"Boris Johnson to take aim at MoD over wasted cash..."

Well Cummings is out of the starting blocks already:

Indeed, just send your CV to a gmail inbox.....


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I don’t think there is any real comparison between running small intrapreneurial projects in a simple stakeholder environment and procuring large multi-disciplinary programs over multiple lines of development in a massively complex stakeholder environment.

I’d argue that the MoD is actually pretty good at procurement. The defence infrastructure and equipment programs are probably the most complex procurement task in the UK; with the possible exception of the oil industry, no business procures stuff with the range, scale, complexity and technical risk that the MoD takes on.

Of course it could do better. If a Monte Carlo risk analysis was routinely carried out across the defence equipment program I’d bet it would be found to deliver somewhere around the P70 mark.

The fact is that people with the skill set to manage these big, complex programs are few and far between. Most people who describe themselves as Project Managers are managing projects below £1M. There are probably less than 10000 in the UK who can successfully manage £100M projects. Few defence projects are under that level.
No there isn't a direct comparison between what I do and what the MOD does, that's why I have been careful to explain what I do!
However, my comments boil down to a couple of simple points, project ownership and accountability for the results.
It appears to me (and lots of other posters for that matter) that both are areas where there are major shortcomings.

I am not a project manager, I am a transport manager and run distribution
As such I dabble in all sorts of areas in which I am not qualified to do so. Procurement in the hundreds of thousands being one of those areas (yes hundreds of thousands, not millions or billions)

What I do is vastly different, doesn't mean I can't draw comparisons though.
The biggest difference I can see is accountability, if I get it wrong I have to answer for it. Doesn't seem to work quite like that in the MOD?


Tell me again, why can't MOD project managers be accountable for the results they achieve?
 

A2_Matelot

LE
Book Reviewer
It's not just Officers that are the issue, and they don't tend to project manage anything big. More likely to be dealing with requirements, which the biggest attribute of their SQEP is the Queens Commission. I've seen PMs move mid complex project, and have never met an engineer that isn't spread uber thin across multiple projects (similar with PMs). And contract management doesn't seem to work, there's always a gap ie you lose a key player for weeks at a time.
I disagree, the RN has quite a few Engineers who are in the Cap & Acquisition stream, they're qualified and experienced at running small-large projects. Some may run many, some may have focus on a few key ones. They'll do a lot of time in DE&S, waterfront support and work in a variety of areas hard/big engineering all the way to software development/Combat Systems.
 

A2_Matelot

LE
Book Reviewer
Looking at this one, I would suggest that given the relatively short appointment of military personnel to project that they simply should not be project managing.
All depends what, how complex, how long and where. We stream a lot of engineers into Capability & Acquisition specifically to do this. They develop a portfolio of skills and experiences to make them capable Project/Programme Managers.

jagman2 said:
I would also suggest it strengthens the argument for specialist and professional project managers.
Military personnel to help specify what a project wants to achieve, excellent. Same with testing the the results and accepting them.
In terms of testing and accepting we have entire organisations set up to do this for capabilities that will be integrated or deployed on Naval Platforms.

jagman2 said:
But the bit in the middle, what qualifies a military officer to manage that? Particularly if that officer will be moved to a different appointment sometime during the project?
A long time ago when Prince and then Prince2 were vogue we realised we had to formalise training. It's quite normal to be appointed into a post as a PM and have Prince/Prince2, APMP, MoR, P3M qualifications. And increasingly it's not just engineers, there are quite a few other branches/arms that have realised they want to develop a second stage career that could lead to better civilian job.

You are just as likely to find a service person qualified to be a PM/PgM as you are a Civil Servant and with the same variable experience/quality.
 

A2_Matelot

LE
Book Reviewer
Not ignoring this one, genuinely trying to get my head around what appears to me an illogical process you describe in many aspects.
It is really is illogical. The idea of accountability and deliverability fizzles out with our processes. The CASPs and ISPs we've introduced to hold the delivery teams to account can't, they're largely toothless. in the real world contracts, bonuses, financial penalties and the risk of a very rapid move to the unemployment queue are the real incentives.

jagman2 said:
Point being, in the methods you describe above, nobody takes ownership of the project they lead and see's that project through to conclusion.
The SRO/RSO is accountable for the success or failure but as he is usually in the TLB/sS and the Delivery Team aren't it's difficult to make them fully accountable because they do not own the levers they need.
jagman2 said:
By extension, nobody has to account for its success or failure (and just as importantly, nobody is particularly incentivised to produce that result)
Exactly. I can name a number of strategic MoD programmes that are years adrift and now delivering a Minimum Viable Product just to get across the line yet we've consumed £XXXm pounds to get here late and no-one has lost their job, had an adverse OJAR/SJAR/Yearly Appraisal. Life continues.

jagman2 said:
The one similarity between what I do in my little corner of the world and the MOD is that I will actively seek to defer spending and extend equipment life (in my case vehicle life) when possible.
Where my world differs from yours is that we will do so when the economic argument makes it sensible, not when replacement programs or politics force me to do so.
Occasionally I get a bit ambitious with the boards cashflow and I'm reigned in, but that nearly always consists of a fixed term delay on expenditure. For example I may be asked to delay ordering a couple of vehicles until the next month or until after financial year end.

I can't shift money between projects, each one is measured individually. The financial director and the CEO decide what money I get to play with, the CEO signs off on expenditure over a certain value. Accounts don't pay the bill without the right signature on the purchase order.
I can think of a programme that is operationally critical, is late, is the third attempt at creating the capability and even now MoD centre has questioned what would happen if we deleted the Programme mid flight or delayed it for a number of years. We rarely see the stability of decisions that the outside world does. The SRO for the capability I am thinking of it tearing his hair out trying to keep the delivery team onside and the treasury away from the money.

jagman2 said:
When it comes to suppliers making promises you know they can't keep. They can only do that if you allow them to do so.
If I order something the specification, delivery date and price are all agreed on order placement. There is absolutely no reason that the MOD does not do the same, having watched BAe contracts team run rings around the MOD (admittedly many years ago) the MOD certainly wasn't capable of taking contracts as seriously as their suppliers do.
By the sounds of it nothing has changed much.
Over the years I've seen it happen so many times I expect it now. A bid is won, then shock the contractor suggests delaying delivery, starts to blame it on ship availability (shock - ships aren't all berthed all the time - and that's made very clear in all contracts). Or they'll have production issues - couldn't recruit, bring on staff in time. They might be penalised but in the scale of the contracts they win, they don't seem to care.
 
Hell, I'm a pure Ops Warfare Officer and I was offered P3M training for a job lasting less than a year.

And my budget was approx £5mil over 3 years. Fun times.

My project went from full speed to bin pile in 36 hours after a change of 3*...
 
Well Cummings is out of the starting blocks already:

I have to say that this is excellent stuff - One can imagine the downfall like scenes in Whitehall when this hits civil service inboxes on Monday morning
 
It is really is illogical. The idea of accountability and deliverability fizzles out with our processes. The CASPs and ISPs we've introduced to hold the delivery teams to account can't, they're largely toothless. in the real world contracts, bonuses, financial penalties and the risk of a very rapid move to the unemployment queue are the real incentives.


The SRO/RSO is accountable for the success or failure but as he is usually in the TLB/sS and the Delivery Team aren't it's difficult to make them fully accountable because they do not own the levers they need.

Exactly. I can name a number of strategic MoD programmes that are years adrift and now delivering a Minimum Viable Product just to get across the line yet we've consumed £XXXm pounds to get here late and no-one has lost their job, had an adverse OJAR/SJAR/Yearly Appraisal. Life continues.



I can think of a programme that is operationally critical, is late, is the third attempt at creating the capability and even now MoD centre has questioned what would happen if we deleted the Programme mid flight or delayed it for a number of years. We rarely see the stability of decisions that the outside world does. The SRO for the capability I am thinking of it tearing his hair out trying to keep the delivery team onside and the treasury away from the money.


Over the years I've seen it happen so many times I expect it now. A bid is won, then shock the contractor suggests delaying delivery, starts to blame it on ship availability (shock - ships aren't all berthed all the time - and that's made very clear in all contracts). Or they'll have production issues - couldn't recruit, bring on staff in time. They might be penalised but in the scale of the contracts they win, they don't seem to care.
The fact is, it’s not much different in the corporate world. By that, I mean big corporate, not the responsive entrepreneurial SME environment that @jagman2 is describing and in which I now work. Most big businesses stuff up big projects. The overriding issue isn’t accountability; it’s governance.

Projects fail. According to the Project Management Institute, only 39% of projects are successful (ie delivered on time, cost and quality). 43% are challenged (ie delivered over time or cost or under quality) and 18% fail (aren’t delivered or aren’t used).

Across industry, an average 69% of desired features are delivered, there is a average 59% cost over run and a 74% time over run. In the low value range that @jagman describes, success rates are very high (12% challenge or failure), but in large projects over $10M, there is a 90% rate of challenge or failure. That is why you can’t draw lessons from small projects and apply them to big ones.

Another interesting stat; only 20% of projects fail because of poor project management. The vast majority fail because of poor governance at the sponsor / owner / corporate level. Yet invariably It is the PM who is held “accountable” (and why I left the industry).

The reality is that projects are risky and risks manifest themselves. A world in which all projects are successful is an imaginary ideal; it can’t happen. Some organisations accept greater project risk because the returns are greater. Others are risk averse and don’t undertake high risk projects. But most don’t really have a clue what the risks are; they gamble.

The reality of defence is that a lot of projects carry high technology risk. I suspect the MoD is performing well above global averages for project success.
 

jrwlynch

LE
Book Reviewer
The reality of defence is that a lot of projects carry high technology risk. I suspect the MoD is performing well above global averages for project success.
I'm posting late after good wine has been taken, so might deny this later...

I came up through GEC-Marconi and their systems engineering programme - twenty years ago Mike Smithard and friends drew the "V-Diagram" on a T-shirt, I worked for Mike for a couple of years and ended up doing a (pretty good, I thought) MSc at UCL based on that thinking, fifteen years ago it went mainstream in a book that was pushed out quite widely within Defence, the good bits have endured and have helped me to a reasonably successful career.

One point that was (perhaps a little defensively) made was that Defence was actually one of the best performers for avoiding catastrophic overruns and failures. Yes, we've got case studies like FRES and Nimrod MRA.4 and the Bay-class LSDs, but on average Defence is actually pretty good at delivering complex projects to an approximation of time, performance and cost, and often "cost" problems are clearly traced to political decisions. (Personal example: Sting Ray torpedo mid-life update went quite a bit over budget. Three issues: one was that the original warhead was going to be re-used, then NATO insensitive munitions rules were used to say we needed a new design not costed for in the bid; the second was that all the clever people at DERA Winfrith were meant to be providing support as "free" GFI, but once they were QinetiQ or Dstl we had to pay for them. Also not in the bid and not our fault. The third, the widespread "budgetary reprofiling" of slowing the project down to seven, not five, years: saves money in-year but ramps up the cost overall. Even NAO agreed it wasn't our fault...)

UK MOD could do better and I've personally seen some shockingly bad stuff (in uniform, as a customer, as a supplier...) that could be seriously improved - but let us make sure we ditch dirty bathwater but keep the baby safe, because there are still a lot of good people trying to do the right thing in the process, and if there was an easy, simple answer... someone would have found it already. (Cue @alfred_the_great and the point he rightly repeats about "wicked problems" - there's always a solution to hand that's simple, easy, cheap, obvious, popular and completely useless).
 
IUK MOD could do better and I've personally seen some shockingly bad stuff (in uniform, as a customer, as a supplier...) that could be seriously improved - but let us make sure we ditch dirty bathwater but keep the baby safe, because there are still a lot of good people trying to do the right thing in the process, and if there was an easy, simple answer... someone would have found it already.
There are simple solutions but they're uncomfortable to deliver ie they will cost money that will demonstrate little tangible benefit. ISS has a portfolio office, that doesn't manage portfolios, I'm confident that DE&S has something similar. To set up true PMO/Portfolio Office that does what it's meant to do isn't going to look good one an OJAR. There's also an issue with bringing in contractors from industry, they generally don't have a clue how MOD runs. Their first 12 months is spent getting their decisions challenged because whilst sound, they won't work. If they're somewhat strong headed this could take longer. The answer is simple, do it properly, but I have no idea what will fall through the cracks in a zero sum game.
 
I disagree, the RN has quite a few Engineers who are in the Cap & Acquisition stream, they're qualified and experienced at running small-large projects. Some may run many, some may have focus on a few key ones. They'll do a lot of time in DE&S, waterfront support and work in a variety of areas hard/big engineering all the way to software development/Combat Systems.
I've only worked on one project where RN was the customer. No RN (or Servicemen) in the project team, hardly any on the floor plate, and the engineer support rolled through. I will say all the CS team were good and worked much harder than they were paid to. Admittedly my DE&S experience is limited and from last decade but I doubt much has changed since the summer.
 

A2_Matelot

LE
Book Reviewer
I've only worked on one project where RN was the customer. No RN (or Servicemen) in the project team, hardly any on the floor plate, and the engineer support rolled through. I will say all the CS team were good and worked much harder than they were paid to. Admittedly my DE&S experience is limited and from last decade but I doubt much has changed since the summer.
If that was an ISS/DD project then it's not unusual for them to not have much RN in their team. They do have some but spread thin in a big DT. Their CS are generally ok, Kev D in particular has always been great but he's moving on.

If the RN was the customer the touch point will have been IW Division in NCHQ which is 80% military.
 
There are simple solutions but they're uncomfortable to deliver ie they will cost money that will demonstrate little tangible benefit. ISS has a portfolio office, that doesn't manage portfolios, I'm confident that DE&S has something similar. To set up true PMO/Portfolio Office that does what it's meant to do isn't going to look good one an OJAR. There's also an issue with bringing in contractors from industry, they generally don't have a clue how MOD runs. Their first 12 months is spent getting their decisions challenged because whilst sound, they won't work. If they're somewhat strong headed this could take longer. The answer is simple, do it properly, but I have no idea what will fall through the cracks in a zero sum game.
Here’s the PMIs latest on PMOs and their new(ish) concept, the Strategic Enterprise PMO (SEMPO). For me, the two key points are about bridging strategy and execution and the vital role of the engaged sponsor. I’d suggest the answer lies in more effective strategic leadership rather than a portfolio office.
 
Here’s the PMIs latest on PMOs and their new(ish) concept, the Strategic Enterprise PMO (SEMPO). For me, the two key points are about bridging strategy and execution and the vital role of the engaged sponsor. I’d suggest the answer lies in more effective strategic leadership rather than a portfolio office.
Personally I think the effort would be better spent closer to the shop floor. Engagement of the sponsor (the importance of) is proven with AGILE and I think features heavily with PRINCE2 AGILE, though it’s all a bit obvious ie assume nothing, take an active interest and actually communicate. Perhaps Shriv should establish a centre of excellence for project, portfolio etc management not just send people on one week courses. And open it to all ranks.
Do we need strategic focus, or does senior management just need to empower those below?
 
It needs some body, or organisation, who has the authority to over-ride individual Programme Managers to ensure that they are in lock-step with their fellow Programme Managers, and not just chucking the “too hard“ stuff over the wall in order to save their own Programme.

Call that a Portfolio Office, a controlling mind, or whatever. But stove-piped exceptionalism needs to stop.
 
Personally I think the effort would be better spent closer to the shop floor. Engagement of the sponsor (the importance of) is proven with AGILE and I think features heavily with PRINCE2 AGILE, though it’s all a bit obvious ie assume nothing, take an active interest and actually communicate. Perhaps Shriv should establish a centre of excellence for project, portfolio etc management not just send people on one week courses. And open it to all ranks.
Do we need strategic focus, or does senior management just need to empower those below?
The problem with all of the shop floor PM tools is that they are just tools. In a week you learn a methodology, which is all well and good. But you don’t really study project management and learn from successes or failures. Its great for practitioners but I’d suggest that at the strategic level, you need people with more intellectual rigour than process followership. I’d expect those who want to manage the biggest projects to study project management academically too; Masters of PM or MBA in PM.
 

Cold_Collation

LE
Book Reviewer
The problem with all of the shop floor PM tools is that they are just tools. In a week you learn a methodology, which is all well and good. But you don’t really study project management and learn from successes or failures. Its great for practitioners but I’d suggest that at the strategic level, you need people with more intellectual rigour than process followership. I’d expect those who want to manage the biggest projects to study project management academically too; Masters of PM or MBA in PM.
Came up in conversation with a friend the other week. He really wants to PM bolstered in formal training - and what he sees as over-hopefulness addressed.

He also got very angry about QA. He’s currently involved in a project with a seven-stage QA process. The client continually bangs on about QA but has asked him to only do stages, one, two and seven to save cost...!

Something outside defence, BTW, but still public-sector.
 
The problem with all of the shop floor PM tools is that they are just tools. In a week you learn a methodology, which is all well and good. But you don’t really study project management and learn from successes or failures. Its great for practitioners but I’d suggest that at the strategic level, you need people with more intellectual rigour than process followership. I’d expect those who want to manage the biggest projects to study project management academically too; Masters of PM or MBA in PM.
Agreed. Note that by "shop floor" I meant do projects properly. have a project office, man teams fully, support opportunity taking, the list is endless.
 

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