Friday, 31 October 2008

Commissioner's responisbility in an age of competition

What prompted this blog?
In common with many others, I don't make enormous profits from management consulting, and rely on a fairly good stream of consulting to pay the costs. Of course once a week has passed without consulting, it can never be recovered.
We've had two interviews for work postponed.
In one case this severely restricts the intense work needed before Christmas from 4 weeks to 2 weeks, which will cause real problems with getting a high quality of work delivered (of course we can do it, but we'll need to put more resource in which compromises people's family time) - reason given: "key people are on holiday" (shouldn't they have checked this before setting the timetable?)
In the other the commissioner changed their mind over a key spreadsheet and we had a frantic few days transferring all of the information from the old submission format to the new and cross-checking for errors.
Sometimes it feels as though the commissioners on a salary (and often on a government-funded salary not tied in any way to outputs) lose touch with reality. All I'm asking is that you act as good stewards of public money, and plan your holidays around your duties not the other way around?

Monday, 27 October 2008

Performance Management after the event

I'm constantly called into situations where a set of projects or initiatives have been started, funded, and after the event the funding body recognises that they need to apply performance management. It's easy to spot - the projects or initiatives have names such as "2.5 Community Matrons", or other indicators that they are based on the resource used rather than the benefits to be delivered.
But for those who've tried, it's very difficult to go back into a project that's already got its funding and say "hold on, we need to performance manage you".
This is the point of the personal motivation approach.
Everything that gets done, gets done by somebody. What it achieves depends on the motivation of the person doing it. So when you go back to a project after it's already started, and want to assign some measures for the delivery of benefits, make sure you include the people who do the work (as well of course as the sponsor, and the people providing the funding).
The key to remember in these situations is that Performance Management is not the same as Benefits realisation. You can Manage Performance in many different ways, but if you want to deliver benefits, you need to steer the performance back to benefits, not just measuring against milestones. I can't emphasise this enough - focus on benefits and that's what you will get. Focus on anything else, and you'll get whatever you ask for - but it may not be what you want!

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Performance Management and Realising Benefits

Party - let's party

Why do you want to performance manage projects, initiatives and existing services?

Presumably to ensure that they deliver the benefits (as defined by the phrase "a benefit is anything that a stakeholder would sees is of value to them"), both those originally promised in the business case which won investment for this project, and those subsequently identified.

Does this mean that I've named the blog wrongly?

Quite possibly. The issue for many, with the term performance management is that it harks back to the days of time and motion, of external consultants telling people they aren't working hard enough, and of the breakdown in communications and trust between workers and between workers and management. So we need a new form of Performance Management, one jointly agreed between customers, workers and the organisations, which measures in a transparent way those outcomes that all can see are benefits (of value to at least one of the stakeholders).

That's where Benefits Realisation comes in.

Benefits are the outcomes of value. A benefit for a customer (or in public good parlance, a service user) may not necessarily be a benefit either for staff or for the organisation, but many organisations have aligned their own direct benefits (financial viability) with indirect benefits which do good in the long term (improved quality of life for users, adherence to public policy, addressing local needs which in turn improves quality of life for a whole group of potential, even if not current, users). Staff clearly benefit from the joy of seeing users receive benefits - it is more motivational to see the results of your work in the faces of the people you help than any amount of pay, for all we need our basic domestic needs (security, food, freedom, growth as reflected in the roof over our heads, basic health and hygiene needs, a car and/or a holiday, and opportunities for personal development) met from the financial reward of the job.

The benefits framework

I'm waxing lyrical about this. I too hadn't fully understood its significance for performance management in combination with all the other factors that contribute to benefits realisation.
Essentially a benefits framework is the agreed delivery of outcomes recognised, agreed and confirmed by all of the stakeholders. A given project, initiative or service may only contribute to one or two of the outcomes for the whole community or organisation, but by using a single framework to cover a wide range of projects, each project can see (and celebrate) its individual contribution at the same time as seeing that contribution within the context of the whole.
Using a framework reduces the effort needed to define, measure and report benefits and their contribution to the whole, as measurement and evaluation methods can be reused in different projects, and measures such as prevalence can be reported by all projects without having to be individually measured.
It's also highly motivating. The individual measures and benefits of a single project may be understood by the staff, users and management of that project, but often aren't understood outside of that project. A framework can take the time to define benefits and outcomes in ways that everyone can understand and accept, so the individual project's contributions can be recognised by all stakeholders and the stakeholders of other projects.

Defining the Benefits Framework

can only be done in conjunction with the stakeholders. There is a format - I've included the overview on and I'm presenting a proposed agenda the workshops as I get around to writing it in web format.

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Life in the Years, and Years in the Life

Famously turned into a catchphrase for World Class Commissioning by Gary Belfield, this quote first came to my attention as the subtitle (on the front cover) of Maxwell Maltz' book "Psycho-Cybernetics".
Maxwell Maltz Psycho Cybernetics
This is one of the founding books of NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming), first published in 1960, and holds the premise that you create your future by what you focus your attention on, desired or reviled.
Doesn't this just apply in work!
If you have a concern about something, then that thing turns around and justifies that concern. If you respect people and expect the best from them, you often get the best from them.
The Benefits approaches that I'm outlining here are all about identifying what you want, and so expecting to get it. In traditional project management some of the key focus is on what you don't want, with risk logs, and standards below which you should not fall (tell a child "don't slip" and their mind doesn't hear the "don't"), and so on. Of course traditional project management is vital to delivery of successful programmes, but meeting the numbers, meeting the deadlines isn't quite as inspiring to highly vocational people such as the caring professions as one might like.
But look at benefits. Benefits are those things that one or more stakeholders sees a value in. They are inspirational! It's easy to see when they are being achieved (yes I know I haven't finished publishing the Benefits Frameworks agendas especially the bit about Benefits Register), it's common sense to see why you would want them, and therefore they are going to pack more punch, gain more power in the mind (and according to Maltz, come about because of human's goal-seeking engine).
Use a benefits approach to deliver, and the results may astound you!

Running to reduce poverty, and World Class Commissioning

There's more to life than the benefits realisation, important though that is.

This weekend I ran the Great North Run, self-styled "The world's biggest and most prestigious half-marathon" - I came in 8381st, which doesn't sound too good until you realise that nearly 52,000 people ran the run this year! Actually I think that's too many, as the course never stopped being crowded. For those interested, my race number is 23855 if you want to check my times on the web site. My page on is still open for a month or two if you want to make a late donation!

Anyway, on a long run I find I have a lot of time to think.

In Public Service Magazine this month they report a What Matters survey about what motivates staff:

  • the support needed to do a good job

  • the chance to develop

  • the opportunity to improve the way staff work

  • the resources to deliver quality care for patients

  • I absolutely agree. Nobody comes to work to do a bad job, but without the tools to plan ahead, to understand what will be needed and to plan staffing and workforce education to meet these needs, staff end up working harder and feeling frustrated, as dramatic changes in need catch them unawares.

    That's where the Benefits Realisation work fits in.

    It's a structured approach to planning ahead, very-much outcomes focussed but with the outcomes themselves focussed on what makes a difference.

    WCC Cycle
    World Class Commissioning exhorts us to Understand the Need, Understand Current Service Provision, and Identify Gaps. But quantifying needs in terms of "we have this many of this target group, and only enough provision for half that" only tells you half of the story. What you really need to know is not what you need to expand starting from here, but what would be the very best solution.

    Kate Silvester, the OSPREY champion and leading light on systems change, says that at any time there's around 30% of waste that could be taken out of the system (muda spectacles); I've taken this to mean that the pace of change, of improvements in our understanding, in technology, and in the care possible, moves so fast that a system and care pathway perfectly designed to deliver care three years ago is now out of date to this extent. This means that doing more of what we were doing may not be the most appropriate answer, even though changing the whole system may not be the best answer (because of the disruption, and resources needed during the changeover period) either.

    So what should you do?

    Take a long run, say 1 hour, 53 minutes and 2 seconds, and spend some time thinking about it. No I jest.
    Applying the benefits principles first espoused in ISIP (Integrated Service Improvement Planning), and expanded and matured in this blog and on">my web site will help you. Instead of simple, and somewhat uninspiring, numbers, you'll identify the human story and the benefits to staff (highly rated as a good reason to come to work), patient experience, quality outcomes (also highly rated) and the best investment of finite resources (sadly, what we all seem to think is our sole purpose in NHS).

    Thursday, 2 October 2008

    Benefits Register

    Now to get into some Project Management (PM) stuff.
    Benefits is really about getting from your work what you set out to get.
    How many projects have all of us been involved in where the "benefits" were just some fiction to get granted the money; the moment the money was granted all pretense at measurement, evaluation, reporting or even achieving the benefits flies straight out of the window.
    A project is deemed to be a success if it hits all its milestones - it delivers on time and on budget with few casualties. Rarely is it (in practice) measured against what it sets out to achieve.

    Keeping a Benefits Register across the organisation or across a whole group of projects could put an end to this sloppy thinking.
    In the Benefits Reister we record once and for all the definition of each measure, each benefit, who's interested, who's neck is on the line, how it will be reported, and if a number of projects report on the same benefit, how the total will be aggregated.
    This means that each individual project doesn't have to scrap around for benefits to include in the bid for funding. Each project picks up to 6 Benefits from the Benefits Register that they believe will be the best way to show progress on their project. Then if the benefits they've picked are measured corporately, eg smoking prevalence in the most deprived wards of the city, the individual project doesn't have to go in search of the figtures, they've registered an interest and every time there is an update it goes to all projects which registered an interest.
    I'll go into more detail.

    Suffice to say in this blog that the result will be richer and more meaningful milestone reports coming out from projects, more likely to engage staff and service users, and because of this more likely to inspire stakeholders and sponsors!