BPPM AIPM Conference Paper 12-15 October 2014 Brisbane

AIPM Conference Paper – Brisbane 12-15th October 2014

Presented by Murray Gough, MD BPPM Pty Ltd, Canberra

TOPIC: Future Alternatives to "Project Management" for Learning and Workforce Solutions




Thesis. Project Management (PM) tends to be poorly understood by Executives and Managers. Given that, in most circumstances, project managers and teams provide the operational direction and ‘hands-on’ management of projects. Therefore, investing in a competent workforce will increase the chances of achieving optimum results and outcomes. The term “project management” is often adapted to describe the conduct of projects within individual industry or organisational contexts (such as in Construction, Defence and ICT) but its applicability in wider workplace contexts is poorly understood. Project managers and teams need to adhere to the rigour and discipline of project management principles to achieve optimum results but how can this same discipline of PM be embedded more broadly across businesses, industry and organisations so that quality results are achieved in the majority of cases? This paper argues that the use of alternative terminology for the term "project management” may assist in embedding the principles of project management more deeply within organisations to optimise the delivery of outputs and outcomes, thereby achieving organisational and business objectives. It also contends that the use of more appropriate language to the current “PM-Speak” will influence sound practice and results.

Recent and Suggested Terminology. As an example, the Australian Public Service Commission is now using the term "Structuring Work" to deliver its "project management" learning package. This package has taken 3 years of research to develop and is currently being contracted out for delivery. Other terms worthy of consideration include: “Work Planning and Management”, “Works Management”, “Work Logic”, “Contracting Management” or “Operational Readiness” (see extended list below). Cross-industry managers need to consider using these alternatives, as appropriate, in their organisations. It is suggested that a distinct change in terminology that is both plain and undemanding will be beneficial in developing a broader understanding of the benefits of project management and, at the same time, continue to support the principles and concepts involved in professional project management.

History and Change Process. For two decades, BPPM project management specialists have been using strategies and measures to contextualise the meaning of project management and its terminology to build and support a platform for change and sustainability in Portfolio, Program and Project Management across public and private sector organisations. The sequence of strategies for this systemic change has been the Corporate Improvement Process (CIP); see diagram below.


BPPM’s “Corporate Improvement Process” has involved the use of plain language to suit the work context, and involves the following strategies:

  • a review and evaluation of the total business environment;
  • application of a customised project management-based system with workplace-specific terminology (not jargon);
  • development and conduct of competency-based training modules with specific workplace content/templates and coaching;
  • internal development of coaches and mentors;
  • attainment of qualifications and certifications (as motivators), using workplace evidence to measure “return on investment”;
  • development of a health check system to review and improve the process and results of structured work; and
  • development of a KPI-based maturity matrix to measure corporate uptake and results on an annual basis, and attainment of organisational maturity.

Ultimately, the system employed will deliver a workforce that is competent and capable of producing products, services and systems that are operationally ready.

Project Management could be called:

  • Work Planning and Management
  • Initiative Management
  • Investigations Management
  • Policy Development and Management
  • Asset Acquisition
  • Maintenance Management
  • Product Delivery
  • Services Delivery
  • Workforce Capability
  • Work Logic
  • Systems Delivery
  • Event Management
  • Structuring Work
  • Operational Readiness

Note: Choose the best term to suit the context/situation!!!

Project Management as Operational Readiness. Of the several terms available, one term that is becoming increasingly popular is “operational readiness”. As an outcome, it is preceded by the integration of the project management cycle and the systems development life cycle to enhance business continuity and sustainability. The following diagram demonstrates how the Initiative Life Cycle (project management solution) overlaps with the Systems Development Life Cycle (the technical solution).


Ultimately, the term "project management" must be contextualised and changed so that its principles and structure can be marketed to, applied and “owned” by Executives and Managers, not just project managers (or their equivalent). The term Operational Readiness depicts both the process and the result of an initiative to make a product or service “business ready”! The term highlights Covey’s axiom, “Begin with the end in mind”.


BPPM has used the following strategies and measures to contextualise the meaning of project management and its terminology to apply both organizational governance and a platform for change and sustainability in Portfolio, Program and Project Management. Also, it is vital to differentiate between Project Management and Technical Management (of a project or initiative), but also, it is vital to combine them concurrently. Another view of this distinction is evident in the following diagram:


A major problem is to integrate the two; a common set of terms to include both may well solve this little-recognised problem.

The following “Strategies” exemplify how common, plain language (posed firstly as questions) can be employed to work with an organisation’s managers to arrive at a contextualised analysis and approach to a “project management-disciplined system”. The actual nomenclature will be chosen to suit the organisational and work context.

Strategy 1. Review and Evaluation of the Business Environment with Key Managers.

Ask the question … what already exists, and what terminology is understood and is commonly used? Therefore, what is the best language usage for business change (to enable improved results for projects/initiatives)? Also … what constitutes business as usual (BAU), and what constitutes a project/initiative? (These MUST be separated!)


  • Review and evaluate the business environment, involving: strategic, business and project analysis; assessment of skillsets and competence of managers; and distinction between project management and BAU. This process derives the terminology used in the business by defining operational, program and project requirements in terms of outcomes for the organization and staff. Necessarily it provides recommendations for change.

Note: The choice of terminology, identified for that sector, industry, business, and department is crucial for structured PM principles to survive.

Strategy 2. Customise the Cycle that produces goods and services & results.

How do you best repeat those things you do well? Is good process just BAU that has been influenced by project management processes? What will work best into the future? What levels of complexity are required?



  • Develop and apply a customised start-to finish framework (methodology, procedures and toolsets), and a Guide for workplace application. Also include levels that will be readily adopted in the workplace.

Note: Again, the terminology must match the circumstance to include both project and technical management of the product or service.

Strategy 3. Structure Learning Events that are meaningful.

How do you know when your workforce is competent and capable and how is that measured? What are the best learning events for your personnel?


  • Develop and conduct customized competency-based capability/coaching modules; they need to be workplace centred and structured for immediate and long term results.

Note: Don’t use the term “training” (at all) as it is overrated, misunderstood and very badly practised!!! Useful terminology to use instead of “Training”: familiarisation, briefings, inductions, education strategies, competency-based capability building, mastery learning and application, team teaching, performance reviews, periodic process reviews, post-implementation reviews, completion de-briefs etc.

Strategy 4. Selecting the Coach.

Who are your internal champions that have the passion for excellence, and can, and will pass it on to others?


  • Conduct coaching, mentoring and motivation of staff.

Note: Appoint a coach who can change attitudes … then work on knowledge and skills!

Strategy 5. Health Checks: call for the Doctor!!!

How do you know that your existing and new initiatives are on track?

  • Develop and apply a Health Check System; checking the validity of workforce structured process and application of documentation and systems.

Note: If things are going badly with an initiative, call in a specialist to help. Remember that the Health Check terminology must exactly match the methodology.

Strategy 6. Checking up on Performance.

What do you use to remind your workforce of sustained success?

  • Customise assessment tools for measuring organizational and individual and performance; includes how the review sessions and undertaken and reported.

Note: Work closely with management teams to arrive at how THEY will measure continued success. For example, a customised KPI-based Maturity Matrix measures agreed KPIs (for business and project management) AND organisational maturity.

Strategy 7. Industry Recognition – Reward for Achievement.

How do you reward those who achieve results? And, how do you know that your investment has worked for their development?

  • Provide options for attainment of qualifications and certifications; this is not absolutely necessary, but can be used for motivation/attainment of credentials. All assessment evidence is workplace-based, showing Executives how learning results in "Return on Investment".

Note: Structure small goals to be achieved, such as: maintenance of objectives, keeping to the timeframe that was set, not overspending, or producing an acceptable product. Celebrate these achievements.

Strategy 8. Corporate Measurement.

How do you know that the organisation has achieved results through these strategies?

  • Conduct a maturity assessment and review that has been contextualised for the organisation, and based on benchmarked standards.

Note: Once again, the language must suit the organisation and its levels of management. More importantly, the actions arrived at for improvement must be “owned”.


Language Change for Project Management; demystifying PM jargon!!!

Project = A new initiative for the organisation’s policies, systems, workforce, products or services.

Scope = What is the range of work to be undertaken, in what context/situation, to achieve what?

Schedule = What is the timeline, and its significant parts?

Cost = What’s to spend and how much, and how do we check?

Margin = How much do we want to make?

Quality = What result do you want, and how do we get there, who checks?

HR = Who’s on the team, and “who’s who in the zoo”?

Risk = If we try this, what’s the upside and what’s the downside?

Communications = Who’s talking to whom about what, using what?

Procurement = What do we need, by when and who provides it for us?

Contracts = How do we make sure we get what we want (in products and services)?

Integration = Putting it all together! Create one (concise) document that gives guidance to what is planned and what is to be managed, through to completion.



For example, an Operational Readiness Plan for a new “system” might include the following headings:

  • Expected business outcome
  • The system requirements and specification
  • The timeline
  • The spend
  • Quality
  • People
  • Communication
  • Materials and Services
  • Issues and risks

Importantly, it will describe how each of these will be managed and completed.

Note: this list conforms to every prominent International and National Project Management Standard!


  • Project Management (PM) is a proven discipline that works!
  • The language of PM is not well understood … therefore, it is not easily and readily adopted.
  • The future of PM will be to continue to use its founding principles, processes and techniques, but practitioners must choose a language that suits their work context.
  • The result will enable easier “take-up” by all levels of managers in both learning and application.