A senior manager’s guide to managing benefits: optimizing the return from investments
Stationery Office (available via Amazon)
- Was Steve going to be able to rein in his exuberance and boundless energy (if you’ve heard him talk benefits management, you’ll know exactly what I mean!) for the topic to be able to talk to senior managers in their own language and keep them engaged?
- Would senior managers gain enough knowledge to understand the benefit of managing benefits?
- Is there enough in the book to stimulate and enable action?
- I wouldn’t have to read a monster tome before writing this review – this one can fit comfortably in a shirt pocket!
Starting with structure, Steve covers the following topics in concise chapters:
- What are Benefits and Benefits Management?
- Why Do You Need Benefits Management and What Will You Get From It?
- What Are The Barriers To Success
- How Do You Overcome The Barriers To Benefits Realization?
- How Do You Get Started and Sustain Progress?
- What Techniques are Available to You?
- What are the Key Questions You Should be Asking?
Without even reading the content, it becomes really apparent that the book is making a huge effort to talk to the intended audience, in simple terms, and with no jargon. Indeed the jargon is explained towards the end of the booklet in a very handy glossary, and nicely aligned with all those other terms we have come to love from Prince2™, MSP™ et al. What I really like though is that Steve has plucked out only the most important items to explain in the glossary, keeping it focused on the job in hand and the aforementioned senior management readership.
Starting from the beginning then, the introduction provides a compelling reason for the busy executive to invest an hour of their precious time, because that is all the time that it takes to thoroughly absorb the whole of this 50-page A6 booklet. I particularly like the “call to arms” which reminds senior management of the necessity of their involvement in the process of managing benefits and most importantly their responsibility in setting the culture of the organisation to embrace Benefits Management as a worthwhile practise to optimise shareholder value.
Unlike some book reviews, I’m not going to précis all of the content. Suffice to say, Steve succinctly and accessibly covers what senior management need to understand. I’m sure practitioners will also gain significant value from this little book in that it gives implicit guidance on what their lords and masters most need to know, and is a great example of how to communicate upwards for impact. If you’ve read the big thick Management of Benefits reference work, then you will not learn any new theory. But that’s really not the point of this book.
Taking a “Jennerism” to heart (“when all is said and done, more is said than done”), where the book really excels is the practical, no-nonsense final trio of chapters, focusing the mind on the “doing”. Here, the energised senior manager will be able to contextualise the theory against their own organisation. One of the traits that I think really set aside the best senior leaders is the ability to take an intellectual retreat from the hurly-burly of running a demanding business or unit, and do a bit of reflection and wide thinking. Bill Gates was famous for his “think week” lakeside retreats where he took a whole bunch of new ideas and spent time just thinking about the “what if…” – here’s an opportunity to take your own mini-retreat – one that could have a profound impact on your business.
The strength of the book is therefore how it tells an important story to senior managers, and also gives them a framework for deciding on the applicability to their world, and some common-sense steps to implementation – the “doing” guide and the self assessment are invaluable tools to animate the implementation process.
Looking across the available reports and literature, it is well-established that benefits management has traditionally been the poor cousin (and the poorest implemented) of other more commonly understood aspects of project and portfolio management maturity. Now that “Managing Benefits” is available and strongly aligned to the other Best Management Practise guides (noticeably for portfolio and programme management), I predict much more interest in the topic, leading to a general improvement in the rate of projects deemed to be successful. This tiny and cheap booklet could well provide the tipping point by demonstrating the imperative to the leaders who can make benefits management happen in and add value to an organisation.
Back to my original three questions then, my answers are yes, yes and yes. Buy lots of them (only £5.00), and distribute them wisely if you’re serious about managing benefits (and you should be, if you spend any money on projects in your organisation!).
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Reviewed by Chris Walters
Chris Walters is a seasoned PPM professional currently working for Vodafone Group. Over the last 25 years he has managed projects predominantly in the IT and telecoms sector, and as a PM consultant managed projects involving pigs, aeroplanes, power stations, ferries, drugs, cable TV, old people, banks and cars – not all at the same time though. As the ex-Chairman of the APMs PMOSIG, he has nurtured his interest in the organisational aspects of PPM, especially PMOs and portfolio management.