Best practice frameworks: In service to the mission

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Portfolio, programme and project management is fundamentally about enabling an organization to achieve objectives of strategic importance that will bring about its mission.

Everything a business does should be in service to this and having a mission statement establishes strategic objectives and change programmes to achieve them.

For example, at the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) where I work, our mission is “to generate evidence and insights that can be used to improve outcomes for future generations everywhere and to support positive change across education systems.

Our organization’s mission should be what gets us out of bed in the morning, as it represents the difference we want to make in the world and articulates our purpose.

Bringing about the mission requires long-range planning and long-term goals encapsulated in strategic objectives.

Managing organizational change with best practice 

Achieving strategic objectives will invariably involve delivering change – and managing this well requires best practice approaches.

For example, a good starting point is the Management of Portfolios (MoP®) guidance. This is all about creating a balanced portfolio of initiatives that optimize value for money whilst balancing risk.

A portfolio of change initiatives may include structural activities, such as development of new skills, roles and business models; technological advances, such as integration of AI and machine learning to automate repetitive tasks and less tangible capability development, such as cultural and behavioural ones.

Envisioning a better future

The next step on the road to establishing the mission is determining the vision for your programme(s). In other words, how do you achieve the desired better, future state? So, the vision statement as set-out in Managing Successful Programmes (MSP®) guidance, helps people understand why the change is necessary by answering the question, what does this better future look like and why is it needed?

When employees are able to articulate the vision for themselves – as in the soundbite for NFER’s vision which is “making NFER visible, global and digital to increase our impact and reach on education systems and classroom practice”– they have a better sense and clearer signpost for where an enterprise is headed and what change means for them in their day-to- day roles.

In MSP, the vision is expanded and developed into the blueprint that articulates the capabilities the programme aims to deliver, such as new or enhanced processes, skills, technology or management information the future organization will require in its new, improved operational state.

For example, at NFER our blueprint outlines what capability we need to enhance the experience of our clients and research participants and leverage data to generate deeper insights and value to education at large.

Executing change

Creating a schedule of projects and change initiatives to deliver new capabilities is where you enter project and project management territory. In best practice terms, this means PRINCE2®.

Projects deliver outputs – e.g. a CRM system, training materials, training events, guidance documents, process flow diagrams, responsibility assignment matrix, etc.

Programmes deliver capabilities – e.g. when we have the CRM system live with staff trained on how to use the new system, we have introduced the new capability into the business.

However, MSP also supports how those capabilities are translated into benefits: the whole point of introducing a CRM system may be to have visibility of all customers and their purchasing/interaction history in one place. This would enable resulting benefits in more targeted customer communications, leading to increased sales and improved customer satisfaction.

It is the measurable improvements resulting from programme benefits that help the organization to achieve the strategic objectives that bring about its mission.

Integrating best practices 

Using best practice methodologies like MoP, MSP and PRINCE2 provides a proven and structured approach to managing change. It gives an organization visibility and control over investment decisions, building capabilities, enabling change, realizing benefits, achieving strategic objectives and establishing the mission.

Amid Covid-19, improving our level of maturity to change is more important today than ever before. Having a clear and comprehensive understanding of what your organization will be like in the future and what’s required to get there will support critical investment decisions; not only to “keep the lights on” today but to ensure that the enterprise remains competitive in the future.

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