Reflection of MI-GSO | PCUBED at the yearly APM awards

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This year’s Association for Project Management (APM) awards were held virtually in November 2020. MI-GSO | PCUBED attended the black-tie event as finalists for the ‘Contribution to the Professions: Consultancy’ awards category.

Our yearly benchmarking process

My copy of ‘Up the Organisation’ by Robert Townsend is dated 1970; it was the first management book I read in about 1996. Townsend was the Chair of Avis, the car rental company, and he signed off the now famous “When you are only No.2 you try harder” advertising campaign. I was reminded of this in November 2020 when MI-GSO | PCUBED were awarded ‘Highly Commended’ (2nd place) in the Association for Project Management’s ‘Contribution to the Profession: Consultancy’ awards category.

The APM’s awards are considered to be the most mature process, and an opportunity for individuals, projects and organisations to demonstrate their project management excellence to a panel of independent judges. We have entered for the past five years and had some success, but every year we start our awards application with a team and a blank page.

The 2020 awards: the same but different

This year’s awards process started in April 2020 against the backdrop of pivoting our business to respond to COVID-19. Traditionally we base our awards submission on the work of the previous year – rather than the last five years – and again in May 2020, we had some interesting stories to tell. It was also the year that we celebrated 25 years of UK operations and the team set about writing and tuning the 3000-word Stage 1 submission. The themes are largely prescribed – People, Organisation Design, and PPM Process – but we illustrated our work with both internal initiatives (e.g. #workfromanywhere) and client delivery (e.g. change management in a Government client with a unique culture). 

The second stage only applied to three shortlisted consultancies and was a 30-minute live presentation to a panel of judges. Normally the inducement of a seat at the black-tie awards dinner helps to gain volunteers for the three-person presentation team. Unfortunately, Covid had already relegated the ceremony to an online version. Via typical M|P teamwork we formed a presentation structure, built some great graphical slides and rehearsed our way towards the September judging session with the new brief of ‘delivering impactful presentations via Microsoft Teams’.

The big (online) results announcement

The online results event was an early evening event and the team decided that black-tie was appropriate.

The APM put on an upbeat virtual awards ceremony and after recognising several excellent individual and project efforts it was time for our category. Unfortunately, the audio feed from my laptop was lagging and it was the groans of my colleagues that I heard before the announcement. My initial feeling was one of deflation; so near to winning! I didn’t buy ‘Up the Organisation’ in 1970, I am not that old and my copy is second-hand, but I am old enough to experience the disappointment of watching the England Men’s Rugby Team lose (come 2nd) in three World Cup Finals in 1991, 2007 and 2019. As Tennyson said, „‚tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all“.

We can be proud of our consistent placing in the APM’s awards – we won the ‘Consultancy of the Year Award’ in 2017 and retained it in 2018 (repeat winners are very rare). In 2019 the APM adjusted the category to ‘Contribution to the Profession: Consultancy’ and we were placed in the Top 3. So our 2020 ‘Highly Commended’ (2nd place) result demonstrates consistent excellence against the two stage, independently judged, process that receives many entries.

APM Virtual Awards 2020
Association for Project Management virtual awards 2020

It’s always a team effort

My thanks to the APM Community of Practice (aka awards delivery team) – Ben W, Paul E, Alice E, Sophie L, Osian E, James LG, Rhodri C, Stefan B, David W, Frank C, Matt P.  My ask to all of M|P – please keep doing the great things that enable us to tell interesting and contemporary stories to the APM.  Keep delivering, keep taking on the difficult national programme challenges, keep learning, keep improving. Let’s also keep trying harder to improve on 2nd place.

Mark Sorrell

Mark Sorrell

Head of Public Sector
@ MI-GSO | PCUBED UK