Projects large and small can benefit from clarification of their objectives and the development of a robust framework for making key decisions. The discipline of value management (VM), with its emphasis on optimising the relationship between the satisfaction of wants and the use of resources, provides a variety of tools which can be deployed for these purposes.
VM is a compulsory aspect of some well-known project management systems, such as Network Rail’s GRIP (Governance of Rail Investment Projects) or the former Highways England PCF (Project Control Framework). The Civil Service is also encouraged to think about its projects through a value lens with the Axelos Management of Value (MoV) training programmes.
These model processes specify that at relatively early stages of a project, the team – assisted by relevant stakeholders – should critically consider the objectives to generate an appropriate scope and prioritise the likely component parts of the project. In GRIP, this is known as the VM1 or ‘Output Definition’ study; it is often conducted through systematic questioning of the assumptions underpinning a project, examining the perspectives of different stakeholders, or structuring information using tools such as SWOT or function analysis.
There are a number of recent initiatives in Network Rail that have been intended to improve this part of the process. These include a major rethink of the output definition stage, and the tools which project managers use to map how and why the various components of each project are being undertaken. This allows project teams to develop a picture of how the components fit together logically and what they are intended to achieve.
Later on in the project life cycle, both GRIP and PCF specify an ‘Option Selection’ stage, during which a definitive choice must be made between any alternatives for the overall design philosophy of a project. Much detailed design may be left to undertake after the final option is selected, but the major decisions must be made in a rational and justifiable manner at an early stage, in order to minimise the chance of having to revisit options and enact significant redesign or even rebuild work later.
To assist with this stage, it’s helpful to think of VM as a toolbox that contains different pieces of suitable equipment. There’s flexibility in this and an element of choice and judgement involved in deciding which tools are appropriate for each situation. The tools available range from those requiring only simple arithmetic up to others dependent on complex economics and algebra. However, mixing and matching techniques can also provide solutions for many situations.
Used in the right way the VM toolbox can furnish you with all the equipment you need to solve a variety of project problems.