Two vital programme management principles for success

Programme management team of programme managers in meeting room reviewing programme documents and Post-It notes on whiteboards

Are you managing a programme or a complex project?

Whether it’s one or the other, you could be working with business change that involves multiple workstreams ultimately converging to deliver a final product or solution.

That’s pretty much the idea of a programme: a set of related projects to deliver corporate strategy.

And there’s no doubt about it; dealing with the ambiguity and uncertainty of change, and eventually transitioning to a new reality envisioned at the beginning of a programme, is challenging. However, Managing Successful Programmes (MSP®) can be extremely useful, irrespective of your level of experience as it focuses heavily on the importance of strategy alignment, effective leadership techniques and response to change. These are vital subjects frequently debated in the corporate world today.

As a principle-based best practice, MSP provides seven principles that can smooth any “turbulence” when managing a programme. Personally, there are two principles that have made me reflect a lot about previous experiences in managing programmes and which have increased my awareness of challenges in my current role.

Leading change

Programmes are complex and one of the complexity factors is the number of stakeholders usually involved. Assuming that change will be a positive experience for everybody is a common misconception; indeed, people may be worse off or better off as a result of the programme.

Therefore, leadership is an essential skill when dealing with stakeholders: to keep them engaged, understand their ambitions, motivations and threats and deal with blockers. Leading change is about positive decision making, creative thinking, effective communicating and leading by example. Being a leader is not about making yourself a loveable manager but motivating and inspiring your team and building confidence among stakeholders while acting as a facilitator and a reference point to resolve issues.

MSP suggests involving stakeholders from the beginning of a programme to discuss and gain agreement at an early stage and avoid disputes later.

Envisioning and communicating a better future

Complex projects and programmes are often ambiguous with no clear view of how major change will deliver the stated vision. Uncertainty can have a detrimental effect on stakeholders, as the lack of clarity and communication leaves everybody in the dark. Being able to provide a clear picture of the future is not only important to guide your team but to keep the programme constantly focused on the desired outcome.

How to apply MSP principles

Working with projects and programmes is a people management role with leadership and communication playing a huge part in the success of initiatives. MSP encourages the programme professional to break down stakeholders into categories; this gives a better understanding of who is going to be impacted, how change will affect them and what will be the most effective approach with each group.

This is extremely helpful to help mitigate any communication gap and get the right people engaged.

Read Pedro Bertacchini's previous AXELOS Blog Post, PRINCE2 - the playbook to win the game.

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