Take 10 with Michael

Michael Brennan is an Executive Principal at Apis, currently leading the major Aged Care Reforms at the Department of Health.

Take 10 with Michael

Michael Brennan is an Executive Principal at Apis, currently leading the major Aged Care Reforms at the Department of Health.  Michael joined Apis with a strong interest in business analysis to solve problems and programme management to implement major change.  Business analysis came naturally to him after training as financial para planner and studying a business degree at RMIT.  His career so far has provided experience in superannuation, retail financial services, corporate banking, education, border protection, government regulation and Commonwealth aged care.  From early in his career, he was required to grasp a business operating model, analyse issues and then visualise the future business practises of the organisation.  This interest in helping organisations solve problems and implement a better future is what makes Michael tick.  He outlines below where this has taken him over the years and gives us an insight into the state of project and programme management in Australia today.

What drew you to this field of work?

I love the problem-solving element of big business process challenges.  I’m not as interested in system maintenance, but rather system envisioning, design and building or improvement.  While those novelties and challenges motivate me, the interesting irony is that to build these new systems and processes, I need to rely on repeatable, consistent, project management tools and frameworks.  Without these, designing a new and complex system would be near impossible.

What are some of the golden rules you personally rely on to deliver on large-scale projects?

A highly experienced former colleague of mine in the UK once said that running a massive project is like a circus acrobat managing “to keep all the plates spinning in the air” without anything coming crashing down.  That is a great metaphor for programme and project management.

To achieve this I need to ensure that all project teams within a programme have a shared vision of where it is all heading. I think of this as Golden Rule number 1: create the vision and constantly propagate and reinforce it with all team members.  A perfect example is that over the last three and a half years, Apis has been leading over 300 people to ensure the successful development and roll out of My Aged Care.  Without a common, shared goal it could easily lead to a variety of different sub-optimal outcomes.  The other rule I live by is to focus on the individuals within the teams themselves to help and motivate them to be the best that they can be.  It’s hugely energising for people and their teams.

You worked for several years in the United Kingdom.  What did you do there and how would you compare that experience with Australia today?

In the UK I worked with large financial services organisations and various UK Government Departments, including for the UK Identity & Passport Service.  I was responsible for establishing a programme for delivering a capability to record biometrics for 7.5 million applicants per year.

My UK experience was invaluable, since both the UK public and private sectors have a strong appreciation of the purpose and application of programme and project management frameworks.  I took part in and witnessed great successes.  I had a strong sense that we were interfacing with clients who were ‘mature’ in a project management sense and that meant high chances of effective results.

I see the Australian corporate and public sectors evolving down that path too.  Organisations such as Apis have a real role in helping to increase our Commonwealth clients’ understanding of programme and project management skills and benefits.  We don’t just run a project in isolation.  We have an ethos of ensuring skills transfer and training for our clients.  We aim to educate, coach and capacity-build the APS staff we engage with.

What does Apis’ do best in your field?

Apis has always worked in partnership with our clients.  Our consultants aim for blended teams with our public servant colleagues.  As we bring our clients along with us on a programme journey we try to ensure that, when Apis leaves, the department is able to manage independently into the future.  Our core offerings will continue to focus on programme and project management, business design, procurement, change management and assurance.  We are great at them and we deliver.