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Author  Michelle Rowland — Director, A&J Project Management

April 20, 2022 |

 5 min read

  • Blog
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In today’s constantly-changing world, organizations need to respond rapidly – and with tried and tested best practice approaches.

This world is often described using the terms volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA). And the Covid-19 pandemic has only added to this rapidly changing environment.

With frequent changes to the external context, an organization’s strategy needs to evolve continuously. Therefore, programmes are often set up to enable a response and the programmes also need to constantly adapt as new information emerges.

Why use programme management?

A programme approach helps deliver change for several reasons:

  • To respond to innovation and growth, e.g. as a result of new product development
  • To create organizational realignment, e.g. because of mergers/acquisitions
  • To allow more effective delivery required by customers or regulators
  • To improve the use of shared resources for greater efficiencies.

Best practice in programmes

Adopting the best practice guidance in Managing Successful Programmes (MSP) makes programme managers and their organizations more flexible and responsive to a changing environment by progressively delivering benefits.

In other words, a programme will deliver benefits to stakeholders throughout the programme (rather than just at the end!) using an incremental approach. And as new information about external changes emerges, this delivery method means the programme can realign its priorities.

How can professionals deploy the MSP principles, themes and processes to best effect in rapidly changing times?

SP principles and VUCA

MSP’s principles-based framework is relevant to any programme. And several of its principles can help you handle the VUCA world:

  • Deal with ambiguity – the future is unknown and therefore you need to understand the risks associated with making decisions, recognize the uncertainty in estimates and reflect this in the business case to ensure that you understand and respond to both threats and opportunities.
  • Align with priorities – the external environment will change, and new information emerge, during a programme. The organization’s priorities will change and, consequently, the programme needs to adapt and realign to revised priorities.
  • Realize measurable benefits – a programme needs to deliver real value to an organization throughout its lifecycle. So, even if things change, each tranche of delivery provides some benefit.
  • Bring pace and value – this empowers people close to delivery to make decisions that minimize delays and ensure that programme management adds value.

Responding to change with MSP themes

Many of the MSP themes (key elements of the MSP framework) enable a rapid response to changes in the environment, while managing the current work effectively and efficiently.

  • Organization theme – ensures that people understand the programme risk appetite when pursuing the programme benefits, enabling appropriate risks to be taken.
  • Design theme – focuses on achieving the desired future state (the target operating model), through a series of intermediate “landing points”. Each of these delivers a step-change in capability and the associated benefits. At each landing point, the programme can be redirected to realign with emerging drivers or closed if it’s no longer required.
  • Structure theme – allows a programme to select the right project lifecycle to deliver the work. This could include the use of iterative – i.e. agile – project lifecycles, or a hybrid approach combining linear and iterative lifecycles. Using either means early delivery of capability and realization of benefits.

MSP processes and VUCA

Two of the MSP processes are designed specifically to help a programme adapt to the VUCA world:

  • Plan progressive delivery– a programme needs only to plan in detail for the next tranche of work, not the whole programme. This avoids detailed planning for later tranches (when plans may become redundant), allowing you to consider new information.
  • Evaluate new information – as each tranche closes, the programme team should consider any emerging trends before deciding what to do next: proceed as planned, realign to changing priorities or close the programme.

Working together, the MSP principles, themes and processes provide an integrated framework to guide the effective management of programmes in an ever-changing world.