Tuesday, December 6, 2016

PM101: Course Aims, Outline, Scope & Sequence (also, key resources)

MOTIVATION: The Caribbean region is a developing region, which makes development oriented projects especially important. Accordingly, it is helpful to set up a workshop that will help people in our region achieve initial capability to develop and implement projects. Hence, this workshop: Project Management Bootcamp. There is no pretence at being made into experts in just one workshop, but first level proficiency is also important. As UNIT 2 notes:
". . . our focus is on
(1) equipping a participant in this workshop with perspectives and tools to initiate and start up [then carry out] 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."

AIM: To provide basic, functionally oriented familiarity with and initial proficiency in project management concepts and skills, for undertaking simple development-oriented projects. Also, to allow participants to appreciate what is required to manage more substantial projects, so that such individuals will be able to work with those who are managing more complex and elaborate projects. Where, no, this is specifically NOT a PRINCE2 Foundations preparatory course.

OUTLINE/SYNOPSIS: Project Management -- what is that? why? who? where? when? Preparation: initiating and starting up a project -- how, phase 1.  Getting to agreement and obtaining funding. Setting up and carrying out simple projects. Implementation and Management. Completion and evaluation, with lessons learned. Face to face workshop. Student projects. Where to go from here.

SCOPE & SEQUENCE: This online and face to face workshop short course is intended to cover the following topics in the following sequence, with room for options or selections, or for use in a 1:1 tutorial setting to assist people working with projects:

PS: It is helpful to list . . .

 Some key reference resources

 1: Tasmanian Government Project Management Resources:

A main resource for this workshop, here. (Especially note, the Guidelines,  templates and fact sheets etc here. [Some of these will be linked at appropriate points in the text.] The project life cycle stage by stage resources here, are also helpful.)

2: Tasmanian Government Project Management Guidelines:

An excellent text on PM from the resource just above, here. If there is a "textbook" for this workshop, this is it, so please download and save the PDF.

3: Archived, Polish Ministry of the Environment Project and Project Cycle Management Resource:

A fondly remembered oldie but goodie, now preserved here. Particularly note the examples and case studies -- many of them real world. Kudos to the Wayback Machine!

4:  EU Project Cycle Management Guidelines:

A go-to on project cycle management and linked issues on development programmes. If you need to think about development, aid, projects, programmes, policy and challenges, start here.

5: Project Management Institute (PMI) Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge:

The PMBOK guide is a world-class go-to reference and toolbox from the professional society behind the Project Management Professional (PMP) qualification framework. The latest edition (the fifth) can be bought here, at Amazon.

 6: UK Gov't BERR Guidelines for Project Management:

Here. Before there was Axelos, there was BERR as owner of the PRINCE system. Accordingly, it is well worth taking time to look at framework that gives the pattern of thought behind PRINCE2, and which is a useful overview in its own right -- one that is particularly helpful in learning "PRINCE2-speak."

7: PRINCE2 Wiki:

A good online reference for all things PRINCE2, here.  Note, the list of online manuals with links, here.

8: PRINCE2 Glossary:

Here. Necessary, period. Download and save this, too.

9: The NASA Project, Programme and Systems Engineering-related handbooks:

This trove of documents gives a survey of a rich and distinguished tradition in project and programme management, which may be intuitively more familiar to many than the PRINCE2 approach.  Key works:
Space Flight Projects and Programmes Handbook

Space Flight Projects and Programmes Requirements (a companion)

Systems Engineering Handbook (a technical guide to designing socio-technical systems)

Governance and Strategic Management Handbook.
10: The DSDM Atern, Agile Project Management Handbook:

A well thought through agile perspective. Here.


PM101 U1: Project Management -- What, Why, Who, Where & When?



INTRODUCTION:  If you have ever planned a wedding, moved house (or built one!) or even just planned a beach trip, you are already familiar with the basic idea behind projects. In a nutshell: trying to achieve a definite, unique result of some importance, in a limited time, with limited resources.

More formally, a project is 
(a) a time-limited set of efforts and  activities, 
(b) that requires appropriate resources, planning and organisation, 
(c) which are directed towards a definite goal; and,  
(d) produce a unique deliverable result towards gaining desired onward benefits
Where also, the Tasmanian Government Project Management Guidelines (2011)-- a main reference for this workshop (please, download) -- provides a key pair of observations:
A project is a group of interrelated activities that are planned and then executed in a certain sequence to create a unique product or service to defined quality criteria within a specific timeframe, in order to achieve planned and agreed outcomes . . . . The structure of a project will vary depending on the benefits it is intended to provide.  It may even be necessary to restructure a project into a number of sub-projects or establish a program of projects to achieve these benefits. [pp. 9 - 10]

Project management is a structured way of managing change [through implementing projects].  It focuses on developing specifically defined Project Outputs that are to be delivered by a certain time, to a defined quality and with a given level of resources so that planned Project Outcomes are achieved.  Effective project management is essential for the success of a project.

In applying any general project management methodology, it is important to consider the corporate and business culture that forms a particular project’s environment. [p. 10]
 Already, this brings us face to face with the notorious Iron Triangle of Project Management:

In effect: good, cheap, fast -- pick any two (you will pay for it with the third).

A common solution is to go for generations of product. That is, we seek to  deliver an initial product of reasonable quality in good time, then extend the scope later on. But, judging and delivering "reasonable" performance/quality in "good" time can be tricky indeed. And thereby hangs the challenge, study, science and practice -- nowadays, even, profession --  of project management.

Background: What is Project Management about?
(Why the fuss and bother?)

The Pyramids of Egypt (and of course Noah's famous Ark that was 120 years in the building) stand in testimony to just how ancient project management is. And, of how long the benefits of a successful project may last -- including, in unexpected ways.

Today, the Pharaohs are long gone (and their mummies long since had to be moved into caves hidden in the Valley of the Kings . . . with the tomb-looters following hot on their heels!). The Pyramids of Giza near Cairo have long been stripped of their shining polished limestone facings, and these grand artificial mountains were equally long since vanadalised otherwise for building materials etc. But, they are now major tourism assets.

One rather doubts that there was a Steering Committee meeting in the days of Khufu, in which is was opined that forty centuries on, the pyramids would be centres of tourism to Egypt and so the cost-benefits balance should be tipped just a tad more in the direction of benefits. The workmen doubtless complained that they needed more pay and better benefits, but even a Pharaoh has his limits on what he can pay or command. As a later king of Egypt learned the hard way, when he called the Israelite workmen "lazy," beat their supervisors and demanded that they make the same quota of mud-bricks without being pre-supplied with straw.

(It is suspected, too, that some of the tomb-building workmen were likely among the first looters of the tombs of their Kings; yes, bullying, corruption, theft and sabotage as resistance to real or perceived oppression have long been associated with grand construction projects!)

To give an idea of just how major a project building a pyramid was, here is an internal "ramp" theory for Khufu's Great Pyramid:

(And yes, it is not known just how it was done. Here is a far less conventional, water-shaft theory. Ponder the implications in terms of design and planning, then executing structures that are nearly exactly square and aligned with the directions of the compass, with -- for Khufu's Great Pyramid -- precise and fairly complex internal structures. Then, have them faced with smoothly finished white limestone faces. [Notice, too, the videos themselves were developed through projects also; projects are "everywhere."])

Just from these classic examples and preliminary thoughts, we can already make out many of the key issues we will need to focus on, if we are to build up basic understanding and skills for project management. For instance:
1] Projects are common and important in personal life, business, government, not- for- profits, charities, schools etc. (So, Project Management (PM) skills are very relevant and are widely transferable.)

2] Projects target definite and somehow unique goals, where we face limited time, money (and other resources), may need scarce skills, and often face uncertainties and challenges. In short, we bother with projects because they allow us to achieve important goals in an effective, well-organised, reasonably efficient way in the face of an uncertain world. For instance, we can see how a  a project-at-a-glance worksheet (used as a cover page for a project proposal or project concept note or project brief) makes the case for a project; in a nutshell:

3] To be able to summarise the project like that, it is wise to first lay out its process and context logic using a logical framework -- Log Frame -- chart (here, in a format modified to support project implementers rather than what donor agencies tend to emphasise):

4] The Iron Triangle: trading off scope, cost/resource use and time required to achieve a result of adequate quality, is obviously a focal issue that drives the management of a project.

An example of a Gantt Chart showing activities (and summary activities),
process logic order (and hierarchical work breakdown structure) ,
timeline, percent completion and a "now" marker
5] There is often a process logic in projects that forces a pattern of chained activities. E.g. step A (straw, mud, moulds etc) needs to be done before step B (make the bricks), and forces scheduling of resources and effort against a timeline, with specific deliverable results (e.g. quotas) due at milestone points. (This shows the usefulness of Gantt timeline charts with work breakdown structures and other soon- to- be- familiar planning tools.)

6] Good project governance -- making good project decisions and making them stick -- is also a challenge given not only uncertainties and risks in general, but also temptations to bully, abuse, steal (by force or fraud), cut corners, waste, etc. That brings up the 3-4-5 SWOT-GOVERNANCE managerial issues:
The 3-4-5 SWOT-Governance issues. Understanding trends & shocks, evaluating Strengths & Weaknesses
in the face of Opportunities and Threats (SWOT), to address Vision, Mission, Values, Goals & Strategies,
then Ethics/Equity ("fairness"), Efficiency, Effectiveness, Economy & the Iron Triangle
7] With that degree of care required just to plan and propose a project, obviously projects (other than hobby activities!) are seldom taken up just for their own sake; we seek deliverable benefits that contribute to immediate and long term desirable outcomes, that justify the costs, challenges and risks of a project.

8] Thus there are many things to be negotiated among project stakeholders -- those who influence or benefit from or are affected by the project -- and the "business case"/"proposal" for undertaking a project therefore has to address and balance: good value for money, risks, costs, benefits and challenges.

This list helps us to see how to best organise this workshop:
OUTLINE: First, this unit gives an overview of the framework for projects, the what, why, who, where and when. Several following units will address how-to, and as workshop participants pick a sample project assignment and develop it, they will prove helpful. So will the resources page. Then, a face- to- face workshop session will allow us to discuss our sample project frameworks and work to improve them. For evaluation, the improved assignments will be the heart of assessing and certification of achieved project management skills. And there will be an outlook unit that points to where we can go from this "Bootcamp" level.

(PRINCE2 is recommended -- and, it will be the background concept for this workshop:)

An outline framework for the PRINCE2 -- PRojects In Controlled Environments -- approach to PM

 Who, Where, When? (The PEST-SWOT-Strategic Change factors)

 Already, we can see that projects -- formal and informal -- are "everywhere." They are going on all the time . . . and that they fail too often. Frequently, because they have not been properly thought-through, organised, resourced and supported.

That points straight to us, as "nothing works right, unless we work right."

That also means we first have to:
  •  properly understand ourselves in our situation, 
  • investigate what the balance of opportunities and threats we face is like, so that
  • we recognise how best to capitalise on our strengths, in order to
  • identify and make good use of opportunities,
  • effectively countering threats, and 
  • compensating for (or, if reasonably possible, correcting . . . ) weaknesses.
In short, given that Aristotle rightly pointed out that strategy is the science and art of opportunity,  we can see that projects are about strategic change.

Where, change is always a challenge, as it is at best discomforting and can be seen as itself a threat.

Partly, by those who are very uncomfortable with or feel threatened by a proposed change.

More importantly, change will be openly opposed or subtly undermined by powerful factions in a situation that draw power, profit and other benefits from continuing along the path of business as usual (BAU). [Cf. and ponder analyses of the dynamics of Bureaucracy here and here, applying to our circumstances.]

So, while there is always continuity and many functions and operations have to be kept going, strategic change projects often become a challenge because  they are putting forward an alternative (ALT) to BAU.

This tends to provoke conflicts, may trigger clashes (or evasive, undermining behaviour), and it will certainly bring up pressure to conform to comfortable or accustomed ways.

The degree of likely conflict thus depends on how wedded the dominant factions are to BAU, how threatened they feel, how obvious the change need is; and, how marginalised change advocates and champions of ALT are.

Unfortunately, this can be happening even when "we" are obviously heading over a cliff:

(The joke in this cartoon is only funny if you are not caught up in such a march of folly.)

More formally, we can picture the challenge in terms of reading warning signs right and in good time to turn back from ruin. Turning back also typically requires that we build a critical mass coalition that can initiate, sustain and carry forward the required changes:
Or, in sustainable development and change strategy terms, using SWOT and BAU vs. ALT:

This can actually be used directly in a session where a good cross-section of stakeholders have been gathered under the umbrella of a "Godfather" and "Sponsors" of change. For instance, 
  • set up a large wall-chart as above and circulate sheets of bristol board and felt-tip pens to participants working in small groups,
  •  then work through the elements of the chart step by step, using the groups. 
  • Start with, what do you think our three to five main opportunities and three to five main threats over the next five years are, or the like. 
  • Then, relative to these challenges, what are our three to five main strengths and weaknesses? [Somehow, being specific like this helps draw out perspectives and issues that otherwise tend to get locked out or overlooked. Depending on how tense the situation is, you may wish to mix groups at random, or use natural stakeholder group based teams. If some groups are marginalised, you may need the latter, even though it tends to be more tense. A good facilitator and a good moderator are worth their weight in gold, here. Be prepared to pay the going rate.]
  • Collect the submissions and post them -- use little masking tape loops to stick up the bristol board strips and, for documentation, snap a photograph -- a key advantage is this approach is self-documenting. 
  • Discuss and winnow down to a reasonable consensus, or to the main schools of thought.  Put those on pre-prepared overlays for the charts -- or, you can use another old favourite: flip charts . . . or even white boards, and again snap pictures. (Today's Tablets and Smart Phones make this easy to do. The way this makes the workshop self-documenting is a great advantage. [Stick key pics in the appendix on documentation!])
  • Then, ask, what is our present path, and where is it likely to end up in the next five to ten years. 
  • How well does it match the requirement of building on strength to exploit opportunities, counter threats, and compensate for weaknesses? 
  • Who benefits and who gets hurt by it? Short term, long term?
  •  Is this BAU approach acceptable to our various stakeholders, why or why not? 
  • What are three to five main potential alternatives? 
  •  How well do these alternatives match the SWOT picture? 
  • Which of these is best, why, and where would it take us in the next five to ten years? 
  • What are the gaps between the expected BAU-track future and the suggested ALT future? 
  • Should we make a change, how -- and how long will it take, with what sort of resources?
The BAU vs. ALT approach also expresses the principle of sustainable development:
better and more fairly meeting our needs today, without undermining the ability of our children to meet their needs tomorrow; through correctly understanding and husbanding/responding to our natural [bio-physical], socio-cultural and economic-policy environment, its resources, trends and hazards. [Adapted, Gro Harlem Bruntland et al, WCED, 1987.]

How all of this can work out in terms of fostering decisions for major projects at national level (the level we have to think about here in Montserrat and across the Caribbean) can be understood in light of a model for stakeholder interaction proposed by the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation:

(This chart is also of great help in identifying, understanding and reaching out to various stakeholders, to move us beyond locking out the marginalised. In the Caribbean, we should consider establishing national stakeholder forums that are attached to our Parliaments and which can then be formally integrated into development of major projects, programmes of action, policies, legislation, regulations etc.)

A Case Study on BAU vs. ALT, Acts 27

There is a lot of practical, relevant, hard- to- dismiss wisdom in the scriptures, especially when they describe specific historical events; so let us now go there:
Shipwrecked at Malta
Acts 27:1 And when it was decided that we should sail for Italy [--> so Paul's appeal to Caesar's judgement seat could be heard], they delivered Paul and some other prisoners to a centurion of the Augustan Cohort named Julius. And embarking in a ship of Adramyttium, which was about to sail to the ports along the coast of Asia, we put to sea, accompanied by Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica. The next day we put in at Sidon. And Julius treated Paul kindly and gave him leave to go to his friends and be cared for.
And putting out to sea from there we sailed under the lee of Cyprus, because the winds were against us. And when we had sailed across the open sea along the coast of Cilicia and Pamphylia, we came to Myra in Lycia. There the centurion found a ship of Alexandria sailing for Italy and put us on board.
We sailed slowly for a number of days and arrived with difficulty off Cnidus, and as the wind did not allow us to go farther, we sailed under the lee of Crete off Salmone. Coasting along it with difficulty, we came to a place called Fair Havens, near which was the city of Lasea.

Since much time had passed, and the voyage was now dangerous because even the Fast[a] was already over, Paul advised them, 10 saying, “Sirs, I perceive that the voyage will be with injury and much loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives.” 11 But the centurion paid more attention to the pilot and to the owner of the ship than to what Paul said. 12 And because the harbour was not suitable to spend the winter in, the majority decided to put out to sea from there, on the chance that somehow they could reach Phoenix, a harbour of Crete [--> about 40 miles further down the coast], facing both southwest and northwest, and spend the winter there.
13 Now when the south wind blew gently, supposing that they had obtained their purpose, they weighed anchor and sailed along Crete, close to the shore. 14 But soon a tempestuous wind, called the northeaster, struck down from the land [--> it seems, an early winter storm]. 15 And when the ship was caught and could not face the wind, we gave way to it and were driven along.
16 Running under the lee of a small island called Cauda,[b] we managed with difficulty to secure the ship's boat. 17 After hoisting it up, they used supports to undergird the ship. Then, fearing that they would run aground on the Syrtis [--> dangerous sand bars on the Libyan coast off to the SW], they lowered the gear,[c] and thus they were driven along. 18 Since we were violently storm-tossed, they began the next day to jettison the cargo. 19 And on the third day they threw the ship's tackle overboard with their own hands.
20 When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope of our being saved was at last abandoned . . . [ESV, UK]

Of course (as we can see by reading on), by the grace of God, they shipwrecked on the coast of Malta.

 However, vv 9 - 15 tell us an all- too- familiar story of governance and decision-making gone bad; leading to a march of folly that ended in shipwreck. For, Mr Moneybags and his bought- and- paid- for sailing master were obviously concerned for the ship, cargo and investment more than for lives at risk in a dangerous season and environment. Fair Havens was too open a bay for their liking, and they wanted to slip 40 miles down-coast to a superior harbour. But sailing was dangerous at that time, it was very late in the year. They likely argued that it was just a quick afternoon's sail once there was a good little bit of wind. Paul, a prisoner in chains (and by then already a veteran of three shipwrecks) just did not look credible enough by contrast. Both the Centurion in charge and the majority -- see, nice and democratic! -- went with the "experts."

Right over the cliff.

So, we need to ponder how to create a critical mass for sound change in good time.

That puts the PEST + BP factors on the table:
P - political (including legal and regulatory) issues and trends
E - economic ones
S - socio-cultural factors
T - technology and science issues
BP - bio-physical/natural environment
This points to the opportunities and threats we face. We then match these with our strengths and weaknesses profile to see where BAU is most likely headed, or could possibly be headed. This may motivate a shift to a sounder, more sustainable ALT-ernative. But to get to the critical mass to change, you may well have to identify people with a stake in the outcomes who are likely to have been pushed to the margins and effectively silenced like the lemming being told "Shut up, you moron!"

 That brings up the cluster of key factors that creates critical mass for change:
Idea Originators
Idea Champions
Sponsors at Middle/Senior Management level
Incubators that allow initiatives to be developed and practically demonstrated
Godfathers at Top Management level
Responsible critic or destructive hit-man?
Given that there are Idea- and- Implementer hit-men (as opposed to responsible, reasonable critics) out there gunning for those who dare to challenge business as usual, all five factors are important to build a sound critical mass for change. The fewer of these factors that are in place, the less likely will it be that even a first class idea not sponsored by the dominant faction makes it through to the point of success.

Where, in an organisation with an institutional culture dominated by irresponsible behaviour, a climate of intimidation/ bullying and ruthless office politics, business as usual is very likely indeed to be on an ill-advised march of folly.

Watch out for that golden parachute!
(Or, the one who "always lands on his feet
like a cat"
-- leaving others "holding the bag")
Ironically, such an organisation is exactly the sort that most urgently needs healthy innovation. So, a culture of marches of folly, in the end indicts the top leadership of an organisation as utterly failing in their stewardship. But, in many cases, utterly cynical and manipulative, highly machiavellian looter leadership is busily planning its "golden parachute" escape strategy. (Indeed, in the Acts 27 case, the sailors, on a ruse of putting out anchors from the bows, were trying to abandon the passengers to their fate; this was spotted and stopped through intervention of the apostle Paul. [By this time, Centurion Julius had learned -- at sobering cost -- whose counsel was likely to be sound and trustworthy.])

By contrast, healthy organisations, businesses and communities will see to it that the critical mass is in place and that a steady stream of credibly sound change initiatives is flowing. (Which means there must be an appetite for a certain degree of manageable risk, shown in willingness to have a due proportion of failed change initiatives.)

And, they will be particularly concerned to identify, develop, and incubate promising, well- thought- out ideas and initiatives to the point where practical demonstration at some reasonable scale removes reasonable doubt on feasibility and desirability. For, that is how the future is built in a rapidly changing world -- good ideas are developed and demonstrated then scaled up and pushed hard.

But, sadly, unhealthy organisations are very common.

They can be readily recognised by how quickly they habitually push sound but politically incorrect ideas and their would-be implementers to the fringes; promoting polarisation, hostility, stereotyping, scape-goating and targetting. It is then a simple step to send out the career-busting hit-men to keep such undesirables  out or to drive them out.

This pattern of unhealthy organisations is so important that we should expand a bit:
  •  A key indicator of this is organisational favouritism, where, 
  • even when -- nominally -- centres and structures of innovation and support for innovation are present, they have in fact been co-opted by domineering factions.
  • This leads to a culture of favouritism, back-stabbing and slanderous gossip, lack of trust-worthiness, questionable deals made behind closed doors, demand for conformity to party-line agendas, picking and targetting scapegoats and manipulation; such that 
  • evaluation of innovations and would be innovators is drastically undermined and such evaluation as happens is "political" rather than responsible, objective and fair. This creates 
  • a self-perpetuating, cynical institutional culture of abuse, marked by intimidation, silencing of responsible concerns, frustration, domineering, bullying and folly [cf. the Challenger Space Shuttle disaster here, here, here]; 
  • even, in cases where the domineering bullies imagine themselves to be representing "diversity" and "progress" or "justice" as champions of "the marginalised" or "the oppressed."

Unfortunately, this latter pattern is exceedingly common all over the Caribbean -- and far beyond.

So, we must now turn to the challenge:

Promoting a healthy portfolio of sound strategic change projects

How can we build a sound strategic change portfolio; one full of good, healthily progressing projects that help us fulfill a long term vision -- for an organisation, a business, a government, a community?

This is obviously not an easy task.

The best way probably begins by recognising that projects (like many other things) are based on the pattern:


. . . and projects thus have a "natural" life cycle that we must learn how to manage, e.g.:

Where, too, projects are inherently diverse -- they target unique outcomes so every project is different and requires specific understanding and management of its own particular circumstances. That said, we need to appreciate that there are several schools of thought and linked broad types of project, requiring some flexibility in project management approaches. For instance, consider the commonalities and differences between:
  • Construction and Civil Engineering projects
  • Organisation or community development "soft" projects
  • Public or health education and mobilisation initiatives
  • IT and Software development projects 
  • research and development projects for new technologies
  • Development Agency initiatives
  • Procurement or Defence Acquisition projects (especially when dealing with risky, unknown or unfamiliar technologies)
  • And, more
Clearly, we need flexibility with unifying principles and an over-arching strategic vision/focus and action-agenda. Multiplied, by a cluster of capability to actually move things forward and break through obstacles and roadblocks. Perhaps, even, ability to deal with hitman ambushes.

All of this  brings us to the need for:  

Programme-based Project Cycle Management (PbPCM)

That is, projects work best when they are grouped like fingers in a hand, so they can work together towards a common goal, even as we use our hands to type, write, knit, play an instrument such as a piano, or whatever.

The unifying element for a group of projects towards a common vision is the programme, a unit of organisation that binds together projects and associated activities and operations towards a common mission and goal. For instance, in the 1960's,  the Apollo Program -- that is how Americans spell it -- developed the rockets and the mission that put men on the Moon on Sunday July 20, 1969 [a moment I listened to on shortwave radio along with my family; a moment that is forever burned deep into my memory]. Spin-off results of that programme are all around us, for  it created a world of technology that led to the modern microprocessor and micro computer (thus eventually today's ICT age), new materials, a whole new way to organise major initiatives . . . the programme of action [which is what we are now studying!], etc., etc., even something as mundane as Tang, the well-known powdered breakfast drink.

Programmes host projects, often using a "project team" or "matrix" type organisational structure:

Now, here is a subtle trick: it is a common error to imagine that programmes are "more difficult/ more advanced" than projects, so it is best to dispense with the programmes and just focus on trying to get "simple" projects right.

The problem is, projects still -- naturally -- have life cycles and need to be carefully managed, and it is this life cycle process that drives their complexity and tendency to get into hot water. That is, projects (other than extremely simple and routine ones) naturally embed key elements of a programme. So it often makes sense to cluster projects together and manage them as a programme.

So, too, if we try to dispense with the programme idea and manage reasonably complex and non-routine projects as they come based on whatever seems good at the moment, we are very likely to make big mistakes. Mistakes, that we will only learn of when they are blowing up in our faces. At which point the projects will become very costly to either fix or to abandon.

So, the first strategic change project we need in our strategic change portfolios is "the project to create the programme that manages our portfolio of strategic change projects."

We have to build the capacity to do it right, to do it right reliably.

On this matter, flying by the seat of our pants is a recipe for crashing and burning.

This, then, brings project cycle management (PCM) to the fore. So, let us refer to the framework adopted by the European Union:

In short, we can best manage a portfolio of strategic change initiatives by creating a programme unit, and using a proper programme-based project cycle management framework. The first project for such a programme is to create the Programme Unit, by whatever name, and to properly charter it so that it is properly governed and supported.

Now, let's flesh out this initial, skeletal overview a bit by moving on to the meat of the matter: HOW . . .



PM101 U2: Project Initiation and Start-up



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:

Consequently, it is best to cluster "simple" small scale projects under the umbrella of a programme as a sort of mini-grants and technical support/ capacity-building initiative.

That way,
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.
c:  in corporate contexts, projects are increasingly undertaken as parts of a corporate, "building the future" change management programmes.
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.

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.
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:
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.

F: The Corporate Portfolio Office

G: Hub Portfolio/ Programme Offices and

H:  local Programme Offices -- often, Programme Management Offices.

I: Project Offices
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.

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].  

But He replied to them, [a]When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ 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? 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]
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 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:

We see here how as a new technology comes into commecialisation, a product-market grows theough a wave of adoption. That feeds sales growth which eventually slows and leads to a shake-out crisis as the market saturates. What is now faced is a mature market, which may continue for a time until it fades as a new technology wave takes over. In recent years, for instance, we saw PC's come in, then laptops/ notebooks, then tablets and smart phones, with a bridging market, phablets.

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
The world is moving to computer driven high differentiation with relatively low costs, often through mass customisation, allowing great strategic flexibility in marketing. To even be capable of competing in this arena, we have to systematically transform education across our region, so that we can become not just consumers but effective producers using digital technologies. This includes that computer programming and computer science and broader mathematics, science, engineering and technology -- STEM -- is now a critical emphasis for education. In turn, this requires a transformation of basic literacy, reasoning and mathematics education -- the roots of capability in STEM fields.

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:
  1. the Sea Port development (and, subject to agreements, enhancements to the Air Port),
  2. the creation of a stable and cost effective electrical power supply grid,
  3. Geothermal energy initiatives, wind, solar, biofuels and other renewable energy initiatives and energy efficiency initiatives under an Energy Policy,
  4. as well as information access (e.g. Fibre Optics),
  5. the new town development centred on Little Bay & Carr's Bay,
  6. support for development of agriculture, energy, technology-based and other potential industries, financial services and other strategic economic sectors,
  7. 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,
  8. 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.)
So, while day to day operations in government, businesses, education and community must continue, we definitely need a strategic change investment portfolio. One, that is so structured that it allows us to build the capacity to become economically self-sustaining and buoyantly growing in coming years, all in a community that fulfills the Montserrat national Vision since 1997:

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; 
II: Enhanced Human Development; 
III: Sustainable Environmental Management and Appropriate Disaster Management Practices
IV:  Good Governance; and
V:  Improved Population
In short, there is more than enough basis for a sustained strategic transformation programme here in Montserrat and across the wider Caribbean.

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:

It can readily be seen that PRINCE2 and the project cycle management approach are generally compatible, but differ in emphasis. Here, the EU's focus is first on establishing the programme then identifying, formulating (or developing, negotiating, agreeing and funding) a cluster of projects that move towards the programme goals.  Implementing (with monitoring, managing and controlling) follows, and that leads to a major evaluation and audit phase that draws lessons for the next loop of the cycle. Issues of course come at the level of detailed integration, tailoring and adaptation. For such, the rule of thumb is, one in the end has to meet funders' criteria and meet quality assurance requisites.

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.

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.
Here, again, is an implementer-oriented log frame:

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

It is time for St George to go slay a dragon or two.

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 Pm
This 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)
This now sets up:

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:

(A summary level log frame can be similarly used to outline a programme.)

Tacking upwind to the goal
The above are main, well-tested design tools. They are also well suited for onward management of execution and adjustments can be made as necessary while this is in process.

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:
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:
  • 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.
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.

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 Originators
Idea Champions
Sponsors at Middle/Senior Management level
Incubators that allow initiatives to be developed and practically demonstrated
Godfathers at Top Management level
It 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.

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?

And, more.

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.