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OpenStrategies, Project Management

Attention, Project Managers: a Deliverable is NEVER a Benefit!

Project-Miracle-Benefits 2Project Managers (PMs) rightly spend a lot of time focusing on delivering “stuff” on-time, on-budget and to the required specification. However, occasionally, I come across PMs who think that a deliverable (“stuff”) is a benefit. More worryingly, there are plenty of senior managers who think the same.

A recently overheard conversation went along the following lines:

PM: “My objective is to deliver a list of operating procedures, so the organisation knows exactly what it should be doing“.

Manager: “Fantastic, that’s a great benefit. We’ll be so much more efficient as a result of the work you’re doing.

Those of you who have read my OpenStrategies and PRUB blog posts previously will know that that short conversation would get me screaming “a deliverable is never a benefit”. Quite simply, unless the intended users of the deliverable know about it, are capable of using it, are motivated to use it AND then actually use it, there will be no performance improvement (benefits).

To help Project Managers and others avoid this sort of confused thinking, it can be helpful to map out the linkages between Deliverables and Benefits; making these visible and explicit. In an ideal world, you would work back to Deliverables from Benefits, but if you are trying to improve an existing project plan, then you can also work the other way round.

Starting at the Benefits end, ask:

  • Who will have to be doing what (new/differently) for the benefits to be realised?
  • What knowledge, skills or capabilities will these people need, to enable them to do those new/different things?

The answers will almost certainly identify an additional set of “change management” deliverables, without which benefits cannot be realised. These might include Training  programmes, Communication campaigns, new Measurement/Reward systems, or even new people.

Often, it isn’t the Project Manager’s job to make the changes happen; that responsibility lies in the business and the Sponsor will be accountable for the achievement of the benefits. However, if the PM isn’t working with the business to ensure the change elements are identified, in place and implemented, then there’s not a cat in hell’s chance of any benefits being realised. At that point, it will be blindingly obvious that a Deliverable is not a Benefit (and too late!).

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