Programme management – an introduction (part 2)

Projects in programmes
As indicated earlier a programme has only one or a number of projects including several activities. Think, for example, of setting and starting up a warehouse as a programme, where all sorts of projects are necessary in order to develop it. The objective of the programme is then formulated in terms of profit figures, stocks, number of customers (per time unit), etc. Projects can therefore be: starting up a shop, laying car parking spots, contracting in personnel, etc. Yet, activities are needed, such as purchasing and selling of products, to develop this and to achieve  the benefits

Depending upon the organization structure, the Project Boards of the various projects are acquired with the programme organization. Usually the role of Executive will be filled by the programme manager or a person directly delegated to do so. In most cases a coordinating Project Support and Project Assurance will be set up. This provides great support to the communication in the programme and across the projects. In this way the underlying projects will get much of the required information from the programme. And vice versa, for issues beyond projects, the information flows more easily to others involved in the programme.

When starting a project within a programme there is usually a good overview of the main points of what has to take place. The Project Mandate will contain a large part of the information required to make a Project Brief. Even if it concerns planning, a project will have to aim at the expectations of the programme. However, this must not be taken literally just like that. It is still important to continually assess how realistic this information is. That is the responsibility of project management. During the programme project tolerances will be defined that are recorded in the Project Brief and in the PID.

The Project Brief is supplied by the programme. The Business Case and the project outcomes are linked to the benefits that must be achieved by the programme. The project is controlled upon the basis of the deliveries related to the benefits upon which the programme is calculated.

Each change that influences areas outside the project must be tailored to programme management strategy and where necessary programme management must make the decisions. An example here can be the change of objectives or of predefined project outcomes, as well as changes to the Business Case.

Types of programmes
Each programme is unique in what it aims to deliver and the circumstances under which this is carried out. Figure 3 shows examples of types of programmes and areas where changes are carried out.

Construction, engineering and ICT
It is characteristic of this environment to be unambiguous and the results to be delivered are often clearly described and specified. It is clear what must take place and often how much time and energy will be required. There will be few major changes while the project is being carried out. This will involve the preparation and completion of products, with the focus more on result-oriented work rather than just the objectives of the project.

This type of programme differs from projects in the distribution of tasks, authority and responsibilities. With a project, the manager (the Project Manager) is responsible for producing project results that are within the budget, produced on time and can be used by the client to realize the Business Case. With a programme, the manager (Programme Manager) is responsible for the above, as well as for delivering the results and (partial) realization of the Business Case.

This may, for example, deal with the implementation and development of a new computing centre, or the introduction of a new product where development will be reviewed after a few months to see if it can be included in the standard range.

Change management
This concerns programmes for carrying out changes in an organization from a strategic viewpoint, with effectiveness and efficiency as starting points for the change. Consideration is therefore given to the realization of benefits. This type of change is often less clear than the previous type of programme, but there is still a reasonably good vision of what must be done.

The chances for change are greater, but the changes will generally be across the board and dealt with reactively. More components will become clear throughout the implementation period and these can be managed as projects.

Examples of this type of programme may include changing a department to accommodate the demands of a new market, or the reorganization phase following a merger or takeover.

Figure 3 Types of change
(source: Programme management based on MSP)

Policy and strategy
A strategic programme consists of a set of projects and individual activities for realizing an organization’s strategic objectives. This is also based on a vision, but deals much more with reaching the higher strategic goals than just the benefits.

The environment is ambivalent, so there is no clear picture of what must be done. Negotiations are often carried out in this case to find clarity for the procedure that follows. The frameworks are more flexible and the entire scope of the changes is dealt with carefully. While this is being done, parts of the tasks will become clearer and they can also be managed as a change phase. What is remarkable is that the objectives from the various projects might conflict with one another, but they will still support the coordinating goals in the wider context. The challenge here is to have the various objectives balanced in such a way that the strategic objectives can be achieved.

An example of a strategic programme is setting-up an e-business. Implementation is often only driven by a vision of the final outcome. A lot of uncertainties exist in the beginning and the Programme Manager will react pro-actively to possible future developments. The programme could involve the setting-up of systems, motivating clients to work with e-business, preparing the organization for e-business and setting-up a helpdesk.

Multi-organization programmes
This type of programme is characterized by the co-operation of various organizations in managing or sponsoring the programme. These organizations might have the same or different backgrounds (industry or market). The reason for the co-operation is the joint goals and benefits, which the organization cannot achieve on its own.

Such programmes are common in the logistics sector, where the concept ‘providing the complete package’ is becoming more and more important. Far-reaching co-operation is required here in supply chain management, to serve the final consumer efficiently. In these programmes, each partner supplies the input for realizing the joint vision. Each participating organization maintains its own business goals that are to be achieved, as well as the joint vision of the partnership.

Other well-known examples include the private-public ventures where local government and private businesses work together to develop areas that would be much more difficult to launch without direct co-operation.

Critical success factors
There must be a good reason for carrying out the changes. An accepted image of the solution needs to be put in place by the most important people in the organization and this must be seen to be done. The Programme Manager should be involved and want the change without this being forced on him. He must be seen to work quickly and this should be a fixed feature of daily operations. Only then can changes actually be implemented and show their added value for the organization in the long term.

The following steps are conditions for successful implementation:

Make the necessity clear
Changes cost energy. This energy can only be released if there is a clear need for the change. This can be a possible threat or an opportunity, so it is also important to state and share this need for urgency.

Involving senior management
The choice of implementing changes depends largely on the image and experiences of the most important players within the organization. It is not sufficient for the need for change to be felt lower down in the organization or in middle management. The change is not viable if senior management cannot be convinced of the need for it; they must be behind the change and regard it as their problem.

Looking for an owner within senior management
Someone has to take responsibility for the change at senior management level. If everyone is the owner, then no-one is the owner, and nothing or very little will get done. It must be possible to address the owner at the appropriate management level; he’s the figurehead, the ‘champion’, owner or standard-bearer of the change.

There are several names, but they all mean the same, important thing: that this ‘Senior Responsible Owner’ bears managerial responsibility for the programme and is the real owner of the change. The change will have the best chance of success if the owner is also the primus inter pares (first amongst equals) from within the leading coalition of senior managers.

Clear and consistent vision of the final outcome
It is important that everyone involved in the change has the same image of the future and of why the change must take place. By sharing the vision and the Blueprint of the change, the parties involved can identify themselves more with the programme and what is happening. This is also the case with procuring and maintaining the use of staff and resources.

Clear tasks, responsibilities and authorities
One of the most numbing factors with project and programme management is that those involved do not know who is responsible for what, or who can be approached about what. Normally, nothing will happen if several people seem responsible, so establishing clear roles is a must.

Focus on added value
Realizing the benefits is a programmes primary objective. Managing the benefits, from identification through to receiving and measuring the added value, may cost a lot of time, money and management effort, but it is essential for implementing the change. Without this focus on the benefits, the change will have no drive and will soon get bogged down in haggling about what should happen.

Focus on the justification and the risks
There must be practical justification in order to implement a programme and there is no change without uncertainty. The justification and the risks must be established at the beginning of the programme and be tested and managed regularly during the programme.

Empowerment is an important condition for success. Empowerment means that those involved in the programme can make decisions and have sufficient powers and authority within the framework of the programme. This does not mean that each person might decide his own direction, but that all those involved may give as much of their own personal interpretation as possible within the business limitations necessary for realizing the objectives.

Planning, governing and monitoring the process
A structured change is not possible without process management. Changes must also be planned and require governing and monitoring.

Generating and celebrating quick wins
It’s great to see that on paper the new way of working should improve the situation, but nothing is more convincing than these improvements actually happening. Celebrate the success and reward the successful. Do not leave this to chance, but consciously seek short-term successes; these are energy for the motor of change.

Nothing is more frustrating than those involved not knowing what is going to happen. What does the change mean for the organization, how far ahead is the change, has the change already had an effect, and what does the change mean for me? It is not enough for the message to be spread but it is important that management acts in accordance with its own message, as a good example is worth following. Furthermore, it is essential to repeat the message again and again.

Securing the new work method
Changes that are not secured in the organization tend, after a time, to return to their original state. It can take years before new work methods become ‘business as usual’. It is therefore essential to embed the changes into the organization’s procedures and control systems.

Basic principles of MSP
MSP endorses all the mentioned success factors for implementing changes. Specific issues of MSP in relation to other methodologies are:

  • A description of the vision and a Blueprint of the new organization must be defined before starting to implement a programme and these are the main elements in planning and realizing the programme;
  • Identifying and establishing the added value for the organization, and ensuring they are measurable and then managing the added value so that this can be realized;
  • A focus on the justification and the risk: this is essential within the MSP philosophy and is the leading principle for programmes. MSP also has a defined organizational structure with clearly described roles, each with their own set of tasks, responsibilities and authority. In the organization model, the Management Team is offered a structure to help guarantee as far as possible the involvement of senior management and stakeholders.

Based on all information you can conclude that MSP (Managing Successful Programmes) is a best practice approach for changes and useful to apply. The MSP method gives a pragmatic approach to managing programmes. It helps organizations to realize corporate strategies and goals in their organizations, as well as achieving innovation, implementing new management and ensuring planned added value. The principles for managing programmes have been developed over several years and applied within several fields. These principles can be applied to all sorts of programmes, from developing complex housing problems to corporate reorganizations and e-commerce services.

Questions? More information?


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