Delving Deeper into the PwC Global PPM Survey

By John Manzoni, Chief Executive of the UK Civil Service | 2 September 2015

Delving Deeper into the PwC Global PPM Survey – With John Manzoni, Chief Executive of the UK Civil Service

In final days of 2014, the results of PwC’s fourth Global PPM Survey were the focus of an exclusive Change Leaders’ Summit hosted by Michael Cooch, PwC Partner for Banking and Capital Markets. The event focused on the survey’s key question: “Do people who commission change get what they want?” Twenty-five C-Suite Executives were invited to debate new issues highlighted by the survey. The panel was led by prestigious guest speaker John Manzoni, Chief Executive of the UK Civil Service and former Chief Executive of the government’s Major Projects Authority. Leadership, industry confidence, agility and a new approach to organisational transformation were all on the agenda as these industry experts got to grips with the real reasons behind recurrent project failure rates. As the official Media Partner for the event, Project Manager Today is delighted to bring you this exclusive report.

The Keynote Speaker: John Manzoni

John Manzoni became Chief Executive of the Civil Service on 13 October 2014, after joining the Cabinet Office in February 2014 as Chief Executive of the Major Projects Authority. He was previously President and Chief Executive Officer of Canadian oil and gas company Talisman Energy Inc. He has more than 30 years’ experience in the private sector. In his 24 years at BP, he contributed to its global growth and held senior strategic and operational leadership roles at global, regional and local level. Between 2002 and 2007, he was Chief Executive, Refining and Marketing, spanning 6 different businesses across more than 100 countries and he was a member of the BP plc main board from 2003 to 2007. As the Chief Executive of the Civil Service, John is tasked with leading the efficiency programme, working with permanent secretaries across government to put in place reforms including:

  • Getting a better deal for taxpayers from commercial decisions and supplier management.
  • The digital transformation of public services and the way government works.
  • Ensuring the best people with the right skills are placed throughout the civil service.
  • Making better use of the government estate (property).
  • Managing major projects better to deliver on time and on budget.
  • Greater use of shared services across departments.

Mr Manzoni kicked off proceedings by sharing insights into his career in the public and private sectors and exploring the lessons learnt. Effective change management, he said, depends on embedding experience and instinct into frontline leaders. This, he postulated, can only be achieved through “cultivating innate intelligence, expertise and judgement and through a strong programme of continual development that ensures professional accountability”.

Mr Manzoni’s reflections on the day:

Effective leadership and a passion for execution are absolutely fundamental to successful transformation programmes. They drive real change, and are often the difference between project delivery and failure. For all organisations it’s vital that leadership and execution skills are embedded in future leaders, helping them shape careers and giving them real experience of what it is like to be at the frontline of delivery. Then, through building strong corporate functions and enabling people to use their intelligence and judgement, it’s possible to execute to an even higher standard right across an organisation.

The Survey: The Emerging Themes

The 2014 Portfolio and Programme Management Global Survey received input from a record 3,025 people from 110 countries, providing a truly global view. The report addresses how organisations can increase the times they can say “Yes” to the question:

Do people who commission change get what they want?

According to PwC, there is clearly a case for “doing things differently” that underpins the survey’s findings. The results of the survey open up new insights that can help organisations deliver better results from their change programmes, as well as revisiting some consistent messages from previous surveys.

The PwC Global PPM survey demonstrates that:

  • Keeping up with the rapid pace of change is one of a CEO’s most demanding challenges.
  • Some familiar issues have not changed in over 10 years.
  • There is often a disconnect between the executive team and programme managers.

The survey results identified five key themes, which formed the basis of the discussion:

  1. Optimise your portfolio to maximise return 
    If you are not making decisions using objective criteria and quality data, then how are you doing it? Using a clear methodology removes “gaming” from the prioritisation process and selection of change programmes. It also drives better sponsorship as there is no ambiguity that the programmes are strategically important.
  2. Be flexible, change faster
    As new business and programme challenges arise, how can project managers help their organisations adapt quickly enough? Be more flexible in approach - be brave, and well informed.
  3. Enable your people to deliver success
    Structure, process and planning help, but it is people that deliver programmes – so why don’t they do it really well, more often? Enable your people to deliver for you by providing the right environment, training and tools.
  4. Connect the Executive Team to programme delivery teams to get the change you want
    Why aren’t the Executive Teams more closely aligned with those delivering programmes? Results will improve if there is a closer understanding and working arrangement.
  5. Measure and address the harsh facts to maintain direction
    If you aren’t spotting the tricky problems as they arise then how can you manage them? Programmes must measure progress, identify risks and tackle the difficult issues, changing course where necessary.

The Debate: Why Change Matters

During a lively and intense discussion, key figures from the public and private sectors grappled with the survey’s emergent themes, the issues that lie behind stubborn PPM failure rates, and the notion of doing things differently. The opinions were strong, the debate was heated, and a number of clear ideas emerged…

Embracing and Encouraging Experience

As Mr Manzoni himself pointed out, experience cannot be forced or dictated. And experience, he said, is crucial to effecting meaningful change. The team member with genuine long term experience is the one equipped to question, analyse and challenge from a skilled viewpoint. Such qualities can support the Executive Team in avoiding ill-informed decisions. It can also help to optimise portfolio management in exactly the way the survey suggests is necessary. But do we foster experience carefully enough? Building capability, skills and judgement through a defined career path characterised by clear professional development, accountability and retention of good people is a vital strategy to effect the right change, the panel concluded.

Revisiting the Role of the Project Functions

The survey identified the importance of aligning the work of project and programme teams with the C-Suite for a stronger, more optimised and effective portfolio. In the past, the panel suggested, project management professionals have been regarded purely as the technicians and the executors. But, in line with Mr Manzoni’s comments, today’s project professional has the innate experience and judgement to offer so much more. For strong PPM results, it is essential that project professionals are regarded not just as the “doers” – but also as the business strategists and advisors who can apply their experience to influence and deliver the right portfolio decisions and business benefits.

An Agile Approach to Meeting the Challenge of Change

Change, it was pointed out, is too often regarded as something that happens to an organisation, rather than being pro-actively embraced by the organisation. The financial services industry was cited as an example of a sector that was slow to respond to external change. Why? Guests discussed the importance of being geared up not just to respond to external change, but also to initiate and embrace change when the opportunity is ripe. The panel honed in on the importance of moving away from the idea of change as a turning battleship. Instead, they suggested, adopting an agile series of transitions that respond to the nuances of a constantly changing environment might generate more success. This in turn highlights how important it is for project professionals to be closely attuned not just to their company, but to the wider economic, social and political factors that affect their markets.

Fostering a Culture that Embraces Change

The ability to react rapidly to changing circumstances cannot be dictated or coerced by individual pioneers, the panel said. We must recognise that change is a potentially threatening scenario, and that an organisational culture must be developed that is equipped to embrace the opportunities, not fear them. This is intelligent people management at its most complex. Guests discussed the importance of advancing practices through enablement rather than coercion, promoting confidence in the change programme by demonstrating early “quick wins”, recognising that the “softer skills” are essential leadership tools, and promoting change management as an objective in the training and professional development portfolio. Overall the message was clear: Change management is not an optional extra. It must be fully embedded as a crucial business objective that must be effectively cascaded throughout the whole organisation if we are to meet the challenges ahead.

The Agile Perspective

Steve Messenger, Chairman, DSDM Consortium

I was privileged to be invited to the PWC meeting to discuss the latest PPM survey. It was an enjoyable and informative event. The 5 themes coming out of the survey seem to fit naturally with the Agile Philosophy and with DSDM’s approach. Senior representatives from both private and public sectors (including the new CEO of the Civil Service) had the same goal of wanting to use Agile whilst maintaining good governance and control. During discussion of the themes, it became evident that DSDM is well placed to contribute in the following ways: Our philosophy of “best business value emerges when projects are aligned to clear business goals…” together with a use of the MoSCoW prioritisation technique at the portfolio level is equipped to address the importance of portfolio optimisation. We recognise that change is inevitable and we have developed techniques to deal with change during projects. Iterative and incremental delivery also mean that value is delivered as soon as possible, making it easier to accommodate future change. At the centre of DSDM are multi-functional and multi-disciplined teams that are empowered to deliver solutions to meet business goals. Project Managers understand the importance of letting teams get on with things whilst also ensuring that they understand the business goals. They will also ensure they do not get distracted and will remove obstacles that could hold them up. DSDM ensures that the business is involved constantly throughout an initiative, at all levels, and has a role model that includes senior executives. Iterative feedback loops are an integral part of the Agile model. Regular and constant delivery means that measurement of benefit can start early and that the programmes and projects remain aligned to business goals. Our experience as a leader in Agile Project and Programme Management places DSDM well to address the issues identified by this important survey, and I am therefore very happy to be involved in this debate.

Published by PM Today, January/February 2015