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Author  Allan Thomson – PPM Product Ambassador, Axelos

January 26, 2021 |

 3 min read

  • Blog
  • Leadership
  • Programme management
  • Vision

Programmes are large, costly investments for organizations and – unlike projects – can run for a long period of time.

With such a timescale, it’s important to maintain motivation among programme managers, senior leadership and stakeholders, which is why the vision statement as used in Managing Successful Programmes (MSP®) is vital.

The vision statement, devised by an organization’s senior management and sponsoring groups at the start of a programme, is a concise summary of the future state the programme will deliver. It is the guiding light which shows the way for everyone involved.

This simple and jargon-free articulation (and even visualization) of what people will see and experience after the programme is completed is essential for stakeholder commitment and this concept remains important in the new MSP 5th edition.

But why has the vision statement always been a critical element in MSP?

The extent of change that programmes bring means that, without a vision statement, there is no clear picture of the future state. This often results in a chaotic lack of focus, confusion about the benefits needed and ultimately risks wasting a lot of money.

Programme vision statements for today’s world

Organizations are now working not only in a context of volatility, complexity uncertainty and ambiguity but also with a high failure rate among programmes.

One of the key reasons for programme failure is a lack of leadership and focus, which is why the MSP principle of “leading with purpose” – which links leadership and vision – is crucial. This becomes even more important when needing rigour to make decisions both quickly and effectively.

Leaders have got to get it right and quickly, which is a challenging position to be in.

Therefore, having a clear vision statement should be front of mind all the time – and be on the first slide of every programme board meeting.

In the cyclic, incremental programme lifecycle outlined by MSP, programme managers need to communicate the vision statement to ensure the changing cast of stakeholders during the life of a programme continues to support the investment and the desired, future state.

Vision statements for MSP’s new programme scenarios

Based on research, the latest edition of MSP includes four new, fictitious programme scenarios which illustrate different aspects of the MSP framework including:

  • Scenario 1: National rail network programme – an example of an innovation and growth investment
  • Scenario 2: Charity programme – an example of an organizational realignment investment
  • Scenario 3: Bank compliance and adaptability programme – an example of an investment in effective delivery
  • Scenario 4: Utilities maintenance and improvement programme – an example of an investment in efficient delivery.

Naturally, the vision statement is just as relevant to these scenarios. For example, for innovation and growth, the statement could include reference to new ways of working, improvements, increased adoption of changes and potentially the creation of a new organization.

Practical application of vision statements and MSP

Programmes are not cheap and those responsible for them need to be sure that their purpose remains relevant. Having a fully-realized vision statement means you can, if necessary, stop a programme if it no longer matches the vision.

Equally, while programmes are certainly a collection of projects and other work they can’t be managed like projects. So, project managers who are stepping up to programme management responsibility need to recognize this fact and see the value of MSP 5th edition guidance and especially the vision statement in tackling organizational change on this scale.