Gaining the trust to transform: Programme management and MSP

Gaining the trust to transform: Programme management and MSP

Martin StrettonWith the digital disruption of markets, regulation and a need to maintain competitive edge creating a vision of a future organization, along with having an effective vehicle to deliver that, is absolutely crucial today.

Organizations may achieve good project management practice when it comes to products and services. However, enabling an organization to realize such a vision to stay relevant and aligning its objectives with corporate strategy is something rather different.

This is where an understanding of, and certification in, both project and programme management is essential.

Foundation of knowledge – PRINCE2®

Earlier in my career, at learning company Pearson, I moved from an operational role into project management (and later programme management) based on my track record in the business. What I didn’t have was any formal best practice certifications.

The biggest challenge for me was getting people to do things on time, to cost and quality when they were not reporting directly to me. For this I needed to develop softer skills of influence, which took time and practice.

When finally studying and certifying in PRINCE2, it sharpened my project management and the necessary softer skills and has stood me in good stead ever since. Above all, it showed me the value of product-based planning and taught me to focus on project outputs.

I was able to use this approach to great effect in the planning, launch and implementation of Pearson’s GCSE 2009 qualification suite and associated products and services. For this, I managed a cross-functional team of product development, sales, marketing, operations and IT technical experts, who were all delivering high quality products to market and important revenue gains.

Personal transformation

Moving to programme management included managing a portfolio of high-profile projects and a team of project managers.

At this point, though not yet certified in Managing Successful Programmes (MSP®), I was aware of and started “dipping into” the best practice guidance.

Programme management is a different discipline and it necessitates a personal transformation of the way you work. It’s a transition from an operational to a strategic role and from management to leadership; the key is in the designing of a blueprint of the future organization and in introducing the benefits management practice.

Using elements of MSP has enabled me to work with teams to create a vision for the organization and build a plan which defines how the future organization will operate. Thereafter comes the programme of change through which the programme manager needs to lead and guide the programme team.

At City & Guilds, the UK’s leading awarding organization for work-based qualifications, government reform to the way apprenticeships were assessed presented a major challenge that required significant transformation. The change required operational capability building to support the new service delivery model, but also presented an opportunity to realize benefits in increased market share, brand and ultimately revenues. MSP was the ideal model to do just that.

As programme manager versus project manager, the big difference is delivering benefits rather than outputs. Benefits management is the “so what?” of a change initiative, whether that be increasing sales, reducing costs or improving the organization’s Net Promoter Score. Benefits are the very reason we deliver projects and the change they enable.

Proof of professionalism – certifying in MSP

After dipping into the MSP method for over nearly ten years since my first programme management role, I decided to certify in MSP; proving my skills and gaining a qualification of recognized currency and credibility.

Months later, when I became programme manager at City & Guilds I was able to introduce MSP best practice to the team and add value to the organization. This included activities such as programme governance implementation, blueprint design and benefits mapping and realization planning.

Delivering the vision for transformational change

Ultimately, when working in programme management, MSP is both a personal and career investment and is something you can’t really do without: it is an industry-recognized certification which shows you can be trusted with responsibility for transformative change and seismic shifts in organizations.

Martin is Founder and Director of NOVO: Making the complex simple to help people and organizations operationalize company strategy for educational and economic growth.

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