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Re-organising Chaos!

It has been obvious to everyone who has had anything to do with TCDC over the years that chaos rules when it comes to project management - and every other form of management it seems.

Things came to a head of course with the Mercury Bay Sportsgound which must rank as one the great construction cock-ups in the annals of New Zealand local government. But that was simply a symptom of underlying incompetence and inability to apply even basic management principles to the oversight of projects going back to the infamous Eastern Seaboards Wastewater Project.

Long-time readers will recall my criticism of the locally developed project management program that was used to keep control of projects and expenditure called Track24. It was of course belatedly dumped, and our Council has thrown its weight behind an "off the shelf" product - PRINCE2.

If you want to know just how bad it has been, here are some extracts from the internal implementation document that presaged the full PRINCE2 system from 1 July this year - it describes what was extant at the time of writing (earlier this year).


The current role structure to support the management and delivery of projects at TCDC does not fully support the project governance and decision making framework recommended in the PRINCE 2 framework. The Project Sponsor role is to authorise project initiation, budget forecasts and close out. Project Manager/Lead role responsible for the management of project deliverables. There is no formal process for risk mitigation, change control and overall direction and review of projects (end of year close out - is too late if project is off track).


The current processes being followed for the management of projects at TCDC lack structure, have limited supporting documentation, inconsistent approach to issue & risk management, controls are limited to financial tracking to budget and there is no clearly defined process to ensure projects across TCDC are management consistently.


TCDC is not currently disciplined in the documentation of projects, which has created significant issues on failed projects in the past. The Business/Project Improvement Team have introduced Project Definition and Business Case templates that have been completed for new CAPEX Projects for 2014 -2015 Annual Plan and 2015 -2025 Long Term Plan."

As often happens with this manner of implementing a new program based solution when management are panicking, and staff are rudderless, wrong choices are endemic. There is one way to introduce change – gradual, pragmatic and inclusive. Then there is the way born out of panic – headlong, prescriptive and driven from the top as if their very lives depended on it.

You can guess which one was introduced at TCDC. Quite apart from the appropriateness of PRINCE2 which as I understand it has an excellent reputation as a program management tool on large scale projects where there are large budgets, multifarious line management roles, and confusing communication channels. Major motorway/tunnel and hydro dam construction comes to mind.

The danger in applying such a solution to the problems that have built up over the years at TCDC lies in the tendency to over-complicate what should be a relatively simple process. Track24 was no process – it could not even keep track of expenditure, but PRINCE2 appears to be the complete opposite – a extraordinarily complicated overlay of approvals, detailed reporting and ultimate sign-offs. On first glance it appears to be wondrous piece of bureaucratic gobbledegook aimed at sheeting home responsibility in the event of failure at any level. 

I have only limited experience in the application of software of this nature, but I do know sufficient to be able to recognise the management syndrome that speaks to self-protection, and shedding of responsibility. It is a syndrome that is easily recognised at all levels of management, and one that engenders a silo mentality, skilled resistance, and a total absence of respect for authority. Participants learn to keep their heads down, and tick the boxes. The whole concept of co-operation, and fraternal sharing of knowledge and skills becomes an alien concept as management concentrate on sheeting home blame for the slightest failure.

I don’t intend to go on with further criticism that may again be mistakenly construed as directed at what must be a fairly shell-shocked body of workers at the coal-face of this Council, but I will say without hesitation that the level of management competence has been depressingly exposed, and the fact that someone with Ben Day’s obvious short-comings has managed to take the reins over the last year or two is a direct reflexion on the ability of a bullying mayor to get his own way on every issue, and a compliant and complacent CEO to preside over a disillusioned and demoralised workforce.  

‘Smile and wave’ – it seems to work!




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Reader Comments (2)

Bill you show your lack of understanding here. PRINCE2 is a methodology not a software solution - a simple google will help you . Secondly your statements about other solutions are also incorrect. While you may be correct about the lack of project and project information management i would not lay blame at PRINCE2 or any software solution. A good solution requires People, Process, Product to align in behavior, typically found in a mature organisation.

October 23, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterPrince

Thank you Prince - you are quite correct - it is not software as such, though it does appear to have software elements integrated into the process of implementing it.
Here is the short history summary taken from the Wikipedia article:

"PRINCE2 derives from an earlier method called PROMPT II (Project Resource Organisation Management Planning Techniques.) In 1989 the Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency (CCTA) adopted a version of PROMPT II as a UK Government standard for information systems (IT) project management. They gave it the name 'PRINCE', which originally stood for 'PR(OMPT II )IN( the )C(CTA )E(nvironment). PRINCE was renamed in a Civil service competition as an acronym for "PRojects IN Controlled Environments". However, it soon became regularly applied outside the purely IT environment, both in UK government and in the private sector around the world.[1] PRINCE2 was released in 1996 as a generic project management method.[2] PRINCE2 has become increasingly popular and is now a de facto standard for project management in many UK government departments and across the United Nations system.[3] In the 2009 revision, the acronym was changed to mean 'Projects IN a Controlled Environment'".

I don't think that at any stage I blamed PRINCE2 - the jury is still out on that score. What I said related to the complications that appear out of proportion in TCDC's case, but overall, I agree that the maturity of the organisation is in the end the determining factor.

October 23, 2015 | Registered CommenterBill Barclay

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