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Author  Martin Stretton

Transformation Programme Director, NFER

July 27, 2021 |

 4 min read

  • Blog
  • Methods & frameworks
  • Programme management
  • Training
  • Axelos ProPath

To be more effective in project management it’s useful for project managers to understand the wider context in which they’re working.

So, if you have PRINCE2® then also certifying in Managing Successful Programmes (MSP®) offers that context, as well as being a logical career progression. The same goes for programme managers studying Management of Portfolios (MoP®).

When I started my career in change management, understanding the opportunities open to me through best practice wasn’t so obvious, which is why I think the AXELOS ProPath designations make sense for ambitious practitioners today.

My move into project management was prompted by being drawn to process improvement and I saw project management as an opportunity to get a holistic view of how a business operates across functions and divisions. Besides change being as certain as death and taxes, it seemed a future proof career to me! However, for the first three years in the discipline, I was working without a recognized project management method.

Taking best practice into the workplace

The challenge of managing projects without a framework or context meant learning by doing through trial and error.

I had to create working practices as I was going along – if you like, laying the tracks just ahead of the train.

Studying PRINCE2 helped me reflect on the way I was working and to learn enduring principles that I could incorporate into my management practice. A key principle, in particular, was the focus on products. Focusing on the outputs of a project – its deliverables, gives the team focus and avoids the mistake a lot of organizations make of simply closing down a seemingly endless list of actions with no endpoint.

Having a best practice method takes you back to the basic fundamentals of what, who and when? Meaning: What do we need to deliver, by whom and when? This provides a “stick in the ground” – a key milestone that can’t be moved. Without this, your project becomes a bit amorphous.

Moving up to programmes with MSP

11 years into my career, I was in a programme management role and – around the same time – certified in MSP.

As I had decided to specialize in programme management, MSP was the obvious choice as a badge of expertise both with currency and credibility for my area of professionalism. My choice to certify was driven by wanting to invest in myself and develop my own capabilities and continue to improve my management practice.

And the key approaches I took from this were the blueprint (now the target operating model in MSP 5thedition), pinpointing the future capabilities the organization needs to build to realize its vision and the focus on benefits. My interest, as different from project management, had turned to “why?”; starting with the end in mind – the vision – and working backwards.

In programme management, you need to have a broader understanding of organizational direction and long-term objectives to ensure the work of your programme remains strategically aligned to this.

From tactical to strategic conversations

In 2019, I added MoP to my capabilities – another way to invest in myself and incorporate something new into my management practice.

As with PRINCE2 and MSP, another certification increases the value you can add to an organization and, with MoP, that brings understanding of portfolio management.

This is more of a shift to strategic conversations rather than tactical: making sure the organization is doing the right things and having an ongoing dialogue about strategic alignment between change initiatives and the company’s long-term objectives and mission.

These are areas you don’t generally think about as a project or programme manager. Therefore, moving up to portfolio level means you have to ask (and answer) the fundamental questions of why the organization exists and where it is heading.

Bringing together several certifications such as PRINCE2, MSP and MoP into the AXELOS ProPath designations provides methods that any management role would benefit from day to day.

And, to help people progress in their careers, the value contained within certifications enables you to build your organization’s capabilities, as well as your own.