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Author  Nick Dobson

Principal Consultant – CITI

December 19, 2022 |

 8 min read

  • Blog
  • Project management

The positioning of projects as a way of delivering business improvements in organizations is changing.

And, consequently, organizations need to evaluate their skills and capabilities accordingly.

Today, the emphasis is on business leaders understanding change better, including what they want to achieve and how to implement it successfully. And this involves enhancing their proficiency to sponsor and deliver projects and programmes more effectively.

But it requires a recognition that delivering a product and closing the project is not enough. The so-called “dump and run” approach doesn’t work to achieve the complex, evolutionary and behavioural change that business now demands.

And although members of the C-suite don’t need to know project and programme techniques intimately, they must be able to champion the vision for change. This is becoming a distinct trend.

Developing the right skills and capabilities

If your primary responsibility is leading change, then understanding the future vision – including the outcomes and benefits of change – is essential.

That means maintaining sight of the big picture, knowing what the destination is and leading people in that direction; like a compass guiding the way, but without needing to know the detail of how to get there.

Therefore, senior level executives will benefit from a general, foundation knowledge of technical, best practice disciplines such as PRINCE2 and Managing Successful Programmes (MSP) and Management of Portfolios (MoP).

For the next level of management – who may previously have delivered small projects in the organization – their learning and development need is more specific. For example, understanding the concepts and how to apply best practices to manage programmes and portfolios directly.

Identifying skills gaps may also be about unearthing the preconception that anyone can be a project manager, even without experience or the approach and vocabulary that comes with best practice knowledge.

Ultimately, this is about embedding project and programme consistency within organizations and being focused on what benefits are required from change.

The impact of best practice learning and certification

What elements of best practice contained in – for example – PRINCE2, MSP and MoP are most beneficial for professionals to obtain moving into 2023?

While acquiring the knowledge through training, the key element is developing the ability to apply the principles and influence the way you think. This is where it counts to progress from Foundation to Practitioner level in the various best practices.

For example, in the case of MSP, working through the case study in the guidance is about getting a big picture view, i.e., why is the company seeking strategic change? The MSP framework helps you to proceed, but alongside your own critical evaluation of the organization’s context to understand why change is valuable. Combining theory with experience elevates your practice beyond a box ticking exercise.

From a leadership perspective, they need to make clear what the organization’s priorities are, the available resources and the risk profile they can accept. After that, they should expect their teams to adopt best practice principles, unless they can justify using a different approach. However, it’s not about blindly following processes but employing judgement and skill to apply the knowledge appropriately.

Equally, it’s important to observe how other, complementary approaches – such as stakeholder management – will be valuable in the project environment.

A holistic approach to change and improvement

Much current management is founded on having detailed plans and managing downwards.

Perhaps a more effective approach today is, rather than detailing the process people must follow, clarifying the goal, the constraints (budget, timeframe, quality), specifying the desired outcomes and empowering people to deliver in a way they think appropriate.

And the shift in understanding the role of projects means there also needs to be greater recognition of programme and portfolio management to prioritise projects and resources.

Keeping a focus on valuable outcomes – and structuring for a strategic future – is leadership’s task, while liberating suitably-qualified teams of people to do that.