Tag Archives: delivery reliability

Building a projects culture at a leading UK financial institution

Continuing our series of real life track record articles illustrating how delivery reliability is built on a systematic improvement of the basic project management processes, I elaborate this week on the most basic (and most common) issue – that of building a projects culture, the all-important foundation in our hierarchy in the diagram below.

During a period of intense change and faced with an increasing number, size and complexity of projects, this leading UK financial institution needed to enhance and standardize its project management capability.  PA helped the client design, develop and implement a dynamic, company-wide PM approach.

What we found

  • Development projects often failed to achieve projected benefits, despite substantial investment
  • Projects were often approved without clear objectives, timescales, deliverables, costs or benefit delivery plans
  • A common approach to project delivery had been identified, but its shortcomings had not been corrected and it was difficult to ensure its consistent application
  • No formal appraisal process or training program to understand and build capability amongst project personnel
  • No process to capture, disseminate and apply lessons learned

What we did

  • Developed a comprehensive Project Management Handbook (and training regimen) to document key techniques and define company-wide procedures for the control of projects
  • Implemented a capital-based control philosophy (based on a size-complexity matrix) to target assurance efforts and reduce the reporting burden
  • Established a central project office to monitor and coordinate the portfolio of projects undertaken across the bank
  • Adapted the appraisal process to monitor and incentivize the development of project delivery capability & experience
  • Established a program management center of excellence to capture lessons learned and oversee development

What was achieved?

  • Standardized and improved tools and processes encourage the development of a project-based culture, including effective project management principles
  • Targeted assurance processes increase ability to deliver projects on time, realize planned benefits, and maintain greater focus on business need
  • Increased performance incentives lead to the voluntary adoption of company-wide project standards, with improved results
  • Project personnel are trained in standardized processes that incorporate best practice, specialized business needs and individual considerations
  • PM center of excellence maintains and revised company best-practices to avoid deterioration of benefits

Establishing (and reinforcing in some cases) the projects culture helped to get everyone in this organization onto the same page while at the same time this elevated overall delivery perfomance relatively quickly to a high level and they continue to hone that as new challenges present themselves.

John Hall
PA Consulting Group


Can Change Leaders Resist Change?

During large organizational transformations we often focus on managing stakeholder resistance at the staff level, recruiting mid-manager stakeholders to help drive organizational change. Sometimes, due to the leadership role that mid-level managers play, their potential resistance to change is underestimated and/or overlooked, when in fact they may unknowingly be a primary source of resistance.

 Mid-level managers often wear two hats. They are both change leaders as well as change stakeholders.   As change leaders, managers are expected to drive change, embody it through role modeling and maintain a positive work environment for their staff, while managing a full range of staff emotions and resistance. As change stakeholders, managers are enduring the change. They are impacted by changes to their organizational structure, ways of working and organizational processes. In this way, managers will also undergo the range of emotions that staff experience during organizational change.

 Managers often resist change for the five reasons listed below. The behavioral indicators of their resistance generally involve passive behavior and a failure to engage, rather than more active and observable forms of dissent.


The duality and pressure of a mid-level manager’s role may cause them to feel more resistant than staff.  Managers can only become effective change leaders when they have reflected upon and addressed their own source of resistance, but how do we help the managers manage their resistance?

Beyond the encouragement of active involvement and two-way communication, mid-level manager resistance can be effectively managed by a key support system – other managers. At the onset of an organizational change, establishing formalized change leader support meetings will provide a forum for managers to:

  • Identify and discuss areas of resistance, indifferences and/or concerns
  • Provide honest feedback about the expression of resistant behaviors
  • Openly discuss opportunities to change behaviors.
  • Act as a support system to help managers resolve their resistance and provide support through the change

 Providing mid-level managers with a safe space for open communication without judgment of emotions or behaviors will help them develop a unified front and become more effective change leaders.

 Teneka Polite

Change Management Consultant

PA Consulting Group

Governance and program management overhaul for the Broadband Services Division of a US Telecom company

This large US telecom company had initiated an ambitious program to establish their position in the rapidly emerging interactive television market, requiring simultaneous development streams carried out by diverse subcontractors. 
Previous problems were re-emerging so PA was chosen to investigate the program management practices.

A review of the processes impeding delivery based on our diagnostic results (see the diagram below) showed performance to be in the 3rd/4th quartile and required improvement in the areas of governance, project and portfolio management.


In an earlier article:” The “G” word – demystifying delivery governance”, we described how governance is really about creating the conditions for effective delivery through improved decision-making, oversight and accountabilities.  This was our point of departure at this client.

What we found?

  • Despite a major review, there was growing concern that some previous problems were re-emerging, and might worsen as the scale of the program grew
  • The program was visible at the highest level in the company and within the prime sub-contractors.
  • PA was already involved with some of the detailed technical aspects of the program, established and respected by the program team.  Therefore, PA was the natural choice to investigate the program management difficulties.

What we did

PA helped this telecom company develop a fully functional and comprehensive program management capability, including:

  • Improved governance by introducing a project office operating at both the project and program level (including the provision of bespoke project office procedures)
  • The identification of major risks & issues, including recommendation of mitigation actions required to resolve difficulties
  • Role definitions for all Program Management staff
  • Client coaching skills and techniques
  • A detailed audit of sub-contractor/supplier performance
  • A new contractor interface function

What was achieved?

  • Comprehensive improvements in program management capability, which provided team members with the skills to manage the overall program effectively
  • Revised governance processes providing vastly improved oversight at all levels of the program
  • Revised plans (including timescales and financial projections) for the current program
  • Tools that could be applied to future programs

As is our usual approach, addressing those areas contributing to unreliable delivery enabled changes to be made which quickly improved performance visibly and sustainably at all levels.

John Hall

PA Consulting Group

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