As part of our Wellingtone Maturity series, we wanted to share with you the benefits of maturity modelling for your organisation and PMO.  

To do that, it is so important to not focus just on the theory and data that is available but also to obtain insight from real humans who are involved in undertaking the Axelos P3M3 and other maturity assessments. 

So, during our latest webinar, we asked for the #human experience of these kinds of assessments. 

P3M3 is the Axelos Portfolio, Programme, Project (P3) Management Maturity Model (M3) and it is a way of measuring the capability of an organisation, or part of the organisation to deliver portfolios and/or programmes and/or projects in a repeatable way – the more mature the capability, the more likely it is to deliver consistent and predictable results. Learn more about the P3M3 maturity model.

What are the typical areas for improvement for organisations undertaking a P3M3 assessment?

There really is no typical, or one-size-fits-all outcome from a P3M3 assessment. Every organisation is different. But there are certainly some commonalities.  

For example, it would be very unlikely for an organisation to get anywhere above a low(ish) level 2 score without having a PMO, because it is having a PMO that typically brings the repeatable, defined and consistently executed approach to P3 delivery that would typify a level 3 organisation.  

Similarly, a lot of organisations score well on perspectives such as Management Control, Organisational Governance, and Finance Management – the core of P3 delivery; but are less strong on Benefits Management, Risk Management, Stakeholder Management and Resource Management.  

Specific areas of strength and weakness can vary according to the industry – you might expect, for example, a military/defence organisation to score higher in some areas than, say, a bank or academic institution, and often vice-versa.  

What are your lessons learned from undertaking assessments on behalf of organisations?

The key success factor for a P3M3 assessment is having the right sponsor; with an appropriate level of seniority within the organisation and indeed the right reason for completing the assessment in the first place – the why.  

If a reason such as getting to the bottom of poor P3 performance, or improving P3 performance to gain competitive advantage has been recognised at a high level within an organisation then it is more likely that the P3M3 assessment and subsequent capability improvement programme will be given the right level of sponsorship and thus a higher likelihood of a successful outcome.  

We are seeing a trend in major infrastructure contracts containing a pre-requisite for proof of maturity before awarding contracts. This is a key enabler for many organisations right now to be developing their maturity and demonstrating a strategic focus on PPM. 

Just as any change programme the roadmap following an assessment needs to be properly sold to those who will be impacted, so a P3M3 assessment needs to be carefully briefed to those who are going to be assessed. It needs to be stressed to all involved that this is going to be an entirely subjective look at how things are done with a view to identifying areas for improvement.  

Ensuring that people understand that this is not a witch hunt, i.e. it is not about seeking out blame for current or past poor performance, but in fact, much of the data captured doing an assessment is kept confidential or is anonymised to protect, for example, the interviewees, and to increase the likelihood that they will speak openly and candidly about any potential issues in the organisation.  

That being said, having the right people selected to interview is crucial for success. We can often see where people have selected a group of champions who will only provide positive feedback.  

In other cases, we see a group of people selected who the Sponsor knows will provide the worst-case scenario.  

Neither of these scenarios provides a true view of performance, so picking a good cross-section of interviewees can give a more balanced view. 

Another area that can really help with executive sponsorship is if any aspect of P3 capability/performance has already been captured on the corporate risk register because then P3M3 can be used as an effective tool to properly understand that risk and put in place controls (i.e. capability improvements) to mitigate it.  

What are your top tips for companies being assessed?

As mentioned above, have a good reason for doing the assessment and the right level of sponsorship. Ensure that the reasons are communicated so that the participants in the assessment (and their levels of line management) are more likely to cooperate.  

Approach the assessment with an open mind and a willingness (as opposed to resistance) to hear what might seem like bad news and criticism. P3M3 reports focus on what is good and what can be improved, rather than specifically on what is bad. This is a subtle but important difference.  

Properly plan the assessment so you know exactly what area of capability is being looked at, and what projects/programmes/portfolios will be considered. Involve the right people and try to cover a variety of experience levels and seniority, in addition to external stakeholders such as sponsors, or customers of the work being done by programmes and projects.  

Know when you have reached the right level. Most UK organisations are at or below Level 2.5 to Level 3. Level 3 is a great place to be and getting to Level 4 can be very difficult. There may be diminishing returns involved in striving to reach higher levels when it simply would not benefit the organisation to get there.  

What should organisations avoid during and after the P3M3 assessment?

Don’t run before you can walk. There would be little point in doing a Portfolio Management assessment if you are not strong at Programme and/or Project Management.  

Don’t let personalities get in the way of the assessment. Recognise that sometimes strong-willed or senior people try to impose their opinion on the assessor as well as colleagues being assessed. The use of surveys and 1:1 interviews can help to minimise the effect that such people might otherwise have in a workshop environment (although workshops still have their place in P3M3, especially towards the end). 

Don’t insist on having a representative in the room during the interviews. It is important that the conversations are open and honest, and they won’t be with a Senior Leader checking in – the results are anonymised for a reason. 

After the assessment, do not underestimate the value of taking the time to prepare a properly informed roadmap which details priorities and anticipated maturity improvements through the delivery of new or enhanced capability. 

How long does it take organisations to move from one level to the next?

Typically one level = one year. This is true from level 1 to level 2 to level 3. After that, it can get harder and take up to 18 months to move from one level to the next.  

The reason it takes time is that each maturity step change is a cultural change, we are investing in people, in the way we work, and changing the way an organisation thinks; and this needs time. 

What happens after an assessment? 

P3M3 Maturity Model Assessment Insights from an AssessorIf you carefully plan and execute an improvement programme off the back of the P3M3 assessment, then you will likely know when you have reached your aspiration, but it’s important that you don’t take your gut feel like a certainty. 

We recommend that you complete a partial assessment after one year of work to understand how progress is going, make any relevant course corrections, and re-establish the decision to improve in this area.  

This approach can really support the momentum of the team as they can usually see the step changes that they have made during that time and it can re-energise the programme. 

At the two-year mark, it is a good idea to complete another full P3M3 assessment to finalise the loop by answering the question of “how well did we do?”. 

This confirmation helps to review progress and re-prioritise the activities required during the next step in your organisational PPM journey. 

 Our Wellingtone Maturity series will continue to explore maturity, the different levels and their organisational characteristics as well as how working with Wellingtone can support you in achieving a step-change in your own PPM maturity. 

Listen to the companion podcast

Mike Belch & Emma-Ruth Arnaz-Pemberton give an overview of the Axelos P3M3 maturity model as well some of the typical things that organisations do right and wrong, whilst sharing their experience of completing assessments.

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Monthly Newsletter

By: Emma Arnaz-Pemberton

Emma Arnaz-Pemberton
Consulting Director FAPM, MCMI, MPMI, MIoD PMO-CC, MoR, MSP, PRINCE2

Published: 6 November 2020

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