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Guiding Success Through the Benefit Breakdown Structure
A Project Manager's Journey
Lucas had always been a capable project manager but had encountered his fair share of challenges. From scope creep to missed deadlines, he'd weathered through the stormy waters of project management. Little did he know that a transformative tool awaited him - the Benefit Breakdown Structure (BBS) notation - a compass guiding him towards unprecedented success.
As Lucas embarked on a new project, he couldn't help but feel a mix of excitement and trepidation. The goals were clear, and the team was ready, but he knew that staying on track and delivering real value was paramount. That's when he crossed paths with Mia, a seasoned project management guru with a penchant for seeing projects through the lens of benefits.
"Mia," Lucas inquired tentatively, "how can I ensure that this project doesn't just end up being another checklist of tasks? I want to make sure we're delivering tangible value."
Mia smiled knowingly. "Lucas, have you ever heard of the Benefit Breakdown Structure?"
Lucas shook his head, intrigued.
"Well," Mia began, "imagine a roadmap that starts with the end in mind. The BBS notation is like a treasure map that guides you towards maximising the benefits your project can deliver."
Lucas leaned in, his curiosity piqued. "Tell me more."
"Picture this," Mia continued, "before you dive into the nitty-gritty of tasks and technology, start with the big picture. What's the strategic intent? Why are we investing time and resources in this project? Connect it to the company's overall strategy. Think of the project as an investment."
Lucas nodded, seeing the wisdom in Mia's words. "And then?"
Mia's eyes sparkled with enthusiasm. "Next, identify the benefits. Look at the project proposal and align it with the investment objective. What benefits can you aim for? Remember, a benefit isn't just a byproduct; it's something a stakeholder values."
Lucas scribbled notes furiously, his mind racing with possibilities.
Mia said, "Now, think about the business processes that need to change to realise each benefit. Benefits aren't conjured during the project; they're brought to life by changed processes by another organisation other than the project team. Which processes will bring these benefits to fruition?"
Lucas marvelled at the depth of insight. "But what is the project doing then?"
"Ah, the enablers," Mia said with a smile. "These are the elements your project will deliver. They're like stepping stones that pave the way for the changed processes. They're what make the benefits achievable. When you visualise objectives, benefits, business changes, and enablers as a network of boxes connected by arrows, you can follow the path from an objective to a specific task in your project through benefits and changes. This path provides the context for each task.
Lucas felt a newfound sense of clarity as he absorbed Mia's guidance. "Mia, this is incredible. It's like having a guidepost that keeps the project's purpose and value at the forefront."
Mia nodded in agreement. "Lucas. And remember, you won't always define the entire structure from start to finish. It's okay to work at it over time, adapting and updating as needed. You might even uncover dis-benefits, but that's a valuable part of the process."
Throughout the project, Lucas applied the BBS notation diligently. As Mia had predicted, it kept him aligned with the actual objectives, helping him make informed decisions and prioritise what mattered most. He found himself contemplating benefits before solutions, and it transformed his approach.
The actual test came during a crucial meeting where a new technology was proposed. His stakeholders were pushing hard: the shiny object syndrome at its worst. What should he do? Lucas remembered Mia's advice – don't fall in love with an idea; fall in love with a benefit. Instead of arguing against the technology, he questioned how the proposed technology aligned with the intended benefits and how it would change processes to create value.
Lucas's insightful queries led to reevaluating the technology, ultimately saving the project from veering off course. The team was grateful for his strategic thinking, and stakeholders were impressed by the focus on benefits.
As the project concluded, with objectives met and benefits realised, Lucas couldn't help but marvel at the power of the Benefit Breakdown Structure. It wasn't just a notation; it was a guiding philosophy that had transformed his approach to project management.
With Mia as his wise guide and the BBS as his compass, Lucas navigated the complex waters of project management with a newfound confidence. The lessons he'd learned would continue to shape his career, reminding him that true success wasn't in tasks accomplished but in benefits delivered.
I will explain the BBS in a later newsletter from a more technical perspective. But to better understand how the BBS from the story could look, please refer to the following diagram.
You read a BBS from the right side to the left. An arrow means that the right side is the context for the left side.
More information can be found here: Benefit Breakdown Structure Notation