerical and textual “backing information” to support deeper understanding and analysis are helpful here.
In my experience a visual meta-model of the programme shaping artifacts is also a useful tool to clarify the dependencies between different outputs.
Simplify Programme Documentation
Published methodologies such as MSP are often (or are often interpreted as) document heavy. The work to synchronise work products expands exponentially with the number of separate but inter-dependent documents. Following the lead of others (sorry no references to hand) I find it helpful to think of different programme documents as merely different views into the programme model.
In the ideal case this will be literally true, with the model held in a central computerised repository that can create the necessary views. However many programmes will not have that luxury, and are faced with maintaining a set of separate documents. In that situation I have found the following ideas useful:
Synchronise Work Frequently
In the initial stages of programme shaping there may only be one or two people involved, so keeping the work in sync is often “just” the problem of keeping the document set consistent. Once more than a couple of people are working on the idea then it becomes increasingly possible for the work to diverge, increasing the risk of re-work being needed. Until someone invents automated integration tests for programme documents we are faced with using the design of our shaping process to keep the work on track.
I’d be interested in dialogue to sharpen these ideas, do please comment below!
(Image credit: Karn G. Bulsuk)
This is the fourth post in a series of thought experiments on applying Lean/Agile principles to the early shaping stages of a programme.
Leaning heavily on the work the Poppendiecks did to translate these concepts to software engineering, I suggest the seven types of waste for programme shaping are:
I’m sure that each reader will be able to add their own examples. In later posts I’ll look at possible solutions.
Next – how do we design the programme shaping process to amplify learning?
This is the third post in a series of thought experiments on applying Lean/Agile principles to the early shaping stages of a programme.
In the previous post I started to explore how we could find the value stream in the “messy” stages of early programme shaping. Before I go on to explore the concept of “waste” in our context, I want to say a bit more about the value stream.
The key outcome of the programme shaping process is a clear understanding of the “Why”, “What”, “How”, “When” and “Who” of the programme. Different methodologies have different names for products that address these questions, and sometimes different names for the products at different stages of their development.
For example in MSP 2007, in the pre-programme and Initiating a Programme stages, most of the key questions are addressed (in outline form) in the Programme Mandate and Programme Brief, but during Programme Definition these expand into products such as the Blueprint, Benefits Maps, Benefits Realisation Plan, Project Dossier, Programme Plan, Programme Definition and Business Case, not to mention the planning and documentation around programme governance.
Regardless of the particular nomenclature, the process is one of iterative discovery and design. What we are doing through this time is architecting the “programme as management system” – the system goals, the programme “engine” and the feedback/control mechanisms.
So the challenge to find a Lean approach to programme shaping is the challenge to find a Lean approach to designing a management system.
This is the second post in a series of thought experiments on applying Lean/Agile principles to the early shaping stages of a programme.
Here I am using “programme” in the widest sense – to borrow a definition from MSP2007 “a temporary, flexible, organisation 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 the organisation’s strategic objectives”.
The core of all lean approaches is to identify the value stream – what activities take place to generate value from the process. For example, in software development, what sequence of activities has to happen to create production applications which deliver benefit to the customer? So how do we map that to the early, often “messy” stages of a programme?
Standing back from the detail of a programme, we can see that it is (like any business activity) an investment of time and money to move the organisation closer to its goals. I think you can structure the problem as a series of steps from the strategic to the specific:
Many commentators would suggest that (1) is the province of strategy development and that (2) is the realm of Portfolio Management, but for the moment I’m going to elide them together – I’m trying to find the flow of value rather than establish discipline boundaries. Having said that, most of us who get involved in programmes can usually only monitor (1), so I think there is a fairly natural (albeit fuzzy) line between (1) and (2).
In terms of the programme shaping flow, we can start to see a series of intermediate products at increasing levels of detail, requiring increasing investments of time, money and resources, and which eventually (should) generate benefits that flow back up the tree. Before we can identify the value chain associated with all this activity, we need to determine how the organisation will assess value. It seems to me that the clue is in the definition of what a programme delivers – “outcomes and benefits” – and the key to evaluating those is benefits realisation management. It won’t surprise anyone when I say that in my opinion benefits mapping and related analysis is at the heart of an effective portfolio and programme process.
So the second clue about finding the value stream is to focus on benefits at each stage.
The third element is to decide how we recognise “good” quality at each stage – i.e. something that delivers value to the stake-holder. Sadly, we have no equivalent of the software world’s automated unit, integration and user tests for programme artifacts, so we need to turn instead to guidance such as MSP 2007 Appendix D “Programme Health Checks”, OGC Gateway reviews, or any other audit and evaluation approach used within an organisation. To optimise our value stream we have to optimise the flow of our work products through those constraints.
In the next article I’ll start to explore the concept of waste in our context.
This is the first of a number of exploratory posts to express and refine my thinking on the subject. I want to pull together a selection of experiences with programme shaping by looking at them through the filter of lean/agile theory.
Traditionally programme management, especially in public sector, is heavily influenced by stage gates. Having said that, the authors of more recent methodologies (e.g. MSP 2007) recognise the need for iteration and conceived a “transformational flow” of work that delivers benefits over time.
The area that I am particularly interested in exploring is the shaping stage of a programme – the early part of the process when the stakeholders come together to agree the benefits to be achieved, the shape of the organisation after the change, the set of initiatives that will be needed, and the business case.
I see strong parallels between programme shaping and the world of software development – both are dealing with the development of concepts, and the progressive discovery of knowledge about the area of concern. So I freely acknowledge that my thinking is heavily influenced by pioneers in the field of software development such as the Poppendiecks and David J. Anderson. Of course the challenge in drawing lessons from a different field is not just to find the translation, but to recognise where the concepts differ, so I would expect that my views will move around as I develop the thoughts.
The areas that I think need to be explored are:
In Programme Procurement Strategy – 1 I briefly reviewed the approach from the OGC Risk Allocation Model for Project Strategy and Procurement.
Thinking about how to apply that approach to my own programme, I quickly realised that the range of changes we are seeking to deliver (across technology services, business processes and management capabilities) does not easily sit into a single risk assessment.
So I’m still attracted to the risk-based approach, but it is going to need substantial de-composition of the programme to apply it meaningfully.
I’m going to start with the Blueprint, since that is where our final outcomes are defined. For each area of the Blueprint I will examine each outcome, and analyse against the risk framework from the OGC guide.
I need to put together an analysis of procurement options for the programme I am shaping, as first steps in devising a procurement strategy.
The main online reference I have found so far is the OGC’s Risk Allocation Model for Project Strategy and Procurement (pdf).
The first part of that document examines the suitability of different contract types in relation to the nature of the organisation and the programme goal:
The document then goes on to consider the risks related to organisational capabilities. The earlier in the value chain Inputs-Outputs-Outcomes, the more skills are required within the organisation for integration and change management, and the more vulnerable you are to opposition from within.
The last area of consideration is the ability of the market to supply a particular service.
Once all three areas have been analysed, it’s likely that further iteration will be required to converge the solution.
One key learning point was that the management of benefits, whilst considered by MSP as a separate activity, is absolutely fundamental to ensuring the programme delivers value, so it is important to make that an integrated part of the Quality management Strategy.
Another insight was the importance of considering quality as a series of “nested loops”…
In the last two posts of this series I have started down the line of understanding the value chain of a programme, and therefore what it is we need to quality assure.
This post steps back for a moment to think about the sort of process we need to design in our Quality Management Strategy – the how of quality assurance.
One of the major differences between a programme and a project is the very much higher likelihood of change in a programme than in a project:
So the process(es) we invent and document in a Quality Management Strategy must be designed from the start to accommodate change in any of the inputs. That implies ongoing review at a number of nested levels.
Earlier posts in this series
I found this diagram useful to explain how the various activities and plans within a programme combine to add value for the programme sponsoring group and stakeholders:
I’ve been thinking about how to put together a Quality Management Strategy for the programme I am shaping. Question is, where to start…
The MSP Manual says:
[…] used to define and establish the activities for managing quality across the programme
which sounds tautologous to me.
In Chapter 9 on Quality Management, a bit more detail appears:
The Quality Management Strategy defines what criteria will be used to assess quality, what quality activities will be incorporated into the management and delivery of the programme, who will be responsible for carrying out these activities, and how the programme will meet required audit and organisational standards for quality assurance and quality control.
In Appendix B there is more specific guidance on the contents:
Description of the quality assurance, review and control processes for the programme, covering:
- What will be subject to quality assurance, review and control, and the quality criteria to be applied.
- Who will undertake quality assurance, review and control activities
- What will trigger those activities (time-based, event-based or associated with risk occurrence)
- What actions will be taken depending on the results of quality checks
- Configuration management and change control procedures
- Defined responsibilities for quality management
- Information requirements to support quality management
- Procedures for use of support tools for quality management activities e.g. change control software
- Resource requirements for quality management
All of which will be very useful to describe the headings, but which doesn’t ask the fundamental question – why are we doing this? A later post…
Now to get on a refresh course…
I spent last week on the Managing Successful Programmes course.
The trainers were good, the group size was good (9 of us), and the other delegates were an interesting and friendly bunch from a range of industries. Between us we covered print, broadcast and online media, telecomms, manufacturing, software, and a couple of flavours of consultancy.
I’d recommend this course to anyone who was interested in MSP – the training is well-adapted for adult learning, and has a clear emphasis on providing the skills to get through the exams. It is however an intensive week – in particular on the first three evenings there was two to three hours of homework each night. The homework is framed as “optional”, but as a large part of it is practice in answering exam questions, I would imagine that it would be hard to get through the exams without doing the homework.
I managed to pass the Foundation exam without much difficulty, but I won’t know the result of the Intermediate and Practitioner papers for about 8 weeks – apparently the APMG examiners are over-worked at present!
The material is still very “close to me” in my mind, so too early to reflect properly on what I have learned.
(Cross-posted from my MSP blog)
Having surfaced after summer holidays, a trade show visit and various bits of work, I’ve realised that the new October dates for the MSP course are only three weeks away – so time to get back into the pre-work!
With only a couple of loose pages of notes so far, it already looked like I was well on the way to a paper meltdown, so I’ve taken the time to dissect the pre-course exercise book and stick the pages into alternate pages of a wire-bound notebook – thus leaving plenty of white space for my answers and notes about related material.
This might sound very basic, but for me the physical act of putting together a study log has already started to make it feel as if I have the material “at my fingertips” (the power of metaphor!)
When I set that blog up, I was planning on attending a training course in June on Managing Successful Programmes (MSP), leading (hopefully) to the practitioner certificatation. MSP is the UK Office of Government Commerce (OGC) approach to ensuring the success of major change programmes.
I’ve set up the other site as an online learning diary, and a central place for various notes. To support the blog there is also a wiki for more long-form notes.
Unfortunately the course I was attending has been withdrawn for June by the provider. Looks like I shall now go in October. Inevitably my motivation to go through the pre-work has been somewhat reduced, however I shall continue to post over there – I’m finding lots of ways to introduce key elements of the MSP approach into day-to-day work.
This should also mean that I have a little more online time to keep this place up-to-date!