The Simmer System

The Simmer System (SM) was introduced in Dr. Brown's 2015 book, "Let It Simmer: Making Project, Portfolio and Program Management Practices Stick in a Skeptical Organization", the first of three (to date) books on this topic.

What is the Simmer System?

The Simmer System is a structured method of approaching desired improvements in an organization's business management processes in a way that builds on small wins to gain general support and trust. The point of this system is to recognize that many (not all) "best practices" represent some (not all) of the activities carried out by some (not all) of the best-run organizations. If an organization isn't in that class yet, attempting to "impose best practices" generates resistance that will not only cause the effort to fail and dissolve eventually but also leave such a bad taste that later efforts at improvement will be met by even more determined resistance.

By contrast, the Simmer System contains:

  • key principles to keep the change initiative moving in the right direction while accommodating local issues
  • a set of "cooperative agreements", activities that the change agent can engage in with peer line managers to provide them a tangible benefit while moving the organization further down the path to the desired end-state, and
  • templates for accomplishing some of the more definable key activities

Decision Integration believes that one of the main causes of failure for implementing a change initiative is an effort to simply download and apply some templates. Using a template without understanding what it is or how it works may be more dangerous than attempting to muddle through without a defined process. Thus, although the supporting materials are provided free of charge, they can only be accessed by those who have a copy of one of the full-length Simmer System books in which the reader can gain the understanding needed to make the System work effectively. Or, of course, you can undertake training on the Simmer System (see below). Or you can opt for a workshop in which these principles and practices can be tailored to your organization's actual situation.



If you don't have any Simmer System books

Topics of The Simmer System(SM)

The following workshops are less expensive than those that are tailored to your actual organization, because we use existing materials from The Simmer System and follow that known path, rather than having to create materials unique to your particular needs.  Simmer System modules are provided in live workshop settings, which may be onsite or online depending on the situation.

If you see a hyperlink, there's an option to obtain this training via on-line training (some training platforms require separate membership fees). To maintain affordability, each module of training is priced under $100 (at least by me; sometimes the training platform operators have their own pricing), but that doesn't mean you get $2800 worth of training for $100: each workshop module has several related online mini-courses.  Yes, it will cost less than the live workshop, but your interaction with the instructors will be very limited if any.

Simmer System workshops include:

  • What is Your Why? Identify the performance issues that are causing the organization to think that improved business management practices might be a solution, and how you'll decide when they are fixed
  • Dragon Quest: Identify the common causes for failures in implementing changes in business practices and management approaches; assess the risks; and devise a strategy to avoid them
  • The Pasta Principle: Walk through the "best practice" inventory to identify those practices we can change quickly that will drive corresponding changes in other areas of business practice as an inevitable consequence
  • Adding Up to Zero-Sum: Identify and define a top-down program structure for managing business operations, projects and strategies; allocate existing funding to the programs; and build a long-term profile
  • Service Opportunities: Explore organizational strengths and weaknesses to identify areas of process weakness that can give the governance manager some opportunities to make line managers' jobs easier, while also moving the enterprise's management approach closer to the necessary direction
  • Top Cover: Explore the practical limitations of executive support and develop a strategy for leveraging it in the organization
  • Setting the Board: Develop the artifacts needed to get your governance board up and running
  • Slicing the Pie: Conduct a walk-through to define the process of deliberating over program directions and allocating priorities
  • Watch the Pot: Set up the in-flight review process
  • Data Dive: Examine the organization's actual data set; set up data relationship tables; and analyze the implications within specified business management areas
  • Top-Down Workshop: Document and align existing priority statements, identify the gaps and assign responsibilities
  • Bottom-up Workshop: Conduct activity inventories and assign them to top-down priorities
  • Find the Common Ground: Identify opportunities for collaborative action and develop action plans to get them started
  • Waiver Workshop: Set up the organization's waiver process and integrate it with other governance actions



To schedule Simmer System training