TOP is learnable, teachable knowledge for executing strategy and delivering value through projects

TOP enables everyone in an organization – from senior business executives down to front-line operational staff, and project & technical specialists – to easily define valuable projects to execute strategy and then deliver the business results successfully.

TOP is a thinking process  based on Principles, Mental models, Frameworks, Processes, and Techniques. Developed over more than two lifetimes of work, the length, breadth and depth of TOP can be summed up in a simple definition.

TOP is…

  • a step-by-step approach to successfully delivering totally optimized projects,
  • based on a set of proven principles
  • that underpin a complete, integrated and optimized set of processes
  • that equip business teams and project professionals
  • to simply, effectively and consistently deliver
  • their desired business outcomes, associated benefits and value in full
  • in less time and for less cost.

Read on for a quick overview of TOP…

The Big Picture

Desired Outcomes and Path Dependency

Many pundits “talk” about Outcomes. No one but TOP teaches you exactly how to define them.

TOP gives you systematic step-by-step thinking processes so you can answer the simple questions essential for successful execution:

“What are we are intending to achieve?” and

“What does the future look like when it is working just right?”

These are your Desired Outcomes. To answer these questions, you carefully craft outcome statements that describe the future.

Then you link these outcomes together in an Outcomes Path Dependency Roadmap to explain:

“What is the path-dependent relationship between these outcomes?”

Path Dependency is a concept that explains how crucial decisions either open-up or close-down options in the future. The roadmap shows how the outcomes will be realized over time and makes clear what is the best sequence in which tackle the execution/realization process.

Desired Outcomes and Path Dependency are the building blocks that underpin all the other pieces of TOP.

What is the TOP Value Equation™?

The TOP Value Equation™ Once you have defined your Desired Outcomes, you can then determine:

“Is this project a good idea?”

TOP makes this assessment easy through its core framework The Value Equation™, which contains simple step-by-step processes to define:

O - outcomes, B - benefits, V - value and D - value drivers.

Once you have clearly defined the Outcomes, Benefits and Value, you then answer the question:

“how do we achieve the outcomes, benefits and value?”

by systematically identifying what change Activities are required to deliver them.

The Value Equation is the core framework on which all the other building blocks of TOP rest.

When:

  • When the business clearly defines what they intend to achieve and its value, project professionals can deliver more effectively. No more mind-reading or guessing.
  • When business executives and sponsors understand the Value Equation, they can choose how best to optimize the amount invested for the return delivered, that is to get more for less!
  • The Value Equation makes clear what the project intends to deliver and how to choose the best sequence for the change activities that realize it.
  • The Value Equation enables tracking of Value as well as Cost through all the delivery phases. It enables value-based decisions to direct the project.

What are the other parts of TOP?

More than just a methodology or body of knowledge - TOP is a complete end-to-end, top-to-bottom business strategy and value delivery approach that incorporates all four of the Value Delivery lenses.

TOP does not create additional work. On the contrary, it's designed to eliminate steps and reduce the overall project workload, time and cost. TOP especially helps eliminate the extensive amount of the rework - 30% or more - that is typical with the current project focussed mindsets and approaches.

TOP brings a different thinking process and a simpler approach to projects to incorporate additional steps, all with a focus on business value optimization and delivery.

Once you have defined a Value Equation™, you can:

  • Develop a value-based Business Case
  • Assess a project’s Strategic Contribution
  • Prioritize a project portfolio, clearly understanding how each project contributes to the overall strategy
  • Direct and lead the project through effective Project Governance
  • Build a Strategic Level Value Equation to assess the project portfolio is complete, and there are no gaps.
  • These are just some of the end-to-end components of TOP which can be accessed in our online Centers of Expertise.

How do you apply TOP?

We describe TOP as a thinking process.

To apply TOP to a strategy, business initiative or a project,

“You simply need to bring your brain, something to write on, something to write with and someone to work with.”           Alex Chapman

TOP does not provide software at the moment (although we never say never). We believe there are plenty of excellent software tools in the marketplace into which you can input and track the work products that TOP produces.

What makes TOP different?

TOP is different because it is fast to use and rigorous at the same time.

People can learn and apply TOP and gain insights quickly. They can define complex projects or remediate challenged ones in days or weeks, where conventional approaches can take months or years.

To speed the learning of staff and the richness of thinking, TOP embeds ten techniques for accelerated learning - Engineered Thinking™. We teach you these techniques so that you can apply them consciously. They show people the natural journey by which the brain learns and plans for the future and the natural stages of the journey:

  • from ‘fuzzy”,
  • to “clear enough” to get started, to finally,
  • laser-like clarity to enable meticulous execution.

“What humans do especially well is to prospect the future. We are homo prospectus.”        Prof Martin Seligman.

What is the new role for Advisors and Mentors?

TOP’s learnable and teachable knowledge changes the model for how specialist advisors and mentors can (and should) help organizations.

TOP is “anti-hero” and “anti-guru” and “anti-consultants” of the conventional sort. We believe that external support should not rescue disasters nor borrow your watch to tell you the time.

Instead, we believe the role of TOP practitioners is to accelerate the organization, by helping you learn and apply TOP. TOP practitioners work alongside your team as they tackle and resolve a real business issue. Your team build their skills and competency as they deliver the results.

Who does TOP help?

  • C-level and executive leadership team members who need to execute strategy and deliver valuable projects and business results;
  • Project Sponsors and Steering Committee members who must work together across the organization to define the project business case and then steer the project into the organization;
  • Investment Committee members and enterprise portfolio managers who must choose how to allocate investment capital to fund projects and determine the overall portfolio of projects to be delivered;
  • High performing project directors and specialists who want to deliver value to the business and need a better starting point than the unclear one they are commonly given.
  • Managers and staff in the organization who desire the knowledge, skills and expertise to improve their working environment or lead their teams to do that.
  • Advisors and Mentors who wish to work collaboratively with clients to accelerate results, and who seek skills and tools to use with and transfer to their clients.

TOP changes the model of what the project delivers

TOP states the endpoint of a project should be a “working just right” operational business-as-usual environment - Desired Outcomes.

TOP distinguishes this from the standard Turnkey model, inherited from construction project models, by using a metaphor:

You want the “factory making bricks” – the desired outcome, 
not a “brick making factory” – a deliverable or output or capability.

TOP states that a project should deliver an operational environment, working “just right” to the level of performance which had been defined in the business case, as a series of carefully crafted “Desired Outcome Statements”.

How does TOP link to other methodologies and management ideas?

TOP focuses on the layers above project management – the business value delivery and organization leadership layers.

TOP fills the gaps and addresses the deficiencies that exist in how projects are approached and delivered today. Importantly, TOP builds on the project approaches you have; they don’t need to be thrown out or replaced. They may need to be realigned at some points to be more optimal and enable the business to more effectively lead, direct and govern projects.

TOP does not replace project management methods such as PMI or PRINCE2 – indeed, what comes out of TOP’s processes feeds wonderfully well into the orthodox project planning approaches. TOP makes it easy for high performing project specialists to collaborate with the business to deliver results for the organization. TOP’s Centers of Expertise, and the tools and techniques they contain join up these other project frameworks.

TOP does disagree with some of the orthodox views on some aspects of how projects should be delivered. For example, there is a view that “projects do not deliver benefits; programs do”. TOP says this is nonsense. All projects (and programs) should deliver benefits and value.

TOP meshes wonderfully with conventional project delivery processes and software techniques. Indeed, TOP enables these to be far more effective as TOP makes sure that ALL the activities required to deliver the Desired Outcomes are identified, accurately estimated, and visible on the project plan so they can be managed.

TOP enables AGILE & SAFe by providing crystal clear definitions of outcomes and business processes needed for AGILE to work.

Outcomes-Thinking and Path Dependency can be used by high-performing managers and consultants to organize their own minds and their expertise so that they can communicate complex ideas more effectively to their team.

The TOP payoff?

  • Your organization can define, plan and execute valuable projects.
  • Your staff build their skills and competency.
  • Strategy execution and value delivery become a core capability of the organization.
  • Projects are delivered quicker, through far more effective execution and project implementation planning.
  • Projects deliver the maximal value for the optimal cost.

In short...

A totally optimized project