Why bother with processes?

I expect many of you, on hearing the word “process” may have some bad feelings based on your experience. Perhaps there was gower-prgmngta critical point in your programme and you were side-tracked by someone telling you that you hadn’t gone through the seemingly trivial, but lengthy, check list on page 42 or perhaps the processes you had to use didn’t really help you and any feedback you gave just went into a “black-hole”.  That’s all very legitimate and this is indicative of “bad” processes.

This year Gower launched their 2nd edition of the Handbook of Programme Management and I was asked to write the chapter on processes. Good processes are key to increasing organizational maturity and hence business performance.  They are also essential if we are to manage through the increasing levels of complexity which face us; have a look at my two minute video  on why processes are becoming more important and  why we can’t ignore them.

 

Sources of complexity

• Is your programme, project or work package complex? How do you know?
• Is your “complex” project as complex as mine?
• What aspects are complex? What does that mean in terms of the management and selection of people?

The fundamental reason for undertaking any work is to realise benefits for an organisation and its customers. To do this, an organisation needs to apply the right solutions, processes, methods and people. Yet, as no two pieces of work are the same, how do we understand the nature of complexity and select the right people for the job?

On the flip side, the cost of NOT understanding complexity can be serious, leading to over optimism, broken promises and disappointed stakeholders.

A COMPLEXITY TOOL
The primary use for a complexity decision support tool is to help managers to match the level of experience and skills of assigned manager to the demands of the work required, by understanding:

the type of work and how it is best managed (as a work package? A project? A programme phase? A programme?)

the sources of complexity from which risks may be derived which threaten  business success in relation to the work

Such a tool should not make decisions for you but rather, helpmanagers make the right choices by highlighting key aspects which lead to complexity.

SOURCES OF COMPLEXITY
Sources of complexity include:

Business criticality: This factor addresses the alignment to strategy and the importance to the business of completing the work. The more critical the work is to the organisation, the greater the management attention should be.

Reputation exposure: Even the cheapest, smallest work can have a catastrophic or beneficial impact on an organisation’s reputation which, in turn, can impact sales and business survival (the Ratner case is a prime example).

Business transformation: This factor addresses the transformational change challenge required in the work in terms of culture, people and processes. The greater the transformation needed, the greater the challenge and complexity.

Legal, contractual and regulatory exposure: This factor addresses the potential legal, contractual and regulatory impact on the work. Work undertaken in a highly legalistic or regulatory environment has a greater number of constraints which need careful management. Breaching these constraints may lead to damages or penalties.

Schedule flexibility: This factor addresses the criticality and flexibility relating to the schedule. Some work schedules may be negotiated or have significant float within the context of higher level work. Others are constrained by contracts, which may be negotiable, whilst in the extreme, some are constrained by immoveable events.

Requirements and scope: This factor addresses the degree to which the vision, requirements and scope are defined at the outset. The less well defined these are, the greater the potential for scope creep, misunderstandings and disputes. Specific management techniques need to be used and agreed for such risky situations.

Output Innovation: This factor looks at how standard or novel the output from the work is. The development of completely new outputs requires a higher level of expertise and management than ones where standard approaches are used.

Delivery processes: Most programmes and projects require more than one management or delivery process or method. This factor addresses the maturity of the ones being used. If the processes and methods are well tried and tested, then the work is less risky. If new processes and methods have to be developed for the work, that makes the undertaking more complex.

Financial exposure: This factor addresses the extent to which an organisation will benefit or suffer from the work. Some work is “within the noise” of the overall budget, whilst other work is highly visible in the formal accounts.

Inter-dependencies: This factor addresses the number of interdependencies into and out of the work. The greater the number of dependencies, the more constraints there are and the more risky the work becomes as such dependencies cross managerial boundaries.

Team dynamics and size: This factor addresses core team size and dynamics. The smaller and less dispersed the team is, the easier it is to manage and have effective communication. The larger and more distributed the core team, the greater the effort needed to keep the members aligned.

Supplier involvement: This factor addresses the degree of reliance on suppliers and includes such aspects as number of suppliers, reliability of supplier and experience with those suppliers to date. In these terms, “suppliers” can also include separately directed lines of Business or divisions.

WHAT ARE YOUR VIEWS AND EXPERIENCES?
If you have any views, observations, experience or suggestions on complexity, feedback through this blog.