Archive for October, 2009

A jury system that caters for the computer generation?

Posted in Communicate / Collaborate on October 22nd, 2009 by Leanne Fry – Be the first to comment

When so many enthusiasts are tweeting, blogging, conferencing and opining on social media and social networking, we really like to see an article taking a very specific issue, reviewing the influence of new technology, and raising some important questions.

So it is with an article from TimesOnline about jury trials and new technology.

‘The jury system is threatened by the internet generation, who no longer get their information from listening to people speaking, the Lord Chief Justice warned yesterday.’

When I did my law degree, an examination at The College of Law was often a ‘viva’, or oral examination.  Add to that moot courts and you can see it was all about learning to order your thoughts, to get up on your feet and speak.

It presupposed that the audience for your brilliance – the judge, your opponents, and in some cases a jury – was used to or able to sit and listen. But as a UK Bar Council member noted, our propensity to sit and listen to sermons, or oratory, has declined over the years.

Not only is information online packaged differently (from bite sized chunks to huge amounts of core data), it comes in so many more forms, from so many more sources.

If we have a whole generation that is used to obtaining information from technology, what does that mean for jury trials? The article suggests that ‘Evidence might be presented on screens; jurors could be given screens to take away; they might then press buttons to obtain the information they wanted.’

And why not? If a new generation is used to sourcing, thinking, analysing and reviewing information in a different way, should we cling to the ‘old’ ways of doing things? Why can’t jurors access more ‘source’ material? Why should I listen to a spoken submission, when a well written paper or pre-recorded session allows me to listen/read at my own pace and return to it when I need clarification?

Perhaps what is confronting about this issue is the assumptions, and the culture, that sit beneath the current model. That’s true for any organisation contemplating social media and web 2.0 tools. But here we have the history of the jury trial, and the role of all the players in it.

As the Lord Chief Justice notes – ‘what we don’t want to have is what we sometimes do have — the acknowledgment of the crisis long after it’s in existence and then efforts to plaster over it.’ Hear hear. When licensing and copyright issues still create very real barriers for organisations in making information available online and retaining some control over it, it would be gratifying to see the profession start to address this issue now.

It’s a fundamental shift, in a complex environment, that has serious ramifications for us all if changes don’t serve us well. Legal practitioners need to be familiar with the technological changes and tools, and legal convention and rules need to be reviewed to see whether they can encompass new approaches.

The Federal Court recently saw live Twitter feeds from journalists following the iiNet case. While that is quite a step forward in transparency, there is a great deal more to do.

Executive salary caps are a red herring

Posted in Governing Programmes and Projects, News and Features on October 15th, 2009 by Raymond Young – Be the first to comment

Reflections on AICD seminar: ‘Directing Tomorrow Today’

The Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD) has over 23,000 members, but fewer than 140 CEOs earn more than 10 times the average salary according to the Productivity Commission. Why should the other 22,860 members support AICD efforts to oppose government legislation on salary caps for executive pay? Does the AICD only represent the top 150 ASX companies or are directors simply out of touch? (and I am one of them!)

You cannot blame the government for trying to curb the excesses that lead us into the GFC. It was inevitable new legislation would be introduced. The public are angry and now that the economy is starting to recover, they expect something to be done.

Since the beginning of this year I have been urging boards and their management teams to be proactive and not wait for knee-jerk legislation (Preparing directors for the governance backlash). Anyone can make a mistake and we needed to restore confidence. We needed to show the public we can be trusted to self regulate and effectively govern the things that really matter. Recent AICD seminars on ‘Directing Tomorrow Today’ raised the question for me of whether we have the stomach to do the job.

Two statistics highlight the issue: (a) 60-75% of business failures are due to managerial incompetence[i], (b) 50-67% of all project investments deliver no business benefits whatsoever[ii]. Projects matter because they are the primary way of delivering strategy. I haven’t met anyone [yet] who deliberately sets out to fail yet these statistics are endemic. The problem relates to managerial over-optimism [iii] and surely it is the board that has to take overall responsibility to see it is addressed.

The AICD oppose legislation on remuneration because it is a primary role of the board to ensure risk is aligned to reward (and their implication is that additional legislation is unnecessary). However, the problem is a lot older than the GFC, there has been no shortage of advice pointing to the right direction (How much governance is enough?). During the AICD seminar the discussion focused on the appointment of the CEO and how they would be remunerated, but failed to recognise the problem needs to be dealt with at more than the CEO level. Boards need to implement workable solutions to ensure risk is matched to reward for all strategic initiatives and intercede often enough to ensure their managerial team deliver what they promise. There is even an Australian Standard providing guidance on how to do this: AS8016, HB280.

So the new legislation on executive remuneration, in my opinion, is a red herring. Our inaction has forced the government’s hand to do something. Are we our own worst enemy in not being able to self regulate on the things that actually matter?

Let me repeat some advice offered at the beginning of this year:

  • Following the GFC – governance practices will almost certainly be questioned
  • New governance requirements are likely to be introduced
    • Historically new requirements are introduced reactively
    • There is a risk new requirements will not add value
  • We should anticipate these developments
    • It takes longer for management to respond than for the board to ask
    • We should identify the key areas that need to be governed
    • We should check we have effective systems to monitor the key areas, and introduce new mechanisms where necessary
    • Governing major projects is one area worthy of attention
    • New Standards AS8016, HB280 have much to offer.

[i] M Van Vugt, “Follow me,” New Scientist 198 (2008): 42-45

[ii] R. Young, “What is the ROI for IT Project Governance? Engaging the board and top management.,” in 2006 IT Governance International Conference (Auckland, New Zealand, 2006)

[iii] D Lovallo and D Kahneman, “Delusions of success: how optimism undermines executive’s decisions,” Harvard Business Review 81, no. 7 (2003)

Bridging the top management conceptual divide

Posted in Governing Programmes and Projects, Strategic Programmes on October 14th, 2009 by Raymond Young – 3 Comments

Executive Summary

Top management support is crucial for project success, but top managers are not interested in project level concerns. Programme management is the crucial link because programmes deliver the business benefits required to realise strategic goals. However the project and programme management community will have to learn engage at the strategy level and focus on the achievement of strategic goals. The current approaches are too heavily influenced by project management concepts to be effective in engaging top management.

The need for top management support

IT governance guru John Thorp has advocated for some time the need to manage projects at the programme level in order to realise the desired benefits. I’ve come to the same conclusion from a different angle:

There is now strong evidence that top management support is the most important critical success factor and is not simply one of many factors [i].

If so, then it is very difficult for projects to succeed if top managers do not consider project management to be a matter of direct concern and they don’t [ii].

If projects don’t succeed (in delivering business benefits) then corporate strategies aren’t implemented. Everyone loses. (This almost certainly appears to be the case with one of the best performers in the public sector: the State of Victoria; and it is likely to be the case with the rest of us. It is well known that two thirds of projects deliver no value at all [iii]).

This situation is very dysfunctional with as much as 3% of GDP is being lost because project managers can’t get the attention of top managers.

We can engage top managers through programme management

We believe there is a conceptual chasm between the top management and project management community. They do not have a common language and do not work together to achieve common goals. We have documented our analysis in Bridging the TMS-PM conceptual divide. Our major findings are:

Project management is increasingly being used to implement strategy; an application it was not designed to meet. Projects deliver products that might enable a strategy but they rarely if ever deliver strategies.

Portfolio management is not a solution because the focus is on the selection of projects. If projects cannot deliver a strategy then no matter how well you select projects, it will not result in a strategy being delivered. For strategic goals to be met, it is essential that portfolios are portfolios of programmes not portfolios of projects. This is not how PPM (project portfolio management) is currently practiced.

Programmes are the vital link between strategy and the realisation of strategic goals. We must as John has stated, focus our attention at the programme level. Plan for, select and fund entire programmes (or not). Our point of difference is that we believe mainstream programme management is currently too immature, too inflexible and too influenced by project management to engage the top management audience. Programme managers cannot assume strategy is delegated from on high and only needs to be implemented. The practice of programme management much be enhanced to deal appropriately with much lower levels of certainty than practitioners of strategic planning and programme management have traditionally assumed.

Finally active governance by top managers is essential to go beyond planning to actually realise the desired benefits over time. The future is inherently unpredictable and top level governance is required to steer or navigate around unexpected obstacles. Governance is not how the project management methodologies have portrayed it: to have a steering committee or a project board. Governance is an attitude and requires an active questioning. The 6Q Governance™ framework, an enhancement of HB280 and AS8016, is an excellent guidance that we recommend to all.

But we need to lift our game and learn to contribute to strategy

However, we face an uphill battle overcoming a considerable misdirection of effort being promoted by the project and programme management community. This might seem an arrogant statement but we would ask you to consider how many project managers operate at the level of the board or C-suite? An earlier blog summarised a professional presentation for ISACA that considered board level decision-making. The quotes below are taken from the ‘decision-making’ module of the AICD Company Director’s Course and we believe the last quote may apply particularly to the current thinking in the project and programme management communities. If we are to engage the top managers we need for our success, we need to do it at their level so that both they and we can succeed. The level at which we must engage is strategy and the achievement of strategic goals.

“Decision-making is a process rather than something that occurs in a single point in time”

“The process … begins when we need to do something but we do not know what”

“People in organisations such as managers must pass through stages in mastering greater and greater complexity. This is not a matter of handling more and more information, but learning what information is important – what not to think about – to focus on what is really important” Jaques (1998)

“When a person is out of their depth in terms of the level of complexity they have to handle, they will implement mechanisms to maintain control such as cutting the debate, seeking to silence people … often unconscious behaviours designed to avoid their own lack of understanding”

[i] R. Young and E. Jordan, “Top management support: Mantra or necessity?,” International Journal of Project Management 26, no. 7 (2008): 713 – 725,

[ii] L. Crawford, “Senior management perceptions of project management competence,” International Journal of Project Management 23, no. 1 (2005): 7-16, .

[iii] R. Young, “What is the ROI for IT Project Governance? Establishing a benchmark.,” in 2006 IT Governance International Conference (Auckland, New Zealand, 2006).

Channels and context in Web 2.0

Posted in Communicate / Collaborate on October 1st, 2009 by Leanne Fry – Be the first to comment

A couple of recent instances have reminded me of how much communication has changed. (And some will read this post and say ‘so tell me something I don’t know’.)

But they represent such a challenge, to some of the assumptions underpinning  the communication function in organisations, that I want to highlight them.

You can’t keep a message in just one ‘channel’

I have a very close involvement in children’s services, so follow any issues touching on the welfare of children closely. So when a recent radio stunt set a dangerous precedent regarding the welfare of a child, I rattled off a response to the Australian Communications and Media Authority.

They rang me, and the first question they asked was ‘had I heard the broadcast’? I didn’t need to. The message, and the offending interview, was all over the web.

There’s a real issue here for regulatory authorities who monitor and have authority over particular channels. And a real issue for organisations that think they can still ‘control’ the message. If the topic is interesting enough, someone will take it, tweet it, link to it, bookmark it, discuss it and comment on it.

If you have a role in managing (note that I don’t say ‘controlling’) that message in any way, you need to be engaged in all those possible channels.

The new order has fewer contextual guides

Context in communication is provided by the format, the channel, and the relationship. We have had a myriad of well understood rules that sit around what we read each day. But new channels and user generated content change those rules.

On one of my Twitter accounts, I frequently link to interesting articles online. I will always add the shortened url to my first tweet. But after that, it there are several tweets, I am reluctant to give up 30 characters of my 140 to repeating the url. I’ll usually finish up by putting the url in again, sort of like a bookend.

I am assuming that my followers, knowing what I usually tweet about, will understand the ‘set’. A great number of them, with whom I actively communicate, will also know ‘my voice’. They’ll have a fair idea as to what is opinion, and what is reportage.

So the contextual guides are there for experienced players. Many of those contextual guides rely on the fact that it is a transaction, not a one way broadcast. If every single tweet has to stand alone, then I’ve lost the conversation. Or 140 characters is simply not enough.

There is still control in the new order, but it is of a different shape and hue now.