Posted tagged ‘project management’

The collapse of the corporate centre

August 15, 2011

Something not to throw away!

‘Never throw away your old drain-pipes’

My university lecturer was not talking about guttering but about the fashionable uber-skinny jean which had been in and out of fashion many times in his lecturing career. His argument was that if you follow local government you should be prepared to see ideas, structures and policies come in and out of fashion.

Never has a wiser word been said and as goes drainpipe trousers so goes the corporate centre within local authorities.

During the early 2000s the inspection and performance management regimes of the Labour Government were in full swing and the Audit Commission was constantly driving local authorities to improve their ‘corporate capacity’. The rationale for this was that councils were showing weak leadership from the Chief Executive down; decisions weren’t joined up and policy decisions weren’t being made from a structures evidence base.

What followed was a substantial investment in policy and performance teams. Allied to this was a renewed focus on engaging the public so added to this new central function was an investment in community engagement expertise and communications teams. On top of this was a new focus on working in partnership with local providers and a commitment to meet the Government’s equalities agenda so these teams were added to the corporate centre along with the recently amended committee teams now embarking on the new world of scrutiny.

Councils were asked to focus on centralising certain functions and teams like procurement, business improvement and project management were added to the centre; often grouped together with the others in a Chief Execs department or a deputy chief deputy chief execs team in some bigger authorities.
(more…)

Prince Harry (Otherwise known as PRINCE 2)

March 23, 2011

An improvement over PRINCE 1 (William)?

One of my welovelocalgovernment colleagues put up a blinding piece about stifling creativity in local government. Unfortunately, the areas he was criticising are nearly all areas I work in. Develop a pro-forma? Check. Created a Steering Group? Check. Filled in timesheets? Check. Introduce Project Management software? Half-check. Been on PRINCE 2 training? Aha, success! One piece of creativity destruction that I have managed to avoid!

But, if I’m honest this simply isn’t success on my behalf.

I’ve never been on PRINCE 2 training because my authority wouldn’t pay for it; I wanted to go but just wasn’t allowed.

To use my colleague’s framework; I wanted to stifle my creativity but wasn’t allowed to reach my full stifling potential.

So, assuming that the central argument was more or less correct, why was I so keen to go on this piece of training and develop the PRINCE 2 skills?

(It is probably worth explaining here that PRINCE 2 is a methodology for managing projects. It stands for Projects in Controlled Environments and was specifically designed for use in the public sector. It is widely used throughout local authorities in the UK)

A simple argument would be that I wanted to make myself more employable. That is part of it but I think that probably misses the central point of why it would make me more employable:

I wanted to be PRINCE 2 qualified because everyone else in local government was getting the qualification and everyone is using it. PRINCE 2 has become ubiquitous across local government and those without it are, in many roles, often seen as behind the times.

In one of my previous authorities you couldn’t move without running up against someone who was PRINCE 2 qualified. From the admin assistants to those who put together Government bids to people managing small projects in the council to scrutiny officers (who ‘managed’ scrutiny reviews) to those building whole schools the one thing that united them was a PRINCE 2 qualification.

Some authorities sent their whole management team on courses (anywhere between £750 and £2,000 per person) and declared boldly that they were ‘PRINCE 2’ authorities and were going to run their management teams with just exception reporting, Gantt charts, well kept risk registers and updated PiDs. (if this is verbal garbage then I can only apologise: Google is probably the answer)

So why PRINCE 2?

(more…)