There are a number of occasions when an extra pair of hands is required, but you do not have anyone in your organisation with the time or the skillset to be able to do exactly what you want. Or maybe you prefer to have a fresh pair of eyes to take a look at a problem and provide an independent opinion on the best solution. It isn’t worth taking on a full time employee, so hiring a consultant is the best option.
Alan has a great deal of experience in a broad range of different organisations. Over more than 20 years of training a varied range of subjects, he has worked with people from all walks of life – public sector, private sector, charitable and voluntary sector; service industries, FMCG, finance, manufacturing; all parts of the UK, Ireland, Denmark, the Netherlands, Hungary, Switzerland and with individuals from Africa, America, Asia and Oceania. This wealth of knowledge and experience can be brought to bear in a number of situations, listed below.
Coaching and Mentoring
It is not always possible to take someone out of the business for a week and send them on a training course. The impact on the business or project may be too great to make this a worthwhile option, but there is a need to extend the skills of key personnel. This is when consultancy comes in to its own. Bringing in a person who can work with your key personnel individually as a coach or mentor can be an efficient way of improving your project or programme delivery. It provides for a rapid acceleration of the learning process and is not constrained by a more formal training course.
The benefits of providing this kind of assistance are spread between employer and employee. The employer benefits from not losing key members of staff for long periods of time, avoids wasting time transferring knowledge that the employee already has, targeting those new skills that are important to the employer even when those skills are from different disciplines, using illustrations and examples taken from the business itself, assisting with solving some of the day-to-day problems that crop up, and so on. The employee benefits from the acquisition of a whole new range of skills and techniques, they have a sounding board for trying new ideas, they have a confidant that does not work for their organisation and is neutral, they can practise new skills using their current working environment to provide specific examples without jeopardising the organisation, avoid wasting time learning part of a theory that simply does not apply to their situation.
The benefits, then, are huge to both employer and employee. The problem is that one-to-one coaching is expensive and therefore begs the question: is it worth it? The positive side is there for all to see, so that leaves us trying to reduce the negative side involving costs. There are a number of things that can be done to mitigate the cost. Firstly, are there more members of staff that could benefit from coaching and mentoring? If not, then once a mentor is booked to come in, it is unlikely they can arrange for two such sessions in the same day, in different locations or for different customers, so the pricing will be on a daily basis. There may be some discount for less than full days, but in most cases one booking will prevent another from being scheduled on the same day, so it makes sense to extract as much value from each booking as possible – working with a group of employees will provide this. If there are more members of staff to be mentored, the price per person will fall dramatically. Where possible, make block bookings for as far ahead as possible – most mentors will discount based on the number of guaranteed days and single bookings are unlikely to offer any reason for them to discount.
In this day and age, it is no longer sufficient to just get the job done, it has to be done correctly – and we need evidence to support that. Project and programme assurance is frequently becoming a necessity and there are never enough hours in the day for senior managers to ensure the project and programme is being done. This is where an independent inspection, performed by someone from outside the change environment, can be so valuable. We can arrange for a variety of activities to be carried out for a customer to provide them with the confidence that their projects and programmes are conducted in accordance with their policies, rules guidelines and standards.
Assurance in general is where we come in and review the progress of the project and/or programme against the specified standards and report to the project sponsor, executive, SRO or PMO manager. The scope may be very specific, in that we look at individual management products such as the business case, stakeholder engagement or risk management, or it may be more wide-ranging, in that we check that the chosen methods are being applied, such as PRINCE2, MSP, APM or Agile framework.
Health checks are occasional reviews are undertaken to assess how well the project or programme is performing against a known standard, such as PRINCE2 or MSP (Managing Successful Programmes). These may be formal or informal, but the result will provide an indication of how close the team are to the relevant standard, where the team have drifted away from the standard or lost focus, and how severe the threat is to the organisation caused by such a deviation.
Gateway Reviews are occasional checks to ensure the project or programme is justified in carrying on to the next stage or tranche. Without a positive commitment to proceed, the work should not carry on. A gated technique, such as a Gateway Review, is a way of generating confidence amongst stakeholders that the change initiative is under control and on track to deliver the outcomes and benefits that are justifying the work.
Maturity assessments are reviews that are carried out on the organisation as a whole and the result will provide a guide as to where the organisation stands regarding its project and programme management. The PMO is measured against a known standard and rated for its maturity. It is not a stick to beat people with! It is an independent assessment of where the organisation is at that point in time and how well the change initiatives are being managed. Organisations do not necessarily have to achieve the top rating in the standard, as this may be too expensive and time-consuming to be worthwhile, but is does provide an insight as to where they are and may highlight areas that need some attention. Making small changes to a project or programme environment can give massive improvements in the success rate of these change initiatives.
Assessments and Reviews
PRINCE2 has a requirement for end stage reviews, end project reviews and post project reviews. MSP has a requirement for end tranche reviews, end programme reviews and post programme reviews. There is a tendency for the change team to claim they were successful and the users to claim the change was not quite so successful. So where can the organisation go for an honest opinion? We can provide an independent point of view as an input into these reviews. Not having a conflict of interest with any particular stakeholder group means we can listen and understand all points of view before reporting the situation as we see it. This can be valuable to an organisation where the changes were very contentious, where the parties involved may have additional motivations for taking a particular standpoint, or where the different viewpoints are so wide ranging that it is difficult to decide exactly what the true picture is.
With any change initiative, project or programme, there is a possibility for conflict to arise between the change team and the various stakeholder groups. Personalities may clash, the planned changes may not be well received in some quarters, or different stakeholders may have opposing views. In these situations, it is often difficult for the project or programme manager to gain a consensus of opinion, even when trying to engage these stakeholders. The most common form of stakeholder engagement is a meeting or workshop to discuss the situation and find agreement on the best way forward. Senior managers often do not have the time to attend all of these meetings, but delegating the change team to facilitate these workshops may lead to accusations of bias or favouritism from other stakeholders. This is where we can provide an independent authority with the knowledge of the workshop subject matter who can then facilitate the meeting without attracting the same criticism. As they are there to facilitate, not to decide, the attendees are encouraged to arrive at a result that satisfies all parties, or at least ensures they have had an opportunity to state their point of view.
Planning workshops are useful when programme, project, stage or team plans are being developed, or specifications, product descriptions or quality criteria are being determined. The quickest and most efficient way of creating the plan is to get all relevant stakeholders together in one place at one time and set out the structure of the plan. All parties are engaged, all points of view are aired, and all concerns are addressed. It is not possible for everyone to get what they want, but the organisation can be assured that they are getting what they need. All too often, solutions are designed for the majority but forget that a minority may be significant enough to harm the realisation of benefits. We can provide consultants with knowledge of a range of techniques for planning that can make the process quick and accurate.
Planning workshops for risk identification and analysis can be somewhat hit-and-miss affairs. If the person facilitating the workshop is not well versed in a number of risk management techniques, the result can vary from a pointless exercise that misses key risks, to a risk register that has hundreds of irrelevant and duplicated items in it. We can provide an independent authority, having a range of tools and techniques available to them, to facilitate a risk workshop. The result will be a concise risk register that has captured the knowledge and experience of all attendees, giving the project or programme board a much clearer picture of the inherent risks posed by the change initiative. Where time does not permit the full risk analysis to be completed, there will be a clear path for the further work to be performed to manage the risk exposure.
Not all organisations are large enough, or have the requirements, for a quality management department. Organisations that have adopted ISO, European or British standards, amongst others, will be more aware of the need to check conformity against criteria. Often, these departments do not have the staffing levels to be able to cope with the extra demand placed on them by a project or programme, or the organisation does not have quality management as a separate business function. In these cases, it is often left to an inexperienced member of staff to try and guide the change team towards delivering a better quality result, leading to cost overspending, time delays or – worse – project failure. We can provide an independent consultant with the right level of knowledge for your organisation to come in and facilitate workshops for quality planning. These could be for planning quality in advance of the start of the project or programme, during the planning phase for the work, or whenever the need arises to create one or more product descriptions requiring specific and measurable criteria.
Anyone who has worked as a project or programme manager will know just how vital the PMO (Project/Programme Management Office) can be. The problem for some organisations is that it can be a tough sell: nothing will go wrong if the project manager does their job correctly, so why do we need a PMO? James Martin once said (no, not the Yorkshire chef, the other one – the British guru who predicted the internet), “The deliberate non-catastrophe is the greatest contribution a manager can make.” A PMO falls into this category. Without it, all sorts of mistakes can be made, but the only evidence of the success of a PMO is a non-event – i.e. nothing went wrong. Some organisations correctly work out that paying a project manager a substantial 5-figure sum for pushing paperwork around is not making effective and efficient use of their time. When we want a project manager doing what we want them to do – managing the project – then it does not make sense to have them tied up with administrative tasks like filing documents, opening the post and answering the telephone. Whilst basic administrative tasks like this can be provided for the individual project manager, there is a lot of value in centralising these tasks and adding to them. A PMO can be so much more than an admin assistant, as they can provide:
- Configuration management, document control, version control, storage and security for project assets, and a repository for all project documentation</li>
- Storage and access to lessons reports, previous project documentation, templates and corporate standards
- Planning and estimating techniques, specialists in the use of planning tools (Microsoft Project, Prima Vera, Project Libre etc.)
- Creation and distribution of information, such as progress reports, time sheets, invoices etc
- Provision of project and programme assurance (where the assurance is independent)
The creation or setting up of a PMO can be a lot of work for someone. The systems and tools need to be put in place, any templates created, any standards or company policies made easily available and then the staff employed in the PMO need to be trained in their use. We can provide assistance in the setting up of a PMO. Rather than coming in and telling you how a PMO should be run, the emphasis is on guiding your staff to manage the PMO as your organisation wants it to be run. By understanding the principles that underpin a PMO, we can provide your staff with the knowledge to drive the PMO forward in the future.
Training Needs Analysis
How do you know what you don’t know? No, this isn’t the set up for the punchline of a joke, but more a rhetorical question to position the need for a Training Needs Analysis (TNA). Ask the employees what training they want, and you will be deluged with demands for everything up to and including Spaghetti Knitting (OK, so it was the set up for a punchline…) How can we be sure that the (very) limited training budget is being spent for the benefit of the organisation and not the individual? Very often these two things are the same, because something that is of benefit to the individual is often a benefit to the corporate organisation. Sometimes, however, the individual wants a badge or qualification in order to further their own CV, often without the same benefits to the employer. This is where a TNA can guide you towards arranging the most efficient and cost effective training for the staff population, or subset. The TNA will consider the corporate objectives first, assess the existing staff population and its’ ability to achieve those objectives, then map out the difference between the two – leaving you with the task of prioritising the budget according to your targets, but based on a sound knowledge of the organisational capabilities.
If you bothered to read this far, then there must have been something of interest to you before this point!! The headline rate quoted for consultancy is the most you are going to pay, excluding travel and accommodation (where required). The actual rate charged will depend on a number of factors:
- The nature of the work. The more expertise that is required to complete the tasks, the higher the price
- The number of days. This is not based on “”there might be other work later””, which is not a bankable proposition, but on the number of days that are to be committed at any one time. If you are booking a single day, and that is the only Purchase Order that can be given, then expect to be close to the headline rate quoted above. If you are booking twenty days at a time, even if they are spread over the next 12 to 24 months, then you can expect a substantial discount off the headline rate
- Travel and accommodation. If we have to travel to reach you, and/or require overnight accommodation, these costs will be taken into consideration. We do have consultants in different locations in the country, particularly London and Manchester, so the travel costs will be minimal. Further afield will, naturally, cost more. We can quote for an all-inclusive rate, or we can quote the daily rate separate from the travel and accommodation costs, although we will give an indication of the likely costs wherever possible.
- Terms and conditions, or other constraints. Certain terms and conditions can make a contract look less attractive. Please be clear on any additional constraints of which we may not be aware. Our usual terms are payment within 7 days, with the invoice date taken as the date of making the confirmed booking. Any departure from this will require prior agreement and may affect the quoted rate.
To make a booking, please use the contact form below. Include as much detail as you can, but if you want to discuss your requirements then leave a number where we can contact you.
Thanks for looking.