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Let it Simmer – Making Project, Portfolio and Program Management Practices Stick in a Skeptical Organisation

Let it Simmer – Making Project, Portfolio and Program Management Practices Stick in a Skeptical Organisation. It’s currently £13.60 on Amazon and Juliet gives it a 5/5 rating. Take a look at the book here.

This book is aimed at managers who want to get project, programme and portfolio management right within sceptical organisations. Although the book is around 300 pages, it is not a heavy going, academic textbook. There are some American terms that UK readers will need to adapt to, but fundamentally it is written in a simple, jargon free and easy to read style. It promises to show you how to work with people to get them to willingly come on the journey towards achieving good project, programme and portfolio management governance and practices.

The basic premise of the book is that, when you introduce project, programme and portfolio governance and best practice into an organisation, it won’t help to ask for too much, too soon. The author’s view is based on real world experiences, built up over his career. Whilst recognising the need for best practice, he focusses less about the ‘what’ and more on the ‘how’, encouraging readers to adapt according to what the organisation can cope with, rather than blindly adhering to best practice and process. The author uses cooking analogies from time to time, which help illustrate points. One example being, that it doesn’t matter if someone is following the recipe exactly, if it tastes and smells good when served.

The book encourages the reader to use the author’s ‘simmer system’. This encourages the ‘PPFMO’ (Project/Programme/Portfolio Management Office) to start by introducing things that have a chance of taking hold and gradually introducing other elements over time, simultaneously bringing the organisation along with you, and protecting the PPFMO from being damaged. The author recognises that it’s easy to come up against resistance, be ignored, lose impetus or, even worse, unknowingly cause the death of the PPFMO. There is no magic pill, but this book will help you understand the culture of a process adverse organisation, the reasons why PPFMOs may be struggling and why some of the people will be behaving the way they do. The book goes on to give you practical advice on how to address these issues, suggesting what key things need to be in place and why.

As a reader, I connected with a lot of what the author was saying, and in some ways, it ended up being a bit of a self-help book. I felt inspired, and wrote down many things to try out. I felt less alone and more motivated to tackle some of what I now realise are common issues. For those of you currently struggling to change your organisational culture around project, programme and portfolio management, this book should give you reassurance that is not a quick and easy task that you should have already mastered and may just give you some extra motivation to keep trying!

The book mentions a ‘Simmer System’ website (www. There are a few free resources on the website, but to gain access to templates, videos and the wider community events and chat, you will have to pay a fee of $37. Personally, I won’t take up that option, but I can certainly see myself returning to this book many times in the coming years, as and when I’m looking to address these types of problems.

Summary – This is an easy to read book, which might make you feel less alone in your quest to improve project, programme and portfolio management best practice within a process-adverse organisation. It provides plenty of sensible advice, which could certainly be useful to anyone who needs to influence others within this professional field. The most readable and useful book I have bought within the past few years. The Simmer System won’t make your job totally painless, but it may reduce the conflict and pain.

Let It Simmer: Making Project, Portfolio and Program Management Practices Stick in a Skeptical Organization (The Simmer System)

This review was written by Juliet Doswell. Juliet has 18 years in the project management world – managing projects, programmes and portfolios. She is passionate about PMOs and a committed member of PMO Flashmob.






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