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Introducing Half double

A methodology for delivering impact from the start of a project

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Karoline Thorp Adland

Half Double is a project management methodology designed to deliver impact from the very beginning of a project.

It is built on Agile project management principles, yet revolves around three core components – Impact, Flow and Leadership – and was developed as a direct reaction to the finding that only one-third of projects are considered a success. Not only complex projects, but all projects. Internationally.  

Since its launch, we have seen Half Double dramatically increase project success rates. This is further backed by research undertaken by our collaboration partners – Aarhus University, the Technical University of Denmark and the Danish Industry Foundation – which shows an astonishing >70% success rate compared with the global industry benchmark of 33% first revealed in the Standish Group’s Chaos Report in 2015.

Today, there are 1,600 Half Double practitioners, with our own team of Half Double ambassadors including representatives from each of our business practices, meaning that Half Double can now be delivered to any client, in any industry.

The story behind Half Double.

The potential is impossible to ignore

The Standish Group’s 2015 study – which observed successful completion of projects over a 15-year period from all over the world and concluded that only one in three actually succeeded – indicates an enormous potential for rethinking and improving the way we do project management.

Projects already account for approximately 40% of the Western world’s GDP – and this is predicted to increase further. This means that even raising success rates by 5% or 10% could have an immense effect on the economy, productivity and across society.

But the fact that Half Double is proven to more than double success rates makes its potential impact on the world around us significant. And impossible to ignore.

The problem in project management

One question we couldn’t help but ask when the Standish Group’s findings were first published was why are known and accepted project management methodologies failing us? They’ve taken us so far, after all. And seem to be embedded in our ways of working.

But the reality is that traditional project management methodologies and tools are not developed to deal with the growing complexity of the problems we strive to solve and the increasingly complicated developments we aim to keep up with.

Classic project management methods are based on a different time – a time when the world was fairly stable and a time where success had a different meaning. Success was product-focussed and meant delivering what you promised: a project on time, at cost and on quality according to a set project plan.

What is success anyway?

At no point in our history has our world changed more rapidly than it is today.

As business keeps pace with this fast-changing and unpredictable dynamic, success has become less about delivering on set plans and more about creating impact and stakeholder satisfaction.

So, as the definition of project success has changed so too must our ways of managing projects. This is a simple yet fundamental realisation, and one that made us determined to design an agile methodology that cultivates success, according to a contemporary – not classical – definition of success: creating impact and stakeholder satisfaction.

Curious for more?

Then down the first two chapters of the Half Double book - it's 60 pages.

Half Double: tried, tested and true

Half Double is a human-centred project management methodology that has been tested and proven to radically improve project success rates because it works with instead of against human nature.

In truth, we are not the rational beings we think we are. As humans, we are subject to hundreds of biases and our personal preferences, beliefs, experiences and expectations all influence how we make decisions. Half Double is designed to take account of complexity and unpredictability, by focussing on people not processes.

Building on the Agile philosophy, Half Double embraces its blind spots and adds new perspectives. Agile project management principles place value on factors such as customer satisfaction and collaboration, working solutions, face-to-face interaction and reflection. Half Double takes this a step further to form a complete project methodology with three core components – Impact, Flow and Leadership – bound together by local translation.

Perfected in pilot projects

Having co-created the Half Double methodology together with Aarhus University, the Technical University of Denmark and the Danish Industry Foundation, Implement Consulting Group has led and driven over 50 pilot projects over the course of three years.

And by sharing our learnings and experiences from these pilot projects with our community of leading and influential project management practitioners, it has been possible to cultivate and refine the principles and ideas of Half Double in the real world.

Proven by academia

Half Double’s academic foothold has been secured by a team of researchers from Aarhus University and the Technical University of Denmark. Conducting extensive, high-level research by evaluating the implementation of Half Double and documenting its potential impact, these two institutions have strengthened the academic foundation of Half Double, contributing to its wider dissemination and adoption in project management.

As both institutions already play a significant role in developing the discipline of project management, Aarhus University and the Technical University of Denmark were perfect collaborative partners to work on Half Double’s research track.

The core components of Half Double

Impact

Half Double shifts the focus from fixed deliverables to a continuous flow of Impact throughout the whole course of the project.

This renewed focus on impact is an essential component of the methodology. The aim of a successful project is to leave a footprint behind for others to benefit from, so projects are set in motion to achieve a lasting effect.

Creating impact while delivering the product, not after the product is delivered is the secret ingredient of Half Double. By learning as you go, and thereby insisting on the shortest time to impact, you are more likely to achieve stakeholder satisfaction, lasting impact and success.

In contrast to traditional project management methods, Half Double moves away from the efficiency paradigm and the triple constraint of time, cost and scope to a higher focus on impact.

Flow

Half Double emphasises the importance of Flow in projects. In other words, the importance of the energy of the project, created by everyone joining in, working together and collaborating as a team, rather than selected individuals working on separate tasks in their own little corners of the company.

Half Double prioritises flow optimisation, as it recognises the true nature of projects as demanding endeavours that require focus, creativity and co-operation. In addition, Half Double encourages and empowers individuals to work together and concentrate on one task at a time in order to optimise flow in the project. This is in contrast to traditional project management methodologies that tend to focus on resources – spreading and scattering resources thinly across numerous projects – in order to optimise and prioritise project resources.

Flow means prioritising the speed and progression of the project above all else. Therefore, the emphasis is on selecting the right people to fully engage with and work on the project and enabling them to be involved in a state of high intensity by heavily allocating them to the project. This is why co-location is such a vital part of Flow: it enables frequent interaction. This radically increases productivity and innovation and boosts the progression of the project, in comparison with keeping team members distributed and separated on individual tasks.

Through Flow and the associated tools of flow optimisation and co-location, Half Double ensures a project where the people involved are in a state of high intensity, energised focus and are fully engaged and committed to the project process. The project is designed to accommodate for frequent interaction with key stakeholders.

Leadership

Leadership is about embracing uncertainty and unpredictability to encourage bold decision-making at the heart of the action. It’s also about facilitating the journey towards a common goal – and ensuring close collaboration with everyone involved and making sure that everyone is satisfied with not only the results, but also the way they were achieved. Collaborative Leadership with a people-first approach – that allows for the complexities that make us who we are – is how Half Double leads to project success.

Projects need leaders who can cope with complexity and the unexpected, leaders who can solve conflicts, manage stakeholders and truly lead people, so Leadership the Half Double way actually involves prioritising people over systems. It also entails having an active project sponsor who is willing to lend support by spending real time with the project, as well as a high-end project leader who is able to cope with the turbulence and change that happens along the project journey.

Human engagement is a key resource in projects, which is why a crucial part of Leadership is geared towards ensuring commitment. 75% of all project failures are due to poor leadership – which makes motivating others and encouraging and enabling engagement and commitment in projects all vital elements of Half Double Leadership. Time, talent and energy are vital functions and motivation is needed to deliver these three functions. Fully engaged teams are capable of incredible things. But as people we do not like being perceived as costs or as activities in project plans or process diagrams – we need and want meaning to function optimally. Leadership that inspires this meaning and engagement is what Half Double is all about.

Local translation

As a flexible project management methodology, Half Double rejects the one-size-fits-all approach. Instead, it involves a two-way adaption where, first, the project is adapted towards the Half Double mindset and, second, the Half Double methodology is tailored to the organisation and the project’s own culture, systems and structures. This process is called local translation.

Adapting to Half Double

Adapting the organisation, the project and project team to the Half Double mentality requires the courage, commitment and willingness to think and reflect differently from within the organisation itself. This is fundamental to succeeding with implementing Half Double in projects.

Adapting projects to Half Double demands daring to shift the focus from predictability within costs and specifications to impact creation and stakeholder satisfaction. But this isn’t all. It also demands the commitment to provide space and resources for high intensity work and progress, and to relinquish the instilled habit of prioritising operational needs and hierarchies before the actual needs of the project and the project team. And finally, adapting to Half Double entails a willingness to take a step back from the embedded traditions of putting regimented and standardised procedures and routines before the individual project needs.

Tailoring Half Double

Using the process of local translation, Half Double is also tailored to the organisation and project’s distinctive culture and structures. By utilising and using the tools, practices and project-specific context already in place, Half Double’s three core elements – Impact, Flow and Leadership – can be suited to the local practices and customs of the project.

Many projects struggle with rigid routines and inflexible processes that do not suit their particular needs, and this ultimately inhibits impact and success. Simply put, it’s not optimal to try and force a project through a system, a structure or a management plan that just doesn’t suit it. By using local translation, we have the opportunity to acknowledge the actual needs of the project, adapt the Half Double mindset and select solutions that sustain the project and its impact.

The history of Half Double

From an initial questioning of the current project management paradigm, Half Double has grown into a large management professional network and consortium of 1,600 practitioners and over 50 pilot projects, with the key collaborators responsible for its inception – Implement Consulting Group, Aarhus University, the Technical University of Denmark and the Danish Industry Foundation –still very much central to the community.

How Half Double began

The origins of Half Double can be traced back to 2013 when three project practitioners realised that they all shared the same unshakable inkling that something just wasn’t quite right in the project management field. They gathered a brain trust of 21 high-calibre project practitioners to begin addressing and solving this problem. The very best from this project practitioner network were then tasked with taking everything we once knew about project management and recognising what we needed to reprioritise. Together, this small group wrote an article, “12 leading stars for project management”.

The Half Double consortium

The Half Double consortium was established on the back of this article and the brain trust behind it. As the Half Double idea was nurtured and honed, the group of 21 project practitioners swelled to a community of 1,600 headed by Implement Consulting Group with Aarhus University, the Technical University of Denmark and the Danish Industry Foundation also joining the Half Double ranks. 17 pilot projects were initially identified that were willing to try out this new, radical methodology, with this number increasing to over 50 pilot projects testing and adopting Half Double in the course of the subsequent three years.

Rethinking project management wasn’t in itself something new. But actually finding a way to change project management was. Implement Consulting Group had already been exploring the possibility of a new project paradigm – a paradigm with Agile mindsets and methods as a starting point with reality’s complexity at its centre. A paradigm that allowed project learnings to continuously change project deliverables without this being misread as bad project management. And a paradigm with the ambition of completing projects in half the time while realising double the impact. If this was at all possible, it would radically improve productivity in Denmark and the rest of the world. Grand? Perhaps. Realistic? It’s proving to be.

Essential support

The funding for Half Double has been provided by the project sponsor Danish Industry Foundation. As a philanthropic foundation that supports innovative and inspirational initiatives that boost the competitiveness of Danish business and industry, the Danish Industry Foundation was an ideal authority to join forces with and an essential supporter of our combined efforts on our critical path to change the way we are planning and managing projects.