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Delivering at Speed: Risk vs Outcome

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A new report on the opportunities and threats of working at speed by the National Audit Office (NAO) has been published today, 24 September. 

The report highlights that delivering programmes at speed does not mean a lack of planning. It confirms that decision makers need to identify and understand the risks, benefits and reasons for speed, to decide whether to take the increased risk or, for example, change what will be delivered.

The report mirrors research by Association for Project Management (APM) research; for example, the 2018 wellbeing of project professionals report demonstrated clearly that whilst you may be able to deliver a project quicker, the impact of burnout on the project team may mean there are implications on the wider programme or portfolio – it may take time for team members to be operationally ready again.

This is something APM’s upcoming research report on rethinking capabilities will touch upon. That report calls urgency a double-edged sword, as the benefits are often matched by equal pitfalls, and comments on project manager mindset in these situations.

And in terms of decision-making, a key part of the NAO report, APM’s 2021 report Detect, reflect and adapt: factors influencing critical project decisions highlighted three levels of decision making practice. As complexity and uncertainty increase, greater emphasis will be placed on a project professional’s ability to detect the factors influencing the decision, reflect on the interactions between factors and adapt decision-making strategies to fit the situation. The key to success is to engage in all three levels.

Andrew Baldwin, head of public affairs at APM, said: “This report draws some interesting insights into considerations for delivering a programme at speed. As well as the emphasis on faster and more efficient delivery, APM supports the notion of more effective decision making and wellbeing, supporting our recent research.

“There are enhanced cost, delivery and capacity risks in delivering at speed which must be properly thought through and decided upon.  Government departments need to monitor and address any potential wellbeing issues from ‘always being on’.

“Nevertheless, as the past few years have shown, when done right, projects delivered at speed can deliver on scope, on time, and on budget.”

Click Here for details of the NAO report



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  1. Hugo Minney
    Hugo Minney 29 October 2021, 09:28 AM

    Too many major projects are beset by delays, with the excuse that we won't have quality if we move too fast. Yes there are challenges with moving at speed - shock horror! ir requires that project leadership teams actually do planning! Should we expect this from leadership teams? Should we expect proper support for people suffering the stresses and strains of project leadership, rather than a slowing down of delivery?