Using AXELOS’ best practice for programme management - MSP (Managing Successful Programmes) - can come in useful in the most unexpected situations - even beyond the workplace.
Several years ago, I became involved in a local parents’ campaign about the lack of secondary school places for children in our area. The typical approach to such a problem might be for parents to start tutoring their children to pass entrance exams, moving closer to a school they want their children to attend or sending them some distance away to a non-selective school.
The bottom line was this: we needed to create change. However, what became clear was nobody among the parents really knew what to do and we had to decide early on what we actually could do. Ultimately, the initial idea of putting pressure on local authorities to provide new school places evolved into a charity organization enabling a couple of local parents and three teachers to work together to establish a completely new school.
Though I was initially reluctant to get involved, it became clear that it was a worthwhile cause and something where I could apply best practice principles. In effect, it was a programme in the same vein as a business change programme to which I could apply a best practice approach.
Applying MSP principles
In our school places campaign, there were a number of MSP principles that were important to deploy:
- Envisioning and communicating a better future
This was about engaging the stakeholders – including parents, teachers and local policy makers – with the narrative about what we were trying to achieve. This began with looking at broad themes and progressing to a position of clarity.
- Understanding the long-term strategic objective
We found that neighbouring local authorities would allow parents six school options when applying for school places versus only three options in our local area. This meant parents from outside the area applying to our local schools as well their own and increasing pressure on available places. Clearly, something had to change.
- Effective stakeholder engagement and communications
This meant reaching out to stakeholders using different communications vehicles, including local newspaper activity.
- Benefits management and risk management
It was about bringing out the improvements and recognizing the risks that would be reduced for parents if they could send their children to a local community school, for example not having to pay to tutor their children and not asking their children to spend hours and family funds every day travelling to and from a school outside the district.
Achieving the vision
Ultimately, MSP approaches helped us to achieve our vision of creating more local secondary school places for local children. That means parents in our local area today can apply to four schools rather than three and we have now been instrumental in setting up a new secondary school with the help of teachers and central government. And setting up this new school is being treated as a project, governed by the project management principles of PRINCE2.
MSP principles helped us to arrive at this point, although they were used without a formal governance context; flexing the principles locally has been very powerful in providing the right line along which to tread.
And our story is a lesson for others – private individuals and organizations – embarking on a change journey: our story shows the method on a very personal and emotional level and how it enables people to take on a struggle while providing people with a structure for a change programme.
See our MSP section for more information