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UK Project Management: The Year in Review

Review of UK Project Management 2014Last week I looked forward at the hot project management trends for 2015. This week I want to look back.

The last 12 months have been a busy time for the UK project management scene, and that was just the bits I was able to take part in. I had 7 months off on maternity leave and it feels as if there has been a step change forward in the way that project management is regarded. Here’s my review of the year for project management in the UK in 2014.

Project roundup

There were some humongous projects undertaken in the UK this year.

The Glasgow Commonwealth Games came to fruition after years of planning.

Care.data, the project to create electronic patient medical records, was in the news a lot, not least because of a small clause in the documentation that seemed to imply that the NHS could share your confidential medical history with commercial organisations. I’m not still not 100% sure who will have access to this huge database.

Crossrail, Europe’s largest construction project, plodded on, delivering small wins in anticipation of the first services through central London in 2018. This is a project where delicate stakeholder management is needed, and it’s doing its part for getting girls into STEM subjects too by partnering with local schools and offering apprenticeships.

Awards roundup

The big project management awards in the UK are awarded at the APM’s glitzy November event. The winners this year were:

Dawlish - the original breach

Dawlish – the original sea wall breach, February 2014

Project of the Year: Dawlish Sea Wall Emergency Works to reopen the railway line that links Exeter with the rest of the South West. I remember seeing this on TV after the devastating bad weather left tracks suspended in mid-air with no ground underneath them. Excellent communication on this project too, with a webcam reporting live from the site, daily updates on the website and photos updated every 6 hours.

Programme of the Year: Wylfa Extended Generation Programme to extend the life of the only operational Magnox power station in the world.

Project Management Company of the Year: Shell Projects & Technology

Project Professional of the Year: Steve Walters from Magnox

Young Project Professional of the Year: Luke Streeter from Atkins

Social Project of the Year: Anderston Phase 3 Regeneration, which regenerated an area close to Glasgow city centre to provide community housing and a shop and involved relocating residents while this work was undertaken.

Mike Nichols, APM

© APM, no modifications made https://www.flickr.com/photos/apmevents/11288350475/

Women in Project Management

Women in project management did not go unrecognised this year either. Dr Lynn Crawford took the APM’s coveted Sir Monty Finniston award for ‘remarkable dedication to the profession’.

The Women in Project Management Special Interest Group celebrated their 21st anniversary in London in October as well. Watch my video of the event here.

In memoriam

In January I reported that former APM Chair Mike Nichols had passed away. Mike takes the credit for moving the APM towards Chartered status and for creating a huge learning legacy as part of the Olympic Games, ensuring that what was learnt through the Games’ project delivery was not lost to new projects. He’ll be sadly missed by the UK project management community.

 

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This is my video diary from the Association for Project Management’s Women in Project Management Special Interest Group 21st Anniversary Conference last week. Approx 5m22s.

 

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Teri Okoro

Teri Okoro

Next month sees the APM’s Women in Project Management group holding the 2014 National Conference & 21st Anniversary of Women in Project Management in London. I spoke to Teri Okoro, Chair of the special interest group and part of the team behind the anniversary preparations.

Teri, what’s on the agenda for the WiPM SIG now you’ve hit 21 years? And what celebrations are planned to celebrate 21 years?

WiPM have taken time to reflect on past achievement as well as plan for the future. We’ve redefined our mission with four key elements:

  • developing a powerful profile
  • promoting a barrier free culture
  • engaging with and responding to project professionals
  • building a collaborative community.

We are just concluding our second survey which has highlighted key issues and concern for our project managers today which they want the WiPM to address. We will start to profile female project managers on our web pages shortly. A support group for those applying to step up to RPP and FAPM is planned.

WiPM have branded 21st anniversary events around the country. We are very excited about the 2014 National Conference & 21st Anniversaryscheduled on 25th September 2014 in London with Baroness Susan Greenfield and Dame Stephanie Shirley as keynote speakers in the afternoon and a separate evening event with Vanessa Vallely and the Funny Women. Further information can be found, and bookings can be made, online here: 2014 National Conference & 21st Anniversary of Women in Project Management.

21 years is a long time! What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in the project management arena since you started managing projects?

Technology is one key area of change in both our role as project and programme managers and in the way we communicate and operate as a SIG. Teams are able to communicate and share information faster as well as liaise over great distances. This is assisting with the complexity of projects but has also highlighted the critical contribution of people in delivering projects.

Women-sig-logo 2So what do you think the prognosis is for women in project management over the next 5 years?

It is mixed. Our 2014 survey showed more women – 70% actually – had been in the industry for less than ten years, and if this trend continues then the overall numbers will continue to increase. However the survey also highlighted concerns over career progression and maintaining a work life balance. More women were interested in exploring freelance and consultant options than in our previous survey. There was also a desire for best practice to be shared including work place practices.

While I am optimistic about greater numbers of women in project management, I am concerned that if this talent pool is not adequately nurtured and managed, it could impact adversely on job satisfaction and retention. Companies with progressive workplace practices will continue to attract and retain women PMs.

What advice would you give a woman wanting a career in project management?

It’s challenging and can be quite fulfilling. It is well suited to women and utilizes skills that they have developed in everyday life. The huge range of sectors is also a plus. Planning for career progression is however as important as successfully delivering on projects and programmes. Let others be aware of your successes, be willing to take risks and learn from situations that do not turn out as planned. A sponsor is not optional as their support is key over time regardless of your own network. Finally, choose your employer carefully to maintain a good work life balance.

Women in project management also should be mindful that what gets them into a particular role will not necessarily move them on to the next stage. They have to be reflective and aware of the often unwritten rules of the workplace.

Finally, I’ve heard about the Inspire project. What’s it all about and how can we get involved?

The Inspiring the Future: Inspiring Women project is an external initiative which encourages young girls to aspire to careers they would not ordinarily have considered. They are looking to get 15,000 volunteers and are more than halfway there. WiPM is championing this initiative during our anniversary year, encouraging project managers both male and female to sign up. The time commitment is just one hour a year to visit a school close to your home or workplace and promote project management as a career choice.

APM overall is also supporting Inspiring the Future campaign and monitoring the number of project managers signing up. WiPM are commissioning a video for use in schools by both project managers and career advisors.

Thanks, Teri!

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This is going to be long, so here’s the summary:

  • APM is applying for a Royal Charter
  • PMI objected at the time
  • The Privy Council decided that they were going to recommend a Royal Charter for APM
  • PMI raised legal challenges
  • The High Court has conducted a judicial review into the objections
  • PMI’s objections have been dismissed.

Now, if you want the full story, read on.

How did we get here?

In 2007 APM announced its intention to achieve Chartered status for the project management profession. APM explains why as follows:

As a UK charity dedicated to acting for the public good, it is committed to gaining Chartered status on behalf of the project management profession in the UK.  That will secure recognition, status and enhanced standards for the profession at a time when the UK’s need for effective and efficient project sponsorship and delivery is greater than ever.

PMI made an application to object to APM receiving Chartered status and that kicked off a long process of judicial review, the results of which were announced on Thursday.

Why did PMI object?

I have searched all over for an explanation of why online, but I can only find the original email sent out to members by the PMI UK on 9 June 2012 which sets out these reasons:

  1. In order for APM to be granted Chartered status, it needs to have been judged by the Privy Council to represent most of the project management profession. APM’s acquisition of Chartered status would be an acceptance that it exclusively represents the vast majority of project managers in the UK. With over 6000 members and many more credential holders, PMI also represents a very substantial number of project managers in the UK. The Chapter’s management team expressed concern that the Privy Council has not taken into account that due to PMI’s large UK membership, APM cannot claim to represent most of the profession.
  2. It is in the public interest and the interests of the profession that there is diversity in the marketplace for project management qualifications and tools.
  3. The project management profession in the UK benefits from the plurality of approaches on offer. With a million members in 185 countries, PMI brings a unique global perspective to project management to its UK members, something that APM, as a UK-only organisation, cannot replicate.
  4. The Charter application process has not taken into account the views of all project managers, particularly those that utilise the global approach championed by PMI.

The first point on the list is particularly important. In 2009 the Minister of State at the Department for Business Innovation and Skills notified the Privy Council Office that his department did not recommend granting Chartered status to APM because of this reason – APM should have as members most of the eligible field for membership and he didn’t feel this criteria was met.

You need a unanimous decision in order for a Charter to be granted. Without the support of the Department of Business Innovation and Skills there was not going to be a unanimous decision and APM put its application on hold.

So what happened?

Well, APM did some lobbying. The government changed, new people got put in charge, the departments involved were reorganised and someone new looked at the evidence again. In 2011 the Department for Business Innovation and Skills withdrew its objection.

PMI’s concern that the Royal Charter will result in an anti-competitive advantage for APM’s members was rejected. While PMI and APM compete for membership and membership fees, the representative from the Office of Government Commerce said that it would be in the public interest for the APM to be granted Chartered status because:

  • It is possible to belong to both organisations
  • APM is by a considerable margin the largest project management professional body in the UK
  • The title of Chartered Project Professional would not be limited to members of APM.

With a unanimous approval now on the cards, APM asked for its application to be taken off hold and to be considered by the Privy Council.

What did the Privy Council decide?

The Privy Council considered the application and the objections and came to a decision. On 4 July last year the Treasury Solicitor (who works on behalf of the Privy Council and the Cabinet Office) notified PMI that they would be recommending to the Queen that APM are granted a Royal Charter. This recommendation was due to go on the agenda for a meeting in October 2013.

PMI challenged that decision – three of their challenges were rejected out of hand and two were maintained. This meant that those two claims had to be fully assessed, so the Chartered status application went before a judicial review earlier this month.

So PMI challenged again? What did the judge decide?

Mr Justice Mitting said that he believed this was the first time that the grant or refusal of a Royal Charter has been the subject of litigation, which makes this case pretty ground-breaking!

PMI challenged on two grounds.

The first challenge: decision was biased and pre-determined

First, they alleged apparent bias (because the government might make more money from their PRINCE2 qualification as this can count towards APMP) and actual pre-determination (because there is a long history of government interactions with APM).

The judgement concluded:

No reasonable person could reasonably believe that Government support for the grant of a Royal Charter to APM could possibly be motivated by the desire to profit financially from the promotion of its own PRINCE 2 qualification. Further, even if such a motive could be inferred, it would not vitiate the decision.

I had to look up ‘vitiate’. If it’s new to you too, it means ‘weaken the effectiveness of’. So basically the government has the right to make decisions in its financial interest if it wants.

“Executive decision-making does not normally start with a blank sheet of paper.” Mr Justice Mitting

The objection that as APM and the government have worked closely together the decision was practically a given was also rejected. Mr Justice Mitting said that decisions are not made in a vacuum and that prior involvement with the APM would have influenced the decision, but that the review process conducted by government officials was robust.

The second challenge: decision was contrary to policy

The basis for PMI’s second challenge was that the recommendation to grant a Royal Charter was contrary to the Privy Council’s published policy.

Mr Justice Mitting explained a bit about the history of judicial reviews and concluded: “I cannot see how PMI’s challenge can be brought within the established framework of judicial review and I would be prepared to dismiss its claim on that ground alone.”

But he went ahead and reviewed the challenge anyway.

There are five points in the policy for bodies who are applying for Chartered status, and PMI claimed that APM failed to meet three of them. However, Mr Justice Mitting said that the policy makes it clear that these are guidelines and that each case will be decided on merit. Therefore an application that looks like it doesn’t meet the published policy won’t automatically fail.

Mr Justice Mitting dismissed the claims.

What happens now?

And what does that mean? The recommendation that APM is granted Chartered status can go before the Queen’s representatives. While there might be some other steps in the application process, I think it will be ratified which means Chartered status is go.

I haven’t seen a public announcement yet from APM about the next steps for them but we await that announcement with bated breath. Watch this space…!

You can read APM’s statement online and read the whole judgement on the BAILII website.

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A world in which all projects succeed [video]

The APM vision that’s been hotly debated over the last 12 months or so is ‘a world in which all projects succeed’. Should all projects succeed? Or should we be taking risks and launching some projects that might not come to anything? Or should all projects have the best possible chance of success?

In this video, some project management experts discuss this vision statement and what is likely to be possible in the future.

 

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Adrian Dooley, director of APMG and originally a construction project manager before he started helping other people do their projects better, was another one of the Conference: Zero presenters last month. He was reflecting on the APM’s vision of a world where all projects succeed, and his main point was that we need culture change in order to get there.

The same mistakes

730 people worked on the Pantheon in Rome for several years. The pillars were constructed elsewhere and brought to the city. When they arrived, Adrian said, they were 10 feet shorter than required, so the Romans did some hasty rework on the portico. He used this example to illustrate the fact that projects have been going wrong for a very long time, and shared a list of reasons why projects fail from a presentation to the IPMA conference in 1972.

Adrian Dooley's list of why projects fail, illustrated with the Pantheon in Rome

Adrian Dooley’s list of why projects fail, illustrated with the Pantheon in Rome

“These are obvious things that we need to get right,” he said. “So why are they not easy to fix? I don’t think much has changed since Pantheon time. It’s down to human nature.”

He gave a more up-to-date example of simple issues that aren’t being acted on by sharing extracts from post-implementation reviews from a major UK utility business. The lessons learned included:

  • Lack of communication to the business: clear communications plans should be developed to ensure regular updates are provided to business stakeholders.
  • User requirements are not tracked/documented: more user involvement could have prevented late changes due to requirement misunderstandings.
  • Reluctance by operational staff to cooperate with project team: stakeholders to be recognised earlier to ensure business buy in.

It’s not exactly rocket science, is it.

It’s the reason why diets don’t work

Adrian said that even though people who do projects have completed qualifications and attended courses they are still making the same old mistakes, and nothing really changes. Like faddy diets that promise weight loss through grapefruits or nuts or fish or chocolate cake, the reality is that if you want to lose weight you have to eat less and move more. It sounds simple, but it isn’t because we are pre-programmed to get the calories where we can, and sometimes it’s socially as well as genetically difficult to say no to food you don’t really need.

There are often social reasons to make changes to how we do projects, Adrian explained, and we certainly aren’t without our own set of latest crazes, like the introduction of planning software in the mid-80’s, a rush to get qualifications in the mid-90’s, Agile and then the focus on PMOs around 2008.

“These are the quick ineffective diets of the project management world,” Adrian said. He didn’t imply that they won’t work, but that they won’t work as standalone options. Getting all your project managers through PRINCE2 accreditation will not give you successful projects, and neither will introducing Agile. You need to pull everything together for a complete lifestyle change and that’s not easy.

Stop complaining about project failures

Adrian said, “It’s pointless carping on about the reasons why projects fail. What we need to do is focus on what makes them succeed.” Having said that, the vast majority of Adrian’s talk was about project failure and it was only at the end that he put forward this idea. He shared a quote from Buckminster Fuller: “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

“It’s pointless carping on about the reasons why projects fail. What we need to do is focus on what makes them succeed.” Adrian Dooley

Adrian argued that we need to create a new model involving major cultural change. This, he said, included changing the public view of project management to move away from the idea of The Apprentice where everyone is a project manager and no one does it well, and moving to Chartered Status. “We’re meant to be the kind of people who can achieve this kind of change, cultural change,” he said.

I would have liked to hear more about this but the presentations at Conference: Zero were all very short and Adrian didn’t have the time to go into detail about what we could practically do to make this change now, both for the general public and for the projects we work on today. However, he did have some advice.

“I believe very simply what we have to do is practice what we preach,” he said. “We know about establishing objectives, setting a vision and implementing change. There are not complicated reasons why projects fail. We just need to do the basics right.”

He added: “The APM strategy for the year 2020 is to create a world where all projects succeed. Whether or not that’s possible, we’ll have to see but it’s worth striving for.” If we need a new model and some major cultural change we’ll have to start thinking about what that actually looks like now, as 2020 isn’t that far away.

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Why Project Management Is Like Surviving The Hunger Games

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