INTRODUCTION: To understand and appreciate what is required for initiating and starting up a project nowadays, we have to face a painful, hard- to- swallow fact:
The days of the "simple" "one-off" project are now effectively over.There simply have been too many failed grand Development Projects and over-promised Business, Information Technology or community projects that sounded good, attracted support (or even enthusiasm) and funding, but then failed. And, from biblical days, the need to count up the cost to see if one can finish a building before starting its construction has been proverbial:
Luke 14:28 [Jesus said:] " . . . For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ " [ESV]When big projects fail, too often the most guilty have their golden parachutes to get away with fatter bank accounts, and they also may have scapegoats set up to take the blame. Reputations are tainted, people are demoted or fired, some may even go to gaol. The famed investor Warren Buffet aptly said that if you are in a Poker game and cannot figure out who is the sheep there to be shorn, look in the mirror.
Worse, in cases where lives are lost -- especially when something like the O-ring failure that caused disintegration of the billion-dollar Space Shuttle Challenger (cf. video) leads to patently avoidable loss of lives -- those responsible have to live with blood guilt for the rest of their lives. (Where, in almost all such cases, there were warning signs there in the project initiation and start-up processes, which were overlooked or dismissed without good cause. So, the stringency of modern project management standards and systems is quite understandable.)
For the sake of sensitising our consciences, let us pause and watch:
This sets the context for this second unit.
For, given that stringency, the underlying issue is that projects inherently embed elements of programmes in them, as we can see from the outline PRINCE2 process framework that it is well worth the pause to look at, a second time:
a: the stringent issues are taken care of by qualified and certified project management professionals in the project to set up the programme; and, in the ongoing programme's oversight.
b: development agencies are moving away from the one-off big ticket project to a collaborative programme-based partnership approach that typically targets a sector and embraces several individual projects.Likewise,
c: in corporate contexts, projects are increasingly undertaken as parts of a corporate, "building the future" change management programmes.So,
d: the "simple," "small- scale" project is then embraced as part of a wider framework. In short, we are looking at programme-based project management in light of the project life cycle.Where, if you doubt the importance, effectiveness and validity of small projects, kindly pause and watch:
In this unit, then,
e: our focus is on
(1) equipping a participant in this workshop with perspectives and tools to initiate and start up a fairly simple project, and(2) to equip such a person to appreciate and work with the qualified and certified professionals leading a more complex project.
In both cases, it is assumed that there is an overarching programme in which the projects fit, like fingers of a hand:
The further context is that we must also address how to initiate and start up projects in the PRINCE2 framework:
Initiating and Starting up Projects in the ("tailored") PRINCE2 context
First, please forgive and be patient with necessary complexity, including some diagrams that will take effort to figure out -- and if you think diagrams are complicated, try to put the same in words without using illustrations! (In the end, working through the words and pictures together will help us understand more deeply and thus work in a more insightful, capable way. So, pardon our progress.)
Now, a good start-point for looking at project initiation and start-up is the American Project Management Institute's principles + phases/challenges + solutions + issues framework:
The key deliverables at this stage -- Project Proposal/Business Case and onward to start-up approval -- show that projects have to be identified, developed in terms of their logic to show feasibility, desirability and priority, then agreed before they can be properly started up. The above generic themes then lead to a wider pattern of governance, organisation and execution that can be seen in light of the PRINCE2 framework as we already saw.
Let us mark up the drawings:
From the marked up drawings, we can now see how PRINCE2 addresses the organisation of projects:
A: Corporate and/or Programme Management sees to making the major decisions and "making them stick," i.e. overall governance.Also, as the 2009 official manual notes, PRINCE2 is intended to be quite generic, "a flexible framework that can readily be tailored to any type or size of project." Accordingly, in Ch 19, it notes:
B: Those who manage the project level are delegates of the Board/Programme,
B1: The Project "Board" represents the Executive, the "User"and a delegate of the suppliers of inputs. The logic here is that Users generate outcomes as they use the delivered results, so must have a voice on their being fit for purpose. Likewise, suppliers provide inputs -- including especially the skilled effort that produces the deliverable results, so they too should be heard. The Executive is the direct delegate of the Corporate/Programme directors who have commissioned the project -- often, through a statement of approval of the Business Case and instruction to start the project -- and holds authority to direct it. (NB: In Montserrat's context, it would likely reduce confusion if we referred to "the Project Steering Group" or "Committee.")B2: The Project Manager is a delegate of the Project Board (on which s/he may sit and/ or reports to, ex officio), and is the key day to day manager of the project.B3: Project assurance must have some credible independence of the executive and evaluates the stewardship of those involved, as to quality of output, management and accountability over inputs, records, process etc. In effect evaluation and/or audit towards in the first instance, lessons learned. (Sterner measures are called upon, if necessary.)C, D & E: The designated Project Manager and his Work Team Leaders undertake day to day management and supervision of the planning and execution of the project, down to individual work packages generated using a hierarchical work breakdown analysis.
Tailoring does not consist of omitting elements of PRINCE2. The method is not a series of isolated silos whereby any element can be omitted with no effect on the others . . . . [Instead,] tailoring is about adapting the method to external factors (such as any corporate standards that need to be applied) and the project factors to consider (such as the scale of the project). The goal is to apply a level of project management that does not overburden the project but provides an appropriate level of control given the external and project factors.In short, there is a system involved, and it should only be adapted based on sound understanding. Any tailoring, therefore, must take care that does not damage the integrity of the process logic and especially, effective governance, prudent risk management, ability to deliver good value for money and responsible assurance of high quality. So, no, we cannot just pick and choose bits and pieces we like and toss away or ignore the rest. (That would be rather like the NASA Managers tolerating a Criticality 1 fault for years; as -- so far, the second O-Ring had always saved them. Then, one launch day, it was a fateful cold morning in January 1986 and the second ring failed, tragically.)
Clearly, the easiest adaptation is teminology, e.g. as the Government of Montserrat has had a "Project Board" that does not match the PRINCE2 term, a different term is advisable. We suggest, perhaps: project steering group or committee.
More complex adaptations relate to things like the need to work with Development Partners/ funding agencies that have their own systems and organisation culture/ traditions. For example, a DFID Business Case is owned by DFID and will typically only be modified under unusual circumstances. In that context, it may be better to submit a project proposal that -- after a feasibility study -- is used in creating such a business case with our input. Under that case, perhaps implementing plans can then be commissioned with some degree of delegated flexibility, built-in contingency responses and accountability at review points. Such can be written into implementation-oriented Log Frames, for instance:
Obviously, that will have to be hammered out in a development partnership memorandum of understanding. Likely, as a technical appendix.
Happily, the simple projects envisioned in this workshop may only require a simpler project concept note with a project- at- a- glance cover sheet and an implementation-oriented log frame, outline budget and project timeline chart (i.e. a simple Gantt chart).
However, before going into that, it is necessary to pause and look a bit at:
PRINCE2-oriented Corporate/Programme governance organisation
So far, Corporate/Programme Management has been a black box, now it is time to lift the lid and look inside to see what PRINCE2 suggests regarding organisation at that level. For example:
Instantly, we see that PRINCE2 is based on a three-tier concept: (1) portfolios of (2) programmes and (3) projects.
Where, an underlying concept is that projects are a means to the end, future-building strategic change. So, in effect, programmes and projects are further clustered in a strategic change investment portfolio. Thus, naturally, we see support facilities -- and here, we continue the above:
A: The Main Board and its Delegate, the Director for the strategic change investment portfolio.Obviously, the elaborate framework is put up to cover the needs of globe-spanning complex organisations. PRINCE2 is generic and intended to be tailored and scoped to fit the scale of a given organisation.
F: The Corporate Portfolio Office
G: Hub Portfolio/ Programme Offices and
H: local Programme Offices -- often, Programme Management Offices.
I: Project Offices
For instanced, if we are not spanning continents, we do not need to think in terms of hub offices. If things are small enough, we do not need multiple programme offices either, a single Progreamme Management Office will do, understanding that it also carries out strategic change investment portfolio management functions.Both the strategic decision-maker support functions and the delivery capacity support functions. To some extent other offices or external suppliers may carry out detailed work e.g. on contracts -- that's a make vs. buy decision -- but there must be a definite desk accountable and capable to co-ordinate the relevant functions.
The Centre of Excellence cluster is particularly interesting, as this is where capacity is built and sustained across time.
It bears repeating, these strategic change investment portfolio management functions must be carried out in a definite, organised, accountable way, without overloading any one officer.
And yes, this is an investment, even in a not for profit or government organisation.
Human resources are the most important form of "soft capital" there is, and supporting such with appropriate equipment, organisation and facilities is also an investment. The costs of strategic change projects and their host programmes is also another investment, one with significant risk, which must be carefully managed so that they in aggregate provide good value for money. (And no, it is unrealistic to expect to be able to plan out every detail in advance and guarantee that all projects will be successful, a wiser strategy is to undertake a programme, and to carry forward the risky projects in distinct stages, where the early stages reduce the risk of the later ones. It may even be advisable to set up a distinct exploratory sub-programme for high risk, high potential payoff risky initiatives. Here in Montserrat, the Geothermal exploration programme is an example, one that currently seems to be moving from moderate success to potentially much better payoff.)
But also, we can see a possible point of confusion:
Balancing Business As Usual with the need for Strategic Change
"Business as usual," is a traditional sign put up by a shop hit by a fire or other emergency, that is continuing with its day to day breadwinner operations even while it copes with damage, recovery, rebuilding etc. And that is valid. So, we can readily see the way PRINCE2 arrived at the concept of balancing business as usual with a strategic change effort.
However, in sustainable development circles, it was long since recognised that there is a business as usual attitude that too often lurks behind the putting up of a brave, resilient front that keeps on on a "steady as she goes" path in the face of a crisis.
In this context, it becomes pivotal to see that business as usual is there for a reason.
Namely, it is the compromise hammered out across time by the dominant factions in an organisation or community. It is thus going to be in the comfort zone of those who rose to dominance based on past track record, wealth, power, sponsorship by the powerful and connexions. Therefore, it can lead to resistance to change, and even to rejection of warning signs that radical strategic change is needed, that is, to a march of ruinous folly:
This then points to the collective, sobering responsibilities of governance-level leaders of an organisation (or even a community). The 3-4-5 SWOT governance framework can help focus on those responsibilities:
Clearly, there is always a duty to soberly monitor and understand the times, trends, potential shocks, risks, hazards and uncertainties, leading to an accurate picture of opportunities and threats.
That duty includes being willing to hear and honestly assess unwelcome news and views from sources that may not be very welcome in the halls of power. Where, again (given that part of our national vision and heritage is that we are a God-fearing community), it is very appropriate to point to a confrontation between Jesus and the leading figures of his day on the subject of discernment:
Matt 16:1Now the Pharisees and Sadducees came up, and testing Jesus [to get something to use against Him], they asked Him to show them a sign from heaven [which would support His divine authority].Instead, we should be like the 200 delegates of Issachar in David's day (speaking for a tribe that per 1 Chron 7:5 disposed of 87,000 fighting men) who came to Hebron when David was to be called as king over all of Israel, c. 1000 BC:
2 But He replied to them, “[a]When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ 3 And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and has a threatening look.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but cannot interpret the signs of the times? 4 An evil and [morally] unfaithful generation craves a [miraculous] sign; but no sign will be given to it, except the sign of [the prophet] Jonah.” . . . . [AMP]
2 Chron 7:32 Of the tribe of Issachar, men who understood the times, with knowledge of what Israel should do, two hundred chiefs; and all their relatives were at their command [AMP]Where were the rest of the 87,000, why?
They were back in Jezreel, guarding the back door and doing the day-to-day business of farming the bread basket while the critical strategic change was being made down to the South in Hebron:
The Jezreel Valley -- aka, Armageddon -- was Israel's bread basket, and an invasion route from the North and from the sea. It was guarded by two key cities, Megiddo and Jezreel. So, the main body of the men of Issachar were continuing to guard the back-door while Israel resolved a civil war by making David king. (And, it is not at all an accident that David was married to a certain Ahinoam of Jezreel. His other wife at that time -- in those days when polygamy was acceptable -- was Abigail of Carmel. Not coincidentally, that region is the high ground at the Mediterranean end of the same strategic valley.)
So, yes, there is clearly a place for maintaining routine operations and a guard on the back door while strategic changes are being made. But such must never become an excuse for refusing to heed the signs of the times and move to a more sustainable strategic alternative.
A well-judged strategic balance is always called for.
Hence the subtle wisdom in the Boston Consultant's Group's Growth/Share model of investment portfolios, as we ponder the life cycle of a product-market:
This means that at any time, we have to exist in the present and support moving to the future. So, at any given time, firms in an industry need cash cows to feed the rising stars and promising question marks, to build the future; even while the cash cows are also feeding us. And, if we have "dogs," maybe we need to convert them into profitable niche items.
That is, if we have items that do not or cannot dominate the overall market, we can seek to dominate specialist sub-markets [strictly, market segments], by in effect redefining what our products are about and just who we must make extra special efforts to tailor and target our marketing mix to. (Apple did this by how it retargetted the Mac PC line towards multimedia productivity, and eventually further specialised on that applications context by moving to standard Intel Architecture motherboards and basing the operating system software on the existing Unix OS. This took out the need to focus on hardware and operating system development (drastically reducing hidden costs), and shifted to optimising the user interface experience. And of course, they shifted to iPods then iPhones, which have dominated the smart phone market, allowing Apple to peak as the highest market capitalisation firm in the world for a time.)
This context of reflecting for a moment on the world of business raises a logical issue: business planning.
While this workshop is in the main about other types of projects, a business launch is indeed a project and business people will profit from this general framework. The key insight for such is that a business exists to sustain a profitable customer basis, and as such must compete to win and hold customers in a market where it can so control costs and expenses that it is able to consistently make a profit; whilst, it must also win and hold good staff and it must have a solid base of suppliers, while meeting regulatory and legal requirements as well as the subtler ones of good corporate citizenship. A tough balancing act, but often enough, a rewarding one. If you are considering a project to launch a new business, or to extend or upgrade an existing one -- in effect to re-launch or to do a sub-business -- you will need to use a business plan to help guide you to a feasible approach (and to attract investment).
The Government of Australia has kindly provided useful guidance on business plans here.
Here, too, is a business proposal at a glance cover sheet template:
For Montserrat, all of this speaks straight to our need to appropriately tailor our tourism industry to key niches; then, to use success in that sub-industry to feed well judged future development. And yes, that points to a whole portfolio of projects to move us forward. In the wider Caribbean, there are similar lessons to be taken to heart -- we cannot afford to be caught ill-prepared for the future in a time dominated by rapid change and economic instability.
If we do not strike this balance, in a world of accelerating change, we will find ourselves trapped in dying markets (likely with high cost undifferentiated products), while new technologies and markets leave us behind. That is, we will be caught on the wrong side of Schumpeter's Creative Destruction.
So, starting with national level decision makers, we must make a strategic decision to sustain a strategic change programme that allows us to remain competitive in coming decades and generations. (As just one step, this requires sustained investment in education transformation.)
In a nutshell, this is the strategic marketing challenge our region faces:
|Cf. IEEE Jamcon 2000 presentation here and paper here|
We can no longer afford to imagine these are just for a few "bright" people, as the rest of us lack the intellectual horsepower to become more than the equivalent of hewers of wood and drawers of water.
Here in Montserrat, this already points to a longstanding cluster of key initiatives that are serious candidates for transforming our economy after twenty-plus years of volcano crisis, and we and our development partners must ask, what are we doing to move forward in these areas over the next, five, ten, twenty years:
- the Sea Port development (and, subject to agreements, enhancements to the Air Port),
- the creation of a stable and cost effective electrical power supply grid,
- Geothermal energy initiatives, wind, solar, biofuels and other renewable energy initiatives and energy efficiency initiatives under an Energy Policy,
- as well as information access (e.g. Fibre Optics),
- the new town development centred on Little Bay & Carr's Bay,
- support for development of agriculture, energy, technology-based and other potential industries, financial services and other strategic economic sectors,
- business development through enterprise incubation and venture capital funding initiatives designed to foster entrepreneurship and improve the performance of small and micro businesses, pioneering industrial initiatives and agricultural enterprises,
- good governance initiatives, including social welfare, health, youth, minorities, children, education and training, women, the aged, the vulnerable, the mentally challenged and disabled, poverty, employment, housing (social and affordable) and similar challenges. (For instance, repatriation of many Montserratians involuntarily displaced due to the volcano crisis.)
A healthy and wholesome Montserrat,
founded upon a thriving modern economy
with a friendly, vibrant community,
in which all our people
through enterprise and initiative,
can fulfill their hopes
in a truly democratic and God-fearing society.
This has been given operational focus through a policy agenda rooted in the 2008 - 2020 sustainable development plan's five main goals:
I: Prudent Economic Management;In short, there is more than enough basis for a sustained strategic transformation programme here in Montserrat and across the wider Caribbean.
II: Enhanced Human Development;
III: Sustainable Environmental Management and Appropriate Disaster Management Practices
IV: Good Governance; and
V: Improved Population
This also sets the context and fundamental rationale for what is needed for project initiation and start-up:
Project Initiation and Start-up (for "simple" projects)
Yes, for "simple" projects.
This is after all a 101-level bootcamp workshop, beyond which one needs to do PRINCE2 Foundation, Practitioner and other courses or the substantially equivalent to be fully equipped to practice at the full-bore professional level. But, many of the projects that will be needed will be small and simple ones that can be covered by a small grants/projects scheme integrated into the overall development programme as was already discussed. In addition, people who have some appreciation for project management and some basic skills are then equipped to work better with the professionals working on the more rigorous development projects.
Let us begin by again looking at the programme-based project cycle, again in the European Union format:
For the "simple"/"small" projects now in view, we can take it that a programme is set up that generally meets the benchmarks set by PRINCE2 or the like, and is acceptable to funders. That allows us to focus on identification, development, appraisal, funding agreement and chartering of projects to go ahead. Also, on the tools that we can use to help us do a responsible, effective, generally acceptable job.
From such we see that:
1] A main tool here is the brief project concept note, with something like a project- at- a- glance cover sheet, log frame, budget and a simple Gantt timeline chart.Here, again, is an implementer-oriented log frame:
2] Of these, the main design tools are typically the log frame, the budget and the outline Gantt chart.
3] Where, this will require some clarification of objectives, deliverable results and outcomes/benefits they contribute to, the activities that create the results, and of inputs required.
4] This implies at least some degree of hierarchical breakdown of the work to be done (and of required time and inputs). The budget's expenditures side comes from this, and the income side comes from the various contributions.
5] Once these are worked out at least in a rough form, a concept note and a cover sheet can be prepared.
6] Where, it is also very important to make sure the proposed project is well aligned with the goals, framework and funding criteria for the programme.
7] Likewise, it is important to show that a project is likely to give good value for money and is not unmanageably risky.
The project framework is where we should start, outlining the programme aims the project contributes to, the goals of the project (outcomes to be achieved), the deliverable outputs that enable users or beneficiaries to attain outcomes, then activities and inputs that drive those.
Here, at initial outline level, ideally as part of a one page, landscape mode table.
(NB: This is less stringent than may be imagined. If a letter-sized sheet will not do, use a Tabloid one in landscape mode instead and Z-fold it to fit into the printed out version. Use section breaks in the concept note document, to insert it electronically. [This also obtains for Gantt charts and budgets --and, notice how the three charts collectively show how the proposed project is intended to manage effort towards goals, time and money.] Beware, though: inserting sections with odd page types can cause problems with some files. For submission and printing, PDF is -- on long experience -- the most mild-mannered document file format. But if there is a persistent problem, submit a set of files.)
The next focus is implementation, monitoring and control.
Where, critical success factors are the few things that must be achieved or must be in place if the various elements of the project's framework are to be feasible. In short, what do you need to get the inputs, activities, delivered results, then to achieve outcomes and longer term purpose?
(That list, by the way, is the "Vertical Logic" of the Log Frame; for obvious reasons. it sets out how the goals and long-term vision are to be achieved based on given inputs and activities yielding deliverable results as outputs. Then, as we begin to move across the table from left to right, we are now filling in the "Horizontal Logic," which is the key to understanding how the project is to be managed and why it is feasible.)
What are the indicators of these CSFs? How can these be observed or measured, and how can these be monitored, for management and control? (Again, brief outlines in the table.)
Critical success factors, invariably, depend on the environment being in a supportive condition. So, the next logical question is, what are the key assumptions that lie behind the CSF's and the project framework?
Then, how risky are these assumptions: high, medium or low?
If key assumptions break, what can you do to address these contingencies?
(This tells us a lot about risk management and also value for money. Which, we now need to address:)
Value for Money and Management of Project Risk
Two of the issues that have long been bugbears for development projects in Montserrat (and elsewhere) are the twin perils: value for money and risk management.
Let us first ask: what is risk?
The answer is, a way to understand uncertainty and variability of outcomes, or else of our lack of full, certain knowledge about a situation, say, X. If we knew about X beyond all doubt the risk would be zero. X will be so for sure, or X will not be so for sure. In the murky middle, we are dealing with our degree of ignorance, which (oddly enough) maximises at 50:50 odds -- as far as we can tell, X is as likely to be so or not be so, we have no further basis for concluding its odds.
We might as well flip a coin.
In short, probability is a measure of degree of ignorance and thus uncertainty.
When we can assign reasonable values [at minimum, high, medium, low], we term it risk, otherwise it remains uncertainty. (And, suddenly the reason for the three categories of odds on assumptions in the log frame swims into view, when we know assumption A is unlikely to break, it is of low risk. If it is likely indeed to break, it is of high risk. If we are facing high uncertainty, for all we know we should be flipping coins here, and so we are in the middle, "medium" risk.)
For projects, we may wish that assumptions were certainties, but reality is not like that.
The very fact that we are dealing with assumptions not facts means we are facing a degree of ignorance and are betting on the state of the world or of others we have to deal with. And obviously low risk assumptions are better than high risk ones.
Ones we lack enough information to decide either way, belong in the middle.
Now, just a few high risk assumptions can break a project, so if there is a mounting number of such in your log frame, refocus the project design towards being an exploration, a research into the circumstances that then reduces risk for onward work.
(For instance, in recent years, we can see how first, we recognised from the eruption and the history of hot water springs. This indicated that we may have a viable Geothermal Energy resource. Surface investigations allowed us to identify zones of interest, and these were followed by mapping exercises that led to the famous X marks the spot. Then, the high cost, high risk drilling was done. We hit a resource, but the two wells were a bit marginal. Now, we are in progress with Well 3, to see if we can get a bigger proved resource. Initial signs are promising, but that is not the same as certain. Similarly, in the 1960's NASA did not go straight to the Moon. First, there were sub-orbital rocket flights, then there were orbital flights, then there were space walks, and other exercises that allowed a knowledge base to be built up. Then, when Apollo 1 was built, disaster struck, three Astronauts were burned to death in a capsule fire on the launch pad. A lot of redesign had to be done, and then by Christmas time 1968, they were confident enough that the very first manned Apollo flight went to the Moon, orbited it and returned to Earth. By July 1969, we had the first Moon landing.)
Likewise, when a project design has a significant number of "medium risk" assumptions, that points to a likelihood that some at least will break. In effect, we have a high degree of ignorance regarding the situation. In that case, again, redesign towards being an exploratory project.
With explorations in hand -- often, via consultancies -- we can proceed to stronger evidence-driven projects to exploit opportunities and counter threats, compensating for weaknesses that remain.
This already shows us how an incremental -- "exploration first" -- approach can allow us to manage risk and improve expected value for money. Which, is Dragon No. 2.
Dragon No. 2 turns out to be our old friend the Iron Triangle, in disguise. As in, if we set a reasonable quality threshold, we face a three way trade-off: wide scope, cheap cost, short time. Pick any two, you pay for it with the third. To see that, let us consider:
|SOURCE: GEM/TKI, 2016, cf. NASA Sys's Eng'g H/b, 2007, pp. 16 - 17. Note, "affordability"|
offers more flexibility than "cost," as a cost can be made more affordable by how it is financed and
paid for across time. (Cf. Hire Purchase and Lease-To-Own. In a national development
context, a well managed key project can pay for itself through induced economic growth.)
First, the performance floor sets the minimum acceptable threshold for "fair" quality performance. Second, we see a trade-off along the arc with cases A, B and C on it, showing how affordability and performance are traded off. Timeliness is of course an aspect of performance. So, along the trade off arc, we are exchanging performance and affordability, seeking to get a sweet-spot where there is acceptable and even good performance that is reasonably affordable.
Second, affordability and performance are weighted scorecard indicators ("metrics"). In effect we have, for cost linked factors C1 to Cn with weights w1 to wn:
Affordability, A = w1 x C1 + w2 x C2 + . . . wn x Cn
and for performance factors P1 to Pm, with weights v1 to vm,
Performance, P = v1 x P1 + v2 x P2 + . . . vm x PmThis way, we can compare options, The result is generally that some point A has a better balance than C or B, as it is of good performance, without losing a lot of affordability to gain a fairly modest further increment of performance .
(We must also recognise that affordability is not quite the same as price or cost. For, if something is such that we can afford to lease it now towards ultimate purchase, the overall cost may be higher but the cost now is lower. If well judged, the item may then help us earn enough to pay for itself. If an item is built to be extended, it is also possible to buy at A and as one's capacity increases, extensions can be used to enhance performance. For example, it is wise to build a house with room for extension, and it is advisable that the sea port development be such that it has room to grow with our economy.)
Now, too, performance factors are often traded off against one another.
For instance, time is often a key issue. So, if other desired performance factors ("features," etc)can be ranked in priority, we can then decide how to adjust performance in light of time pressure or delays etc.
This points to the MoSCoW prioritisation rule:
- MUST have this requirement to meet the business needs.
- SHOULD have this requirement if at all possible,
- (but the project success does not rely on this).
- COULD have this requirement
- (if it does not affect the fitness of business needs of the project).
- WON'T represents a requirement that stakeholders have postponed
- (due to the timeliness requirement)
Budgeting and Timelines
As we already saw from Smyrk's ITO model, in projects, effort is applied to (or by) inputs to carry out activities that give rise to outputs. These initial outputs then come together to yield the overall deliverable results that provide benefits to users. These benefits then give rise to outcomes and help to attain long-term goals:
Generally inputs have associated costs and the process of delivering outputs takes both skilled effort and time. In addition, there are going to be overheads such as administration, accounting and quality assurance, facilities, utilities etc.
An older version of Microsoft Project allows us to see how these come together in project planning:
To see how simply such a chart can be composed, here is an image from a key case study in an old Polish Ministry of Environment Project Cycle Manual (cf. Wayback Machine, here):
The hierarchical work breakdown can be shown through a work breakdown structure chart [cf linked Tasmanian Government Fact Sheet], illustrating how work and budget go together:
A simple format for a project budget could be:
Obviously, for a complex project, such would be composed using project management software, but they can be done more or less by hand on a whiteboard or the like for a simple project, and/or for initial design sketches. (Of course, a smart phone or tablet pc then allows self-documentation through snapshots.)
Effort in man-hours or days by type of work can also be put in.
Projected numbers would come from informed judgement, or from norms established through experience.
With these in hand, budgets can be composed, timelines can be worked out and the log frame can now be updated with more specific information.
In fact, the process is usually interactive and iterative, until a reasonably coherent view is in hand.
It is worth the momentary pause to point out that a summary level, simple Gantt Chart [cf. linked Tasmanian Government Fact Sheet] can be used to present the timeline for a programme, such as this live example composed using a MS Word Table:
|Tacking upwind to the goal|
The real world course of a project is seldom direct, it is rather like a sailing yacht making progress upwind by tacking from side to side (see the illustration) as conditions allow.
We may now turn to writing up a coherent, well-grounded project concept note:
The Project Concept Note
This note is a short (aim for 3 - 5 pages) summary of the project for initial exploration and preliminary feasibility- desirability- priority assessment. It will append the log frame, timeline chart and budget (and perhaps an outline work breakdown structure if such is desired.)
For small, simple projects it is often enough. With more elaborate projects, this is the point where the professionals would come in, to help develop a full project proposal or "business case" for more elaborate appraisal and possible initiation.
Such a project concept note -- cf. sample worksheet here -- may be structured as follows:
PROJECT CONCEPT NOTE
By John R Doe/ Jane R Doe et al
TITLE: Be brief, descriptive, and memorable.
INTRODUCTION: A brief statement of the need for the project, why it is important/urgent to meet the need, and how it may be successfully and sustainably met through carrying out this project. What is the FIRST thing you want the reader to know about your project?
1] Background and Rationale: An exploration of the context for the project, in light of the underlying analysis, giving a bit more detail than the introduction on:
2] Goals and Objectives: Concisely state the overall goal to be achieved through doing the project. Then, break it down into a small list of more specific, brief, observable (and preferably quantitatively measurable) objectives that can be achieved by given times (to the day, week, or month, typically). When attained, these objectives should collectively indicate the achievement of the goal.
- How the need for a project came to be;
- A thumbnail sketch on the state of the art in knowledge on the matter: environmental [PEST + Biophysical] factors, trends and dynamics, issues/controversies and perspectives, how interventions could give rise to the desired outcomes.
- The existing/expected resources and stakeholder commitments that permit an effective response to be developed; and,
- What factors could motivate a switch from business as usual to a more sustainable path through doing the project.
3] Proposed Implementation: Briefly outline how the project would be organised, managed and carried out using people, organisational, financial and material resources, across time. (It may be helpful to draw a log frame, a timeline chart and a work breakdown structure chart. An organisational framework for making decisions about and managing the project will also be helpful.)
4] Milestones and Deliverables: Identify and list, stage by stage, what the project is to achieve and produce as outputs. (These will be used for monitoring, management, control and evaluation of the implementation process, so inception, interim ["progress/gap"] and final narrative and financial reports will be important deliverables.)
5] Inputs: Identify and list the inputs required for the project: people and skills, teams/work-groups, reporting linkages, equipment, space, materials, funds, permits required, etc.
6] Estimated Budget: A summary budget based on reasonable estimates of the costs for major activities, and on contributions from the different funding (and in-kind) sources. Perhaps, best as an appendix, with a reference in the main text, as that allows easy exclusion in copies circulated to those who do not need to see a budget. (The log frame and work breakdown structure are very helpful in budget construction. It is often useful to include a contingency sum, to be released under appropriate authorisation if/as contingencies are warranted or unforeseen opportunities arise.)
7] Key Assumptions: Identify and list critical environmental conditions that may affect the achievability of the project's goals. Some assessment of their risk and impacts on the project may prove helpful, with some brief reference to how they will be monitored and responded to as necessary.
8] Outcomes, Benefits and Impacts: A year or so after the project has been completed and users will have been using its delivered results, what will it have changed for the good? What about five to ten (or more) years after? Who will directly benefit from these medium- to long- term changes? Who else may be affected by the project, for good or ill? [These groups are the stakeholders.] Also, if the project is likely to significantly affect the human or natural environment (e.g. gender issues, cultural heritage sites, stakeholder groups, economic prospects of stakeholders, rivers, watersheds, forests, coastal zones, threatened flora and fauna), favourably or adversely, this should be briefly noted and requirements for preparing an Environmental Impact Assessment (if one is needed) should be listed.
SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS: Summmarise the point of the project as briefly as you can, state your verdict on feasibility, importance and desirability, and invite participation. A respectful, professionally dignified tone is best.
APPENDICES: Logical Framework (which will provide the basis for many of the above sections of the paper), and contact information for the project implementers. Any other reference material that seems appropriate, such as a SWOT analysis chart, a Budget, or a Gantt Chart or a Work Break-down Structure chart.)
In addition, it may be advisable to head it with a one-page project at a glance summary, such as:
(Great care should be taken with such a one-page summary, as this is likely to be the point where a decision to take as closer look is made.)
Getting to Project Start-up and actual Implementation
(From the Proposer's/ Implementer's Point of View)
Obviously, a lot of work has already been done to get us to the point of a project concept note backed by a credible organisational framework and matching contributions in cash or kind to present to a potential project partner. Work, that is on speculation fired by hope.
The issue is to close the deal.
Which can be very hard to do.
Potential grant agencies (or lenders or equity investors, or working partners) have their own priorities, limited resources, limited time to assess proposals, and -- often -- serious questions about the credibility of would-be partners. They do not want messy divorces, too.
Our mission at this point -- building on the work done under the first two Units -- is to break through those barriers and close the deal, getting to actual launch. Potential partners have to buy in, not only to the ideas but the would-be implementers. (And, let us remember, there are likely several suitors for the same funds and/or technical support etc.)
How can we stand out?
It helps, if there is an existing relationship, or if the development process is in the context of building a relationship.
It helps, if there is a track record of success.
It helps, if there are some known, credible names with good track records involved.
(And no, do not yield to the temptation of padding resumes; that will not work in a modern, Internet and social media world.)
It helps, to see what sort of enemies key names have -- you can tell a lot about someone by knowing who do not like him or her, why. It helps to have the right sort of enemies, not just friends in high places.
It helps, to do your homework: research the potential partner, and subtly tailor what is proposed to meet their history, culture, priorities and contexts.
It helps, to be able to quietly show that you have in place the key elements of a critical mass to move an initiative forward. As was noted in Unit 1:
Idea OriginatorsIt helps, to have built a credible programme-based organisation, or to be part of one. At least, show good reason as to how the project will enable formation of an effective organisation structure.
Sponsors at Middle/Senior Management level
Incubators that allow initiatives to be developed and practically demonstrated
Godfathers at Top Management level
It helps, to pay attention to quality and performance assurance.
It helps, to have a solid log frame that shows adequate attention to risk management and value for money etc.
Budgets, work breakdowns and timelines should be realistic.
A solid one-page project at a glance is more than worth its weight in gold.
Do you have in place a good MoSCoW prioritisation of deliverable results?
Is your framework clearly capable and flexible?
Sadly, sometimes, all of this is just not enough.
There are no guarantees, and we must learn to live with rejections.
So, have a network of potential donors and partners, and be persistent.
(More than one best-selling novel was tossed by editors in major publishing houses before someone spotted the gold and ran with it.)
Do not give up hope, if you have a solid vision, persist.
At minimum, go for a shoestring-snowball strategy. (That is, take a shoestring and ball it up, form a snowball, and get it rolling and picking up mass. It is not just Oak trees that start from little nuts that got going and -- despite long odds, daunting obstacles and many disappointments -- just plain kept on going.)
It is not for nothing that Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
Persist, as one who sees the invisible.
FOR DISCUSSION: xxx