SOOP Recipe (Procedure): Help Your C-Suite Frame Options and Agree Actions For Benefits from Strategy

When I started to feel I knew enough about projects to ask good questions I concluded most of what I was told and see in use is unequal to the needs of businesses.Jump to The Steps.

Businesses exist in a market-place. The market place runs right to left from dated objectives such as annual report and accounts or donor application deadlines. NOTE: All organisations exhibit business like behaviours. Not all organisations are profit driven but they are all value for money sensitive and resource hungry.

…from Initial Idea to Steady State Benefits and from Board-room to Boiler Room (and back)™

For example: if people are the hardest and most important part of change where is the psychology and sociology? If a project has a clear start and end how come we start when the exec don’t know or agree on what they want and end before benefits are realised? How come text books tell me a successful project hits time cost and budget when the investor isn’t even mentioned in this answer!? The text books are Flat-Earth. They are irrelevant to the real needs of businesses, most people and all investors. The text books do set out some guidance relevant to project practitioners but many project practitioners live in a bubble disconnected from the business world which pays their wages.

A world that is internally self referential and consistent and self-justifying. Its founded on a broken ‘ultimate truth’ that never was of the Cost-Scope-Time triangle. Bullshit to bamboozle the business based on a ‘truth’ like the sun orbits the earth.

So for many years I’ve been collecting the better, more pragmatic of the ideas ‘out-there’. Every source has some nuggets mixed with elements to reject (imho).

For example: a morning Toolbox-Talk (or in agile speak ‘Daily Stand-Up Meeting’) is a great idea but hardly helps with the operational delivery of benefits flows until they are used in Operations as well as Development. SO for 30 years as I have encountered ideas I have been evaluating, filtering, adopting, adapting, aggregating and then integrating what remained by removing excesses and incompatibilities and by re-purposing into new contexts. I’ve filled gaps and smoothed the set into an increasingly complete perspective and path that reaches from Initial Idea to Steady State Benefits and from Board-room to Boiler Room (and back)™. Whole of enterprise. In total I call it Caring for Capital™.

Caring-4-Capital is end-2-end, top-2-bottom and relevant-2-reality.

Agile, PMBoK, PRINCE2 and MSP contain unbeatable nuggets, are perfectly compatible and are only about half of what we need in total

The sum total result is a framework with techniques and tools that leverages existing investment in good practices – no baby out with the bath water. For example Agile, PMBoK Guide, PRINCE2 and MSP (Managing successful programs) are, between them  half of a whole. They contain unbeatable nuggets. They are perfectly compatible. ALL needed in every context. BUT They are just not complete even when used together AND they include ‘truths’ that are plain wrong.

They are only half of what we need because there authors are all from a supplier side perspective. Utterly unaware of their bias and what that leaves them blind too – they don’t know what they don’t know – but when used well Agile and PRINCE etc are still valuable. BUT None of them individually or together are anywhere near engaging the C-Suite or the wider community – there will be shouted protest in some quarters – “We insist you have a strong product owner – see we are business relevant” but on its own this is exhorting  us to ‘be successful’. It is not an actionable recipe. We have to search beyond advice from the supplier biased authors to find HOW to provide the critical success factors which are much broader and more specific than just ‘how a product owner behaves when successful’.


Below is my outline end-to-end and top-to-bottom road-mapping summary – Full understanding comes from the training workshops.


Above is my context diagram. You cannot CtO (Change the Organisation) without balancing capacity with Run the Organisation (RtO). But this context is also less than the whole picture. Less than half because CtO for benefits in RtO is more about people’s shared behaviours than systems and buildings, plant or machinery. New shared behaviours are hard to create.

The first pre-requisite essential is a vision of the end point. Now consider how much of P2, MSP, PMBoK-G or even Agile is guidance about framing a vision of an end-point? They all say its the start. None tells us HOW TO achieve it.

The initial thumbnail for how to frame change in the organisation is a few bullets relevant to all leaders and change managers. It is every Enterprise Portfolio Office’s guide to supporting the C-Suites translate their market-place pressures plus mission and values into vision and action plans.

[ MP + M + Va = Vi
Intent + Control = Governance
Governance + Will + Skill + Capacity = Benefit.
Benefit – (Cost to Acquire + Cost to Own)  = Value ]

MP = Market Place the irresistible swirl of unstable pressures, M Mission = Reason to exist, Va = Values, Vi = Vision – Current destination or Intent.

The Steps

  1. Agree a description with the Investor-Sponsor-CEO-Chair who ever is the Single Point of Accountability of what they will see that tells them they have achieved the operational behaviours that are on their desired benefits path.
    • Note this is “THEIR” destination.
      • So when they set it the challenge is “So you can make this happen?”.
    • Note too that it starts with a delivery date. Note too that the Critical Success Factors are all at the ends of levers their hands are on.
      • This is what servant leadership means when your the steward with fiduciary duties over (your own or) other people’s capital. Capital that starts with people, procedures, customer relationships, plant, trade secrets, supply chain, …
    • The format is “As <Leader> I have seen <behaviours> in <context> on <date>” – This is a statement in hindsight and it is a test of  “change has arrived”.
      It is a Benefits Entry Test.
      It postulates the behaviours that are the minimum critical elements for the desired benefits flows to start and importantly for the psychology is stated as if we have already arrived at this benefits-flow point.
  2. Now we cascade the As <Leader> I see <behaviour> at <location> in <context> on <date> to the operational heads and ask “What minimal behaviours and infrastructure were pre-requisite within your directorate that achieved the bosses’ Benefits Entry inspection event?
    • Phrase the answers as “As <operational manager> I have created and I see <shared behaviours from procedures using Infrastructure> in <context> at <date>” that are pre-requisite to “As <leader>…”. These behaviours will be the new habits or culture of a future stable future business.
      When we move from back-casting our market-place constrained goals to forecasting our actions then these will be the visible, motivating Tipping Points or way-markers on the way to success.
  3. In parallel with 1 and 2) With the CFO (or other benefits scorekeeper) ask “What is the organisation’s web of factors that drive the size of old and new P&L items?” (how ever “P” is defined – P&L is the Profit and Loss account, also known as the Income and Expenditure profile of the running organisation). When we have the list now match it to the investor’s benefit behaviour tests and the management’s decomposition.
    • Phrase these “As <CFO/Owner’s governance> I see <P&L/ other benefits flows in our accounts/ other scorecard “.
    • Expect a many-to-many mapping.
      • Check in both directions for omissions and unwanted consequences. Again the phrasing is as hindsight. When we see these criteria we will know benefits are flowing and will be able to ask “If we do more to optimise the flow what is the total set of affects on Value? Is local optimisation (more) damaging in other places?”. This is an executive debate over RtO vs CtO (#lmlCtO) in a future beyond Benefit Entry Tests. We need to do more to get there…
  4. In parallel with 5) and 6) below calculate the absolute hi & lo watermark affect on the changes to P and changes to costs and the same for the balance sheet.
    • Draw the cumulative confidence “S” curve between the two. Perhaps use Pareto to target an 80% bang for the buck point? (there’s an Alice’s adventures Rabbit hole to explore here).
  5. Aggregate the “As <Ops-manager> I created habits…” plus “As CFO I see benefits flow” and then Rationalise out the private agendas, apportion the ‘double counting’, gaps and overlaps.
    • This is now the beginnings of a “So I’m prepared to spend this much for those benefits”. The benefit view comes first. As yet we have NOT expressed what the solution looks like JUST how we will know when we’ve arrived at the destination.
  6. When a consolidated list of beneficial business operational habits is achieved then confirm with the investor “As <investor> I have the power and the will to <make the required decisions/ take escalated instruction when it arrives from below/ give meaningful instruction> in order to achieve the Tipping-Points that deliver my “As <leader>…”. This is the acid test of the dates included in prototype “As…” tests above. Where necessary amend ‘time-boxes’.
  7. Task the management who must create behaviours with “build your product backlog or Work(Product)BreakdownStructure and sprint backlog or activities and dependencies (or kanban)” that is critical to enabling the As <Ops-manager>. Express as milestone SMART targets or other Management by Objectives etc methods that can be delegated and are recognisable to project teams as sufficient to select development methods and assess duration and resource demands.
    We expect to see a variety of alternative “This Benefit test could be delivered by this solution”. The emphasis is on people and procedure not technology.
  8. Task the technicians who must create infrastructure (Fixed assets and systems) that enables business behaviours with “here are the milestone on the path to benefits” – decompose as backlog or WBS until resource needs and other baseline elements are estimable.
    We expect a variety of technical options. Use any of Agile and Kanban and scope-driven methods with directive or servant leadership or complex adaptive methods to arrive at shared mental models of the ‘battlefield actions’ and daily/ weekly/ sprint/ stage/ release controls.
  9. For the forecast plans that are evolving at 7) and 8) to deliver the back-cast tipping points from 2) determine the aggregate portfolio resource profiles and thus the investment half of the discounted cash-flows.
    • Overlay and rationalise resource availability and resource demand for whole portfolio (RtOCtO – balancing allocation between “Run the Organisation” and “Change…”). Compare solution option TimeScales and costs to select solutions that deliver benefit entry tests within business acceptable constraints.
    • Dismiss all “You don’t understand; you see there is this Iron Triangle” bullshit with “The requirement is ‘only propose approaches that meet the milestone’s complete definitions WITHIN the constraints’. A proposal that isn’t within the limits is not a solution. Go find SOLUTIONS – they always exist.”
  10. Now we also need to deal with the sociology of emotional reactions to change when imposed on communities and the psychology of individuals.
    • In parallel with 2) or 5) Cascade the As <leader>… to the wider organisation with “Change is coming (and neither I nor you can stop it but together we can shape our response). We all recognise each-other’s loss, let’s take a moment to grieve then please share how we should/could/ will adjust to accommodate change in the best way for you – I.E. your Whats in it for me? (there’s another Alice’s adventures Rabbit hole to explore here as people progress grief’s Shock-Anger-Resistance curve).
  11. Recognise and address all audience and participant’s wiifms. Give people time to adjust. Relocate those who choose not to adjust. Note the emotional journey is now happening at change’s start not at output’s delivery. Emotions are addressed when there is opportunity to provide input and with time to travel the grief curve.
  12. Trigger change – mostly a strong force from a disaster works best!
    • But strong forces are not easily directed to focus on an outcome but they do cause action.
    • Publicise the wiffms and the achievements from the kanban/backlog.
    • If the WIIFM and Vision and the target habits are well known and well aligned then people’s resulting actions WILL gravitate towards the WIIFM so WILL deliver the habits (behaviours/ Tipping Points) on the benefits path.
    • There is a ‘reinforce the right behaviours with rewards and punish the wrong behaviours’ story to create here
  13. When the “As <Leader>…” benefit entry tests become observable so the CFO’s “I see benefit flows” become MEASURABLE! and the operational management’s “I facilitate appropriate behaviours” becomes new routine (new habit or new culture).
    • When we can measure the benefit flow rate we can decide “Is this flow at the level where further care is simply operational? If so then we can exit Benefit development activities in favour of Business As Usual operations.
    • Note that we recognise the Benefit Exit Test as “With hindsight we have now done enough” and that at no point above did we ever set a numeric benefit target – Only behavioural targets. No one ever got shot for delivering 11% instead of 10% but people often find un-expected and unwanted ways to deliver a localised number.


If you’d like to develop your capability to the level of facilitating work shops that define P&L aligned risk profiles and executive action on escalation (for example what do you do when your community includes people who cannot envisage a target but can moan about the status quo? What do you do when the plan devised is no longer going to deliver those fixed dated benefit flow tests? How do you respond to people’s fears and anxieties when they hear change is irresistible?” then check-out the training courses on our learning portal.