The Need for New Mental Models for Projects
Orthodox project methods - processes, tools and techniques - that have evolved over the last four decades are not “wrong”. They have evolved from antecedents in construction and embed the mental models needed for these. They are designed to deliver “projects”, “programs” and “portfolios”, and for construction projects they work pretty.
When implementing strategy and change in organizations the orthodox project methods do not work well simply because projects that deliver software and business change have very different characteristics to construction. Orthodox project methods have not been designed from a strategic, business or value perspective and while there has been some attempt to ‘tack on’ the value dimension, it has not worked very effectively.
Generating business value from a project portfolio requires a value-driven mindset and focus from the very outset, not value delivery bolted-on as an afterthought.
It’s your choice whether you deliver ‘projects, programs and portfolios’ – the orthodox perspective. Or choose to deliver ‘strategy, business outcomes and value’ - the TOP perspective. Jed Simms
The Difference Between the “Project Delivery” and “Value Delivery”
The difference between the two mindsets is not ‘either-or’, rather more like a ‘Yin and Yang’. You need project delivery skills and tools, but they need to be focused on delivering strategy, business outcomes and value.
Projects, programs and portfolios should deliver your business strategy through the delivery of new business outcomes and their associated business value.
Projects are a means to an end – the end being the execution of the business strategy and the achievement of the desired business results.
Even “mandatory” and replacement-type projects need to be strategically aligned and business-driven. If a project is not enabling your strategy and contributing to your business results, why is it being done? Note: Being legally compliant is usually part of a strategy even if rarely overtly specified.
Shifting mindset is the crucial step.
Shifting to a “strategy, business outcomes and value” mindset is the crucial step. It changes how you think about, approach and measure project success. It alters many of the orthodox processes to become value-based and focused. Most importantly, it changes the results – increasing the business results and value achieved from a portfolio of projects while reducing the costs of delivery.
What hinders the “value delivery” mindset? There are a number of factors:
- Lack of awareness of the unnecessary high level of time and cost wastage/value destruction currently experienced daily through orthodox project approaches
- False beliefs that hold, for example, that completion of the project will automatically lead to the realization of the available value; beliefs that allow significant value to be lost or destroyed
- A whole industry of vendors, consultants, project practitioners, contractors, academics, journals, methodologies, et al. that all promote a project delivery approach as THE ONLY answer
- A whole generation of project professionals who have built their career on delivering projects and who either don’t believe delivering value is part of their remit or think they are delivering value, regardless of the clear evidence to the contrary.
- Lack of understanding about how to build the knowledge, expertise and processes to embed value delivery.
The Challenge for Executives and Boards
Executives and Boards need to take the lead – to choose to change so they can radically improve the performance of their projects, programs, portfolios and businesses.
It is not hard, and it is not a matter of “organizational maturity”. Executives and those in governance roles are already accountable for optimizing returns on capital and executing strategy. Shifting to ‘value delivery’ does not require wholesale change:
- Some existing project processes, tools and techniques stay the same.
- Some existing processes, tools and techniques will need adjustment to become value-based and refocused to stop them inadvertently destroying value.
- Finally, some new processes, tools and techniques will be needed to fill the existing value gaps and deficiencies. The required new aspects mostly build on existing skills.
What does change are the mindsets, the language, the areas of greatest focus, the timing and significance of critical events, e.g. the submission of the business case. The measures of success also change to become strategy, business outcomes and value-based.
Shifting to a value delivery perspective can be seen as 40% process change and 60% mindset change.
Adopting value delivery mindset and processes, tools and techniques will position your organization to drive projects, programs and portfolios to achieve what you intend - your business strategy and results. The result can be more business value delivered in less time and for less cost.
Value delivery is possible, but only if you choose to make it happen.