Creatively Reduce Risk


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Do you and your colleagues have to deliver a project? Would you find it useful to use a researched approach to identify potential issues and help avoid them?
One which involves the whole project team in an interesting and participative way? “Prevaluation” does that. This actual client case study reveals all ~ Read on….

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Creatively Reduce Risk

  1. 1. The Creative Gorilla – Case Study Do you and your colleagues have to deliver a project? Would you find it useful to use a researched approach to identify potential issues and help avoid them? One which involves the whole project team in an interesting and participative way? “Prevaluation” does that. This actual client case study reveals all ~ Read on…. “One does not have to be a mad scientist to travel in time” – Authors of research paper: “Back to the future. Temporal Perspective in the Explanation of Events” Prevaluation “Only one in eight IT projects can be considered truly successful…. The cost of IT MAD SCIENTISTS USE A TEMPORAL PERSPECTIVE project failure across the EU in 2004 was Euro PROTOTYPE 142 billion1.” These are frightening figures. Background Add on the cost of failed projects not involving IT and the figure is likely to be a horror movie. Our client was Programme Director of a multi Who would want to be a Programme Director million pound programme for a FTSE 100 or Project Manager with those odds and those company. Yes! And… facilitated a programme potential losses? team workshop when he assumed responsibility for the programme and we were asked to So, if potential failure is staring you in the face, facilitate the team’s ongoing planning meetings. would it be valuable to have a simple tool that can help you with decision making and increase The intent of the programme was to transform your odds of success? working practices, using a new IT platform to make better use of assets. The company had This article describes such a tool and explains begun piloting the programme in one how you can use it with a project team, using a geographical region. To obtain resources to roll case study from one of our client workshops. it out to other regions, it was vital that the pilot achieved the benefits the Programme Director 1 “A study in Project Failure.” Dr John McManus and Dr Trevor had promised the Board. Wood-Harper. Source: British Computer Society website 1
  2. 2. The Creative Gorilla – Case Study Consequently, the Programme Director was Once he understood the technique, the very focussed on securing the benefits. He Programme Director agreed to use Premortem wanted us to help the programme team to and we specified the outcome he required: develop a strategy to achieve that. SECTION OUTCOMES We suggested using the “Premortem” The Group will have an action plan to technique to facilitate this. ensure we can achieve programme We had first seen this technique described by benefits. Gary Klein of Applied Research Associates in an article in the Harvard Business Review2. It is Workshop Design Challenge based on a concept known as “Prospective In his article, Gary Klein describes how he has Hindsight.” people think themselves in to the future when Research on this concept3 has shown that the project has gone wrong and ask, “What people are able to generate richer and more went wrong?” numerous explanations of why an event might His process is to have individuals list as many have happened, when they are told that the reasons as they can, the project leader records event has actually happened. these on a flipchart and uses them to find ways The research looked at two aspects: to strengthen the project plan. 1. Whether the outcome was determined as We wanted the programme team to develop an sure (“It is a future date and we have not action plan so we developed this process achieved the benefits) further. We also needed them to do it quickly 2. Whether the outcome was determined as because there were many other items on the unsure (“It is a future date and we might agenda. not have achieved the benefits”) For some reason, people find it easier to generate reasons when the outcome is sure. (We suggest you review Page 10 of the article if you want to know of possible reasons why). 2 “Performing a Project Premortem” HBR 01 September 2007 3 “Back to the future. Temporal Perspective in the “AAH, LOOKING BACK, IT ALL SEEMS CLEAR TO ME NOW.” Explanation of Events” Deborah J Mitchell; J Edward Russo and Nancy Pennington. 2
  3. 3. The Creative Gorilla – Case Study Using the Technique REASON RATE Around eighteen members of the programme Unable to measure benefits 12 team attended the meeting. We gave this accurately as too difficult to measure section the tongue in cheek name of “Predicting and attribute to programme Benefit Fraud” and placed it at the beginning of the workshop to highlight its importance. Didn't identify further benefits 8 Our estimate of time was around 90 minutes Didn't communicate and embed the 8 but in reality, the team took around two and a cost savings into personal / Group half hours to achieve the following process: objectives 1. We set up the situation…the Facilitator Didn't measure frequently enough - 6 (the author) asked the team to imagine it is no time to take action 1 September (the meeting was in May) and the Programme Director has just been Business identifies negative costs 6 removed from the programme by the Board and counts against programme because the pilot had failed to deliver any of the promised cost savings or other Data was ignored 5 benefits. The Board demanded answers! 2. We asked individuals to write reasons EXAMPLE REASONS why this had happened on a piece of 5. Small teams created actions to ensure paper. (You could use Post It notes for this that the top priority reasons did not and have people post them for review; this happen, so ensuring the programme would saves time when collecting ideas, but adds reap the benefits. time on for culling duplicate ideas). 6. They also identified the programme 3. The Facilitator recorded the reasons team resource needed to take the action taking one idea per person and wrote them so that they could factor this in to the on flipcharts until the team’s ideas were overall programme resource plan. exhausted. We collected 45 separate 7. Each team shared the actions and reasons in total. resource requirements with the 4. The group prioritised the reasons, group. They asked if there were any issues using dot choice (four dots per person). with their plan and received constructive You may find it useful to consider the feedback. The group added further actions criteria in advance e.g: to some of the plans. • What is most likely to happen 8. After the meeting, we captured all the • What would prevent the team output in a report so that everybody was achieving the largest benefits clear on what was said and done. 3
  4. 4. The Creative Gorilla – Case Study Benefits of Using the Technique Conclusion The exercise: One aspect of the technique we thought could be enhanced was the name. Premortem is • Ensures that everyone in the group is fully logical but has shades of gallows humour, so involved – nobody can say later, “I knew we now call it “Prevaluation”. that would happen and that it would fail!” Whatever you call it, this technique is a very • Reminds people of the programme useful tool that provides a number of benefits outcomes, which provides motivation with little or no disadvantages, other than the • Makes the whole team aware of the time taken to carry it out. potential pitfalls and they can support individuals to avoid them With the information you have here, time and some facilitation skill, you can facilitate the • Identifies and mitigates the risk in advance, technique yourself. Try it! which is a lot less stressful than dealing with problems later John Brooker Innovation Director. Yes! And… • Enables the team to allocate resources to PLEASE FEEL FREE TO PASS THIS ARTICLE ON TO A prevention, which uses less resources than COLLEAGUE WHO MAY APPRECIATE IT. dealing with a fire • Helps build confidence on the programme DON’T HAVE TIME TO DESIGN AND team, they know the likely issues and can FACILITATE? plan to deal with them • Can be used with different audiences. For Do you want to use this technique? If you example with the Board, or with customers. have the time, you can use this article to help you design and run a workshop. But if Outcome you are short of time or prefer to be part of the workshop, you might like to talk to us. Talking to the Programme Director after the September Board Meeting, I asked him how it In Yes! And… we are experienced in using had gone. He was delighted and so were the this and other creative approaches for Board Members. The team had implemented workshops and have many satisfied clients. the actions to secure the benefits and the To discuss how we might help, please programme pilot had achieved double the contact John Brooker: benefits expected. Write: Whilst we would not claim that using this Speak: 020 8869 9990 technique was responsible for all of that, it About theSee: Author certainly helped! 4
  5. 5. The Creative Gorilla – Case Study About the author John Brooker started his career in the RAF and went on to become a Senior Vice President with Visa International. He now does what he loves; running his own company Yes! And… The company mission is to create successful organisations by facilitating flexible thinking. John and his colleagues help teams to think more flexibly by facilitating workshops, developing skills and advising management. His particular interest is innovation. John is a Solutions Focus Professional, a Kaizen Training Black Belt Facilitator, a Basadur Simplex Process Facilitator, A Group Mastery and a NLP Business Practitioner. He also has an MBA from the Open University and tutors on the OU “Creativity, Innovation and Change” MBA Course. His regular clients include major organisations such as Visa Inc, EADS and BT Openreach, as well as Government departments. As well as the UK, John frequently works internationally in Europe, Sub Saharan Africa and the Middle East. He writes the “Creative Gorilla” articles on creative leadership and flexible thinking, distributing it internationally twice a month. To sign up, send an e-mail with “Subscribe” in the subject line and your first and surname. 5