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Alignment of ITSM

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Today I reopened the report “Delivering value to todays digital enterprise” published by Forbes and found a really interesting section.

When asked which most closely describes the state of their ITSM efforts as they relate to the business, 37% of executives indicate their “ITSM effort is mainly focused on delivering IT services at this time”.

The organization I study is one of these 37% percent. I haven’t analysed all the data yet but it seems quite obvious that the processes implemented are done so to structure the day to day work within operations rather then an attempt to improve the execution of business strategies.

What’s really interesting is that only 8% claim that their ITSM efforts are “closely aligned with the success of our overall business”. I honestly thought that we’ve come further then this.

Quote of the week

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The findings of this research conclude that categorization systems contribute to overall project portfolio performance by ‘doing the right projects’ and ‘doing the projects right’

This is a quite interesting quote from a masters thesis from Chalmers written by Bich Nga Dao that was recommended by Gunnar wettergren. So far we discussed methods of doing the selecting and executing the right project but carrying out the project in the right way is crucial for project success and benefit realization. The thesis was quite an interesting read and can be found here.

Mission-type tactics – A project management approach

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Today is Tuesday which means that another lecture of the course “Strategies, benefits and alignment” was held by Gunnar Wettergren. It was an interesting lecture that covered most of what I already read in the textbook but also some interesting reflections and examples of how to balance your portfolio and how to assess the maturity level of an organization related to portfolio management.

There’s a chain of thought that keep coming back throughout the lectures of the course; it’s interesting how the strategic management of benefit realization and portfolio management kind of relates to the military tactic used by the Swedish Armed Forces. The Swedish Armed Forces uses mission-type tactics which is a form of military tactics where the emphasis is on the outcome of a mission rather than the specific means of achieving it. Wikipedia has an extensive article about mission-type tactics which state that “in mission-type tactics, the military commander gives subordinate leaders a clearly defined goal (the objective), the forces needed to accomplish that goal and a time frame within which the goal must be reached. The subordinate leaders then implement the order independently. The subordinate leader is given, to a large extent, the planning initiative and a freedom in execution which allows a high degree of flexibility at the operational and tactical levels of command” and “the success of the mission-type tactics it is especially important that the subordinate leaders understand the intent of the orders and are given proper guidance and that they are trained so they can act independently.“.

Agile is nothing new; there is an old german, military, saying that states “nothing is enduring, except the change of situation”. The Wikipedia article continues with “a key aspect of mission-type tactics is forward control. In order to understand what is happening at the point of action and to be able to take decisions quickly, the operational commander needs to be able to observe results. The decision to deviate from original plans in pursuit of the mission must be made here for ‘friction’ to be overcome and momentum to be sustained” and “the success of the doctrine rests upon the recipient of orders understanding the intent of whoever issues the orders and acting to achieve the goal even if their actions violate other guidance or orders they have received”.

Could we see an increase in realized benefits if project managers were given the proper guidance to focus on the intent of the project rather then deliverables and requirements?

What do you think? Did you learn anything new from todays lecture? Please leave a comment!

References
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mission-type_tactics

© Antonia Sehlstedt / Försvarsmakten

The importance of a vision and mission statement

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I work as a section manager within the Swedish Armed Forces. I’ve been involved as a conscript and volunteer, as a employee, leader and manager for over ten years now. One of the most amazing experiences of my carer was when General Micael Bydén assumed the position as the Supreme Commander of the Swedish Armed Forces. After decades of budget cuts and reductions in units – resulting in low morale and culture of defeat – General Bydén made it his most important task to change this. He stated a new vision and mission for the organization he assumed command of and with this, managed to turn things around surprisingly fast.

A stronger defence – responding to every threat, facing every challenge.

This is the vision statement of the Swedish Armed Forces. It’s a clear statement that builds the entire culture of our organization. We will respond to every threat and face every challenge. The statement is generic and can be applied to every section of the organization. It doesn’t matter whether you work as a solider or an officer, in administration, as a IT technician or logistics specialist – we all face challenges and threats and they will be managed.

We defend Sweden and the country’s interests, our freedom and the right to live the way of our choice.

This is the mission statement that explains what the Swedish Armed Forces, as an organization, do. Just as the vision statement it’s an clear statement that is easily understood and can be implement in the entire organization. Notice how it’s inclusive i.e involves the entire organization – military and civilian alike – and Sweden as a nation with “our freedom and the right to live the way of our choice.”

Reading the sections about developing strategic objectives and vision and mission statements in “The Standard For Portfolio Management” really makes me reflect on how important these statements are for an organization. Creating a common vision, mission and goals sparks energy in the organization and enables everyone, employees and managers, to act and take own initiatives.

Got any experience of a vision and mission statement that changed the culture of your workplace? Please leave a comment.

Weekly summery

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Another week of studies completed! This week turned out to be quite productive compared to the last one. I spend the week with my wife in Greve in Chianti, a beautiful Italian village in the Tuscany region. Though we spend most of the time tasting different Italian specialities and drinking magnificent Chianti Classico wines I spend every morning down by the pool with my laptop and the course literature.

I finished reading “Benefits Realization Management – A Practice Guide” which have brought a lot of insights on strategic management. Most of what’s written in the textbook is common sense but it’s always good to have a framework to build upon. I don’t believe I’ve ever worked within an organization that focused on benefits in the way the BRM framework defines it and especially not within an organization where benefit realization have been holistically planned and managed. At least not to the extent that allows lower level management and specialists to clearly see how organizational benefits relate to the activities they undertake – this gap needs to be filled.

Benefit tracking and the related examples and templates in the textbook have provided some inspiration for visualisation and to how to emphasize benefits. For me, this primarily relates to the sustain stage of the life cycle where I, in the role of a operations manager, is given tools to visualise and emphasize when realized benefits risk being forfeit and the invested resources lost. With disruptive technology – sophisticated requirements on security, integrity, continuity and assurance – combined with budgets as my primarily antagonist I need effective weapons to influence senior management.

One of the most intriguing enlightens of this week was listening to Anand Swaminathan on the PMI podcast Projectified™. How do we build an organizational culture that embrace change after change after change. With disruptive technology and rapid changes in customer and employee expectations, how do we reinvent our self as an organization without getting completely lost.

What did you learn this week? Got any feedback? Please leave a comment!

Waterfall? Really!?

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Good morning and greetings from the beautiful village Greve in Chianti, Tuscany, Italy. I’m lying in bed right now looking at the beutiful landscape and vineyards just outside our bed and breakfast. Distance studies sure has it’s perks!

I’m currently waiting for yesterdays lecture to be uploaded. While waiting, I read PMI’s report “The Project Manager of the Future – Developing Digital-Age Project Management Skills to Thrive in Disruptive Times”, published in 2018. It was intressting to read about the six digital-age skills for project delivery and I’m happy to see that security and privacy knowledge was included. This is a subject that I belive have been highly neglected in the past decade. There are still companies that run old, unsported, unpatched (and probably infected) operating systems and applications connected to the internet – the ignorece of the consequences are frightening.

A couple of weeks ago I read an interesting post on the topic of project management at LinkedIn. In short the individual posting claimed that the definition of projects within IT need to change (she actually said that projects as a concept should end). Numerous companies launch projects in order to deliver a specific outcome – usually a software or a system to fulfil a business objective. Once the project is complete, the project team is dismissed and assigned to new projects. The deliverable – now crucial to the business – is left poorly maintained and governed. Operations usually handles the day-to-day activities but without a governing body the integrity and availability of the system starts to decline. In just a few years, the crucial system has become the business own worst enemy. The author of the LinkedIn post stated that an IT project is only completed once the system is discontinued, the “project” must continue, in different shapes, during the entire life span of the deliverable. Therefor, projects as a concept should end.

Reading the PMI report I’m not surprised why the author of the post at LinkedIn have come to this conclusion. According to the report, 45% of project leaders are currently using the waterfall approach to manage disruptive technologies and 7% are considering using it – in contrast, DevOps was only used by 22% and considered by 11%. According to me, this is the number one reason why companies end up in these situations. At work, I’m amazed how often I have to remind project managers that there is a difference between building an IT system and building a main battle tank. We need different approaches, mindset and management skills. Software needs to be continuously developed, continuously deployed, continuously maintained and configured – mid life upgrade is not a valid concept!

Have you read the report? Did you learn anything new? Are we moving from project management to change management? Please share your thoughts!

Weekly summery

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Today is Sunday which means that another week on my journey towards a masters degree has come to an end. That’s what I wish I could say but the truth is that I’m running behind schedule. This week has been exhausting; personally and professionally. Sick kids, workshops, ceremonies, dinner parties, soccer practice – I just haven’t had the time to study as much as I should have. Luckily my family is going on a vacation next week so, hopefully, I will be able to catch up with my studies and spend some extra time with my family.

I’ve almost completed the book “The Standard For Portfolio Management” and I’ve read the initial chapters of “Benefits Realization Management”. I’ve listened to this weeks lecture by Gunnar Wettergren and the podcast hosted by Petr Ponomarev and Aura Camelia Greculescu but, unfortunately, I haven’t had the time to read any research papers this week.

Professionally I’ve noticed that my focus have started to shift from “delivering a specified output” to a more holistic view on organizational benefits. During the past two weeks I’ve had extensive and avid discussions with my colleagues on the need for a common vision and goals as well as aligning and prioritizing our projects towards these goals. I’ve noticed that our organization have a focus on utility and therefor organize our projects in “pipelines”, each handled individually. A holistic view could probably help us prioritize, schedule, allocate and assign resources in a better way to reach strategic goals and fulfil business objectives. At the very least, we need to ensure that we’re executing the right projects by linking the benefits of the project to strategic goals in a formal and structured way.

Quote of the week

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I don’t believe in voodoo! There is no curse over this project! We know WHAT to do! Either we lack the knowhow – which I highly doubt – or we have a leadership problem.

This quote was stated by a senior manager when a challenged project was analysed earlier this week. The subsequent inspection of the project proved him right.