MSP Programme Management Principles:
MSP provides a common framework for all types of programmes as it is based on sound MSP Programme Management principles.
The MSP programme management principles are known to be 1. Universal, 2. Self-validating, and 3. Empowering. By ‘Universal‘, we mean that they can apply to all programmes. By ‘Self-validating‘, we mean that they have been proven in practice. By ‘Empowering‘, we mean that they empower the MSP practitioners with the power to influence and shape transformation and change to success.
The 7 MSP Programme Management Principles are:
- Remaining aligned with corporate strategy,
- Leading change,
- Envisioning and communicating a better future,
- Focussing on the benefits and threats to them,
- Adding Value,
- Designing and delivering a coherent capability, and
- Learning from experience.
The full description of the MSP Programme Management Principles can be found in the managing successful programmes manual .
The MSP Programme Management Principles can be explained in brief as below.
MSP Programme Management Principles #1
‘Remaining aligned with corporate strategy’
‘Remaining aligned with corporate strategy’ is one of the 7 MSP Programme Management Principles.
From an organisation point of view, a programme is a huge cost and so is expected to help boost the overall performance of the business to a great level to justify the cost. A well-managed programme maintains good links with the corporate strategy. In practice, we often notice that a programme will have to prove or disprove one or more strategic ideas. For a programme to be useful there needs to be some feedback from the programme to the strategic team. They can then use the feedback from the programmes to refine future strategies to make them better. In practice, the strategy itself can be changing now and then due to outside factors. It is needed that the programme remains adaptable with such changes so that it can keep pace with strategy.
The programme needs to make sure that the projects are aligned with the corporate strategy at all times. To do this, strategic drivers can be extended into the day-to-day work of various projects. The programme work environment must be robust so that it is strong and also flexible so that it can cope with any changes.
The business cases of a programme must consider all options and make a robust case at the time of approval. After approval, these need to be often reviewed to make sure they are aligned with the corporate strategy at all times. The programme needs to have a porous boundary so that it can cope with frequent changes to the scope that says what is included and what is not. For projects, any change in scope etc. is not a good idea as it leads to failure. All the above states the fact that programme management needs to be agile and adaptive. It cannot be based on rigid ideas at all.
‘Remaining aligned with corporate strategy‘ is considered #1 of the 7 MSP Programme Management Principles.
MSP Programme Management Principles #2
‘Leading change’ is one of the 7 MSP Programme Management Principles.
By definition a programme implements a change in an organisation. While the change is being implemented though, it is very important to make sure that the people that are connected with the change are properly taken in the journey of the change. It is not that change can happen in its own way and the people can be taken for granted to live with it. The programme management team must take the initiative to lead the people alongside the change; this is something they need to take care of on top of the all-complex routine programme tasks. Some important leadership characteristics of a good programme management team are:
- Whenever they direct or interact with people, they must be absolutely clear in what they mean, without giving any chance for any ambiguity. The language must be simple and clear enough to be correctly understood by a range of people from different backgrounds.
- They should build the trust with the people involved in the programme; this can be achieved by being open and transparent in all their dealings at all times – trust builds when such transparency is shown consistently. All risks and issues must be discussed openly and addressed promptly. The programme management team must never dismiss any risks or issues or any other concerns that any person or team may bring up; they must give proper thought and consideration to all such risks, issues and concerns and face them with courage. This builds trust and when there is trust, all engagement and dealings with the people will be much easier, smooth and fruitful.
- They should identify, analyse and engage with all relevant stakeholders very actively. Many programmes when complete, will result in changes in workplace practices, culture etc. As these changes can be very personal as well, it is very important to consider all people side factors while working for the success of the programme. In general, programme management is much more people oriented than project management and due care needs to be taken to address the people side of the story.
- They should take utmost care to make sure the right people are always appointed at the right time to the correct positions. Also, it has been proved in the past that programmes that have the right people on the job as early as possible in the life cycle have shown to be more successful than those that delayed appointment of key people. This means that the programme should be appointing all necessary people in right places at very early point in the programme – sometimes as early as the VISIONing stage. By appointing capable and experienced people at early stages, one can be sure to have the programme framework, processes etc. to be correctly designed and built right from the beginning.
- As uncertainty is very common in all projects and programmes, they should be prepared to accept and live with the uncertainty and influence others too to appreciate the same. Sometimes the levels of uncertainty in various areas of the programme changes – it may get better or worse. For example, if the vision is unclear, the programme may have to deviate from its original plan or may even result in the vision itself being revised – such cases make the uncertainty much worse. The programme management team must be able to understand uncertainty, control it, deal with it and also be able to explain the same to all other people involved. Generally, the uncertainty is higher at the beginning of the programme and there is less uncertainty towards the end of the programme as people know by then where the programme is headed.
- They should be quick in solving all problems and must be willing to go the extra mile to find novel solutions to problems. As every programme is unique in nature and complexity, they all need clever solutions each time and most of these solutions may have never been seen before. The complexity gets worse when there are stakeholders with mixed interests and programmes with conflicting interests – these require great mental agility on the part of the programme management team to find novel solutions to keep all people happy. The problems a programme could face cannot be defined in advance and hence there may not be pre-defined solutions to all problems at times.
- When the programme delivers the outcomes, the programme management team must continue to be fully involved in the post-delivery period to make sure the transition happens smoothly, the change is integrated into the system and operates smoothly. It is important that the programme management team helps all people to go with the transition from the old to the new and get used to the new. The leadership needs to be very careful at this stage as there is huge risk of failing the programme as a whole even though all projects were a success if the transition is not led correctly. The planning to implement the changes, the stability of the operations and business during and after the transition plays a vital role in success at this stage. Often at this stage, people may feel uncomfortable, nervous and unwilling to accept the unfamiliar changes – it is important to lead people with support and help them in all possible ways to reap the benefits of the new system.
Thus the MSP programme management team has a very wide role to play in leading the people to the change and this is achieved by various people at various stages and must be very visible throughout the programme from the Start to Finish.
‘Leading change‘ is considered #2 of the 7 MSP Programme Management Principles.
MSP Programme Management Principles #3
‘Envisioning and communicating a better future‘
‘Envisioning and communicating a better future’ is one of the 7 MSP Programme Management Principles.
Every programme is intended to eventually take an organisation into a new state which is considered to be more beneficial. While this is true and easy to say, it is important that, right from the Start, the programme management team is capable of having a clear vision of such new beneficial future state and describing the same too. Having such vision and being able to describe it simple terms, is in itself an important factor for the stakeholders to believe that the programme actually makes sense. Such vision must be developed and further refined in the early stage of the programme to such an extent that it will not change much in future. This is so because if the vision statement itself changes significantly, it means the fundamentals of the programme need to be looked at again to make sure the programme remains valid. The vision once developed and refined, must continue to exist, at all times to make sure the programme aligns with the strategic objectives of the organisation.
The vision also needs to be communicated to all stakeholders in a way that they all understand it for what it is. When the vision of future state is clearly communicated and all stakeholders are in agreement that the future state is indeed a benefit they would look forward to, it is easy to gain their buy-in and commitment. Thus having a clear vision and communicating the same correctly leads to greater success of the programme as any confusion among stakeholders is completely avoided.
‘Envisioning and communicating a better future‘ is considered #3 of the 7 MSP Programme Management Principles.
MSP Programme Management Principles #4
‘Focussing on the benefits and threats to them’
‘Focussing on the benefits and threats to them’ is one of the 7 MSP Programme Management Principles.
When the programme is complete, its outcomes implemented and the new state comes into operation, the business begins to see the benefits that the programme has created. As benefits are what the business perceives more than all other happenings of the programme, it is very important that the programme management team keeps the right amount of focus always on the benefits so that they never lose the sight of what the programme would ultimately be judged on. The programme is ultimately judged based on the benefits that the business can realise as a result of the programme. These benefits must also remain relevant to the business strategy.
As benefits are so important and the focus on these cannot be compromised upon, it is also important to always keep an eye on anything and everything that can have any impact on such benefits. All risks and issues that are connected with the benefits must be managed and addressed as needed to make sure the business realise the intended benefits and the programme is judged as a success.
‘Focussing on the benefits and threats to them‘ is considered #4 of the 7 MSP Programme Management Principles.
MSP Programme Management Principles #5
‘Adding Value’ is one of the 7 MSP Programme Management Principles.
Having a programme is an expensive matter for any business. Thus, it is important in any case to check if the programme is really adding any value. This means that the programme brings additional value into the system than that brought in by individual projects. In case the programme adds no more value than what independent projects would bring into the system, it is wise to avoid having a programme and allow the projects to function individually and manged by the corporate portfolio management team. The additional value that a programme can bring in can be of many kinds – in some cases, it may be absolutely necessary to have a programme just to coordinate all projects so that the outputs from individual projects are tied up properly to suit the strategic objectives of the business, or in other cases a simple benefit that the programme prevents projects claiming double benefits and lead to confusion.
‘Adding Value‘ is considered #5 of the 7 MSP Programme Management Principles.
MSP Programme Management Principles #6
‘Designing and delivering a coherent capability’
‘Designing and delivering a coherent capability’ is one of the 7 MSP Programme Management Principles.
It is fundamentally vital that the Capability that a programme adds to a business must be in coherence with the already working system. The new capability must be blending into the working and operationally stable system as smoothly as possible without interfering with the smooth functioning of the current system. This needs taking all such factors into consideration in the design so that the new capability meets all standard quality requirements and can be scheduled in such a way that the transition is smooth and once in operation, the new capability runs in tandem with the rest of the system without causing any disruption. This means that all inter-project dependencies and program-project dependencies etc. must be very clearly identified and addressed right from the design stage. Once such suitable design is done, it is vital to deliver the capability as per the design so that the capability remains coherent with the rest of the system.
‘Designing and delivering a coherent capability‘ is considered #6 of the 7 MSP Programme Management Principles.
MSP Programme Management Principles #7
‘Learning from experience’
‘Learning from experience’ is one of the 7 MSP Programme Management Principles.
The most interesting aspect of programme management is that it provides ample opportunity for people and the business to constantly learn and evolve as they progress with the programme. The learnings can lead to best practices being identified and implemented in future so that full advantage is taken of the new knowledge learnt. Thus as the people and the business gain more and more experience they can also learn more and more as they progress and can do better programme management than they used to. The habit of learning from experience gives one best practices to remember and repeat and also helps to foresee problems and avoid pitfalls that have troubled the programmes in the past. The programme can learn and get better and even better as more experience is gained.
‘Learning from experience‘ is considered #7 of the 7 MSP Programme Management Principles.