Blog: IT's the Value Stupid

Blog: IT's the Value Stupid

Chances are you have never considered engaging the science of neurolinguistics to advance your project management efforts - even if you've ever made a study of the field - but perhaps it's time you did.

Jed Simms, Founder and Executive Chairman of Capability Management and, has been doing just that for a considerable period of time, and says the results have helped him formulate a kind of Holy Grail of project value delivery.

Wikipedia defines neurolinguistics as the science surrounding the human brain mechanisms underlying the comprehension, production and abstract knowledge of language, be it spoken, signed or written. It's an interdisciplinary endeavour straddling the borders between linguistics, cognitive science, neurobiology and computer science. In other words, it's all about the science of communication, and the way different people respond to words in different ways.

In a newly published ebook, "In search of the 'holy grail' for projects", Simms points to the advantages project leaders can gain from applying the science to the search for desired business outcomes from projects.

Simms says during the in-depth research study he's conducted over the past few years of major Australian organizations' ability to deliver value from their projects, he's subjected 59 projects across 27 organizations to detailed analysis. Not one of those projects had defined their true desired business outcomes, while 93 per cent had missed identifying significant value from their projects: "Value the business was expecting (even if non-consciously) that was not even thought about let alone planned to be delivered."

The common mistake of all those businesses, he says, was to focus on the wrong outcomes - the project's outcomes, rather than the business's outcomes. Defining our "desired business outcomes", he says, forces us to define what we really want.

Imagine you want a holiday in London. Go to your travel agent (project manager) and ask them to arrange to get you to London and you are likely to end up stranded at the arrivals hall at Heathrow airport. The travel agent will be fully entitled to believe they have done their job (getting you to London) and that they can then close off the project. Since hanging around an airport terminal isn't likely to be the way you imagined spending your holiday, the project can be said to have failed to meet your expectations and as a result, you are likely to find yourself spending a fortune on accommodation, taxis, theatre tickets and all of the other things which you could have had cheaper were they booked in advance.

Your error, of course, would be that in asking your travel agent to 'get you to London' you gave them the wrong desired outcome. What you really wanted is more likely to be, "I want to stay in a boutique hotel in central London, within easy access of the theatres and other major sights, with tickets for the following shows ..." This would allow your travel agent to focus on arranging your complete holiday - flights, hotels, connecting travel, theatre tickets, etc. And, often, at a cheaper price than you could organize on site.

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