Ideas in Action

February 20, 2015 | Posted by: Andrew Belton

Delivering projects: Are you SUPER?

One of the most common ways organisations deliver public value is through projects. Whether you are about to embark on a new project or head down in the midst of one, sometimes a bit of reflection on how you are guiding your team to deliver public value can be really valuable.

Consider these questions:

  • Can you and your team describe why your project is important?
  • Do you and your team have the right information to make decisions?
  • Are you and your team clear on the different roles within the project?

If you answered No to any of these questions, Cube’s SUPER approach can help frame your thinking, and maximise the opportunity to deliver public value.

Are you SUPER?


Let’s break that down:

1) Start with the end in mind

My colleague Scott Ko has previously posted about identifying the project outcomes at the start of any project. I cannot reiterate how important this is – without knowing the desired project benefits, it’s very difficult, if not impossible to determine if a project has really delivered public value. Benefits should be identified at the beginning of the project lifecycle during project development, further explained in the business case, and monitored all the way through to project completion.

2) Understand what the project is – and isn’t

Projects have a finite lifespan, and so should have a clear start, and importantly, a clear end. They should also have a clearly defined scope. Project teams in public value organisations often combine project work with day-to-day activities, which can cause confusion amongst the team and within the broader organisation, frequently leading to project delays and cost blowouts. In my experience, it is well worth spending extra time at the start of a project clearly articulating the project scope, discussing how it will be structured, and defining key deliverables to make sure everyone is talking the same ‘project language’.

3) Play to the team’s strengths

Unlike many private sector companies, public value organisations don’t always have dedicated project management offices. Project managers are often internally recruited, on a part time basis and without extensive project management backgrounds. In these circumstances, I’ve found it beneficial for the project team to get dedicated or external support, allowing them to focus on their subject matter expertise, such as new policy, service design, or legislation, whilst allowing the dedicated or external support to assist with project management. At Cube, we call this approach project enablement.

Image courtesy of Belbin

4) Establish the decision-making process early

Determining how the project will be managed and identifying key decision makers is critical and should be done as soon as practicably possible. Public value projects often have complex governance structures, including inter-departmental and cross-jurisdictional arrangements that need to be navigated as efficiently as possible. When decision making processes are not understood, project delays often occur. Likewise, ensuring decision makers have the right information to make decisions is very important; I’ve lost count of the number of times information has been presented without identifying what decision is expected. Don’t do this! Tools such as dashboard reports can help present information clearly and concisely, and can streamline decision-making.

5) Recognise the broader context

Public value projects are very rarely delivered in isolation. Rather, they often have links with other projects and services within and beyond the organisation. This can add complexity and increase project risks if not carefully managed. In contrast, I’ve seen how project teams that understand and actively manage these cross project relationships, through collaboration and ideas-sharing, can generate unanticipated public value for both projects, a win-win all round. Effort spent learning about your project environment and understanding your stakeholders’ needs and expectations is time very well spent.

If something strikes a chord here, we’d love to hear from you. Our easy-to-use, 10 minute project health check tool can help identify how SUPER your project is, and we’d be happy to share some examples of how we have provided both ‘quick win’ and longer term project enablement services for public value projects.


1 Comment

  1. Great article Andy and all. I think you’ve really crystallised some of the key issues in project management not just for public but also private sector projects.
    Nicely packaged up with the health check offer too. I’m onboard!

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