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How complexity is clogging your project environments

Corinne Forrest | June 24, 2014
Projects often suffer from bloated, convoluted solutions that impede delivery, says Corinne Forrest

The reason is this: Complex processes often reflect poor environment design. If you attempt to deal with performance issues first, without streamlining the operating model and simplifying processes, you find even more complexity cropping up in some other process area.

It's like trying to make a balloon smaller by squeezing one part of it — another part just gets bigger.

In the case of the government department, mentioned earlier, the answer was to reduce complexity through the well-sequenced activities of fixing the fundamentals.

These included:

Improving environment design. A best-practice PPM Operating Model design minimises complexity, eliminates redundant activities, and creates clear accountability and targets from within theoretically strict PPM disciplines.

As an interim measure, the PMO centralised scheduling, project budget management, resource utilisation and project scope confirmation until the project environment fundamentals were fixed. These processes were sent back to the projects once the environment was operating to acceptable performance targets.

Aligning processes. The frameworks, processes and business rules within the project environment were streamlined and simplified. Any processes that did not conform to the operating model were eliminated or sent elsewhere to rapidly implement and operationalise core PPM procedures.

Improving capabilities. Once an environment knows where its complexity lies and has used structure and other mechanisms to minimise costs, it must build the capabilities of the individuals who will assume the roles that may be pivotal to managing the new operating model.

Complex project environments don't always behave in a linear way. Altering cultural, environment and operating models can therefore have unintended consequences that may generate even more complexity.

Although it's importance of removing complexity from the PPM environment, you must address complexity in the context of value creation.

Selectivity should inspire you to reduce or even altogether eliminate some processes, which can have a positive and dramatic effect on project environment performance. If that's done within the framework of the operating model, environment performance dramatically improves.

If all PPM environments operate in the same way, regardless of organisational position or from whatever industry they hail, then a streamlined and scalable PPM operating model removes complexity by arranging the processes, people and systems that reduce cost and achieve optimum project environment proficiency.

Even if the goals are clear, the vision of the target operating model won't come into sharp focus until the environment begins moving toward it.

To get going, prioritise efforts to score some quick wins, both to realise the savings that can be reinvested in these efforts and to maintain momentum for the larger, longer-term transformation.

As new processes and frameworks are implemented, the target operating model may be redefined in light of key insights from early improvement initiatives and the implementation effort adapted accordingly.


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