Branch Dinner -Turning policy intent into practical reality: a National Audit Office view

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Posted by APM on 27th Oct 2010

Following the success of the first SWWE branch dinner last year it was decided to make this a fixture in the branch social calendar, and we returned to Engineers House, Clifton, Bristol for this year's branch dinner. We had fantastic support for the dinner, with 72 members attending.

Following drinks, Martin Gosden, the branch chair, welcomed guests and thanked them for their support, and in particular corporate members who had taken tables. Following the excellent three course dinner and wine, Martin Gosden invited our after dinner speaker, Mr Tim Banfield of the National Audit Office to speak about the challenges of turning government policy intent into practical reality.

Tims talk was very opportune with the Comprehensive Spending Review a couple of weeks away. The CSR will challenge all government departments to reduce costs which will require significant and radical change. Tims key message was that project managements time has come: Project managers have the unique skills to make change happen, to identify viable options, to manage stakeholders, to manage risk, to identify metrics to measure improvement and of course to deliver the required benefits.

This does present a challenge for the project management profession. Project professionals need to be seen to be integral to the fundamental change that Government needs to deliver and also to deal with the increasingly complex nature of so many large projects.

Traditionally project managers like certainty, a defined beginning and end and clear outcomes. But reality is increasingly becoming less certain: multiple stakeholders with differing views of success and failure; dependencies between projects; uncertain costs and funding; chaotic with respect to political interest and the short term impatient view of politicians when only a long term project will actually deliver.

What new skills, beyond those of the traditional project manager are needed now? Tim highlighted the need for strategic thinking, financial management; business planning, change, innovation, systems thinking; governance and ethics.

In thanking Tim for his challenging and thought provoking talk, Martin Gosden picked out ethics as a key challenge for the profession, which was also highlighted by Dr Martin Barnes, APM president, at last years dinner. As project professionals do we as individuals have the courage to stand by our professional code of conduct and challenge poor practice by project sponsors.

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