Managing Successful Programmes


An organisation, or several organisations working together, have many related projects to organise. They realise that they would like to use expert tips, common ways to work, proven strategies to ensure success for the projects. They would also like to realise the measurable improvements  post-project. They choose MSP to help them.

PRINCE2 = focus on project products
MSP = focus on benefits (measurable improvements )

I deliver MSP courses to individuals, teams and organisations. After a course you should be able to join in on a MSP team and understand what is going on. The ideal goal is to increase the chances of having a successful programme (related set of projects)

MSP Principles

The purpose of MSP is to provide a common framework of understanding for all programmes. This is possible because MSP is principles-based. Principles are characterized as:

  • Universal in that they apply to every programme
  • Self-validating in that they have been proven in practice
  • Empowering because they give practitioners of this framework some added ability to influence and shape transformational change towards success.
MSP Governance Themes

Governance Themes provide guidance on concepts that are continual throughout the life of the programme. Most have a cycle of associated activities that enable appropriate controls to be maintained to keep the programme on course.

MSP Transformational Flow

MSP programmes are all about delivering transformational business change. The Transformational Flow shows how this transformation is achieved through a series of iterative, interrelated steps. Each process may require more than one iteration before the next one begins.

Tips for real life MSP

1. What does good look like?

Together with key stakeholders, create a shared model of the desired future. This can be the first model to share with other stakeholders to get feedback and ideas for improvement.  (Workshop, brainstorming, work with Lego Serious Play, drawing equipment…). Write the desired future in simple enough language so that readers could understand. Identify about four areas/segments that clearly describe the future business. There’s no right answer, go with what inspires the stakeholders.

The key is to keep it simple, and at the end of the process ask:

  • Do senior, key stakeholders buy into the model?
  • How do we know that they buy into it?

2. Engage with your stakeholders

Think about who your stakeholders are, reach out to them and get into a meaningful dialogue with them. The key here is to keep it real. In the book “7 habits of highly effective people”, use habit number 5 = Seek first to understand, then be understood. So many times we do the opposite…

The question to ask yourself at the end is: do you know who the stakeholders are and what makes them tick?

  • Brainstorm who the stakeholders are.

  • Meet with the stakeholders. Share the ideas. Ask for feedback.

  • Invite them to get involved/engaged

3. It’s all about benefits!

Create a high level benefits model for your programme. It is an important time for establishing your benefits focus, so put enough effort into this workshop.

Situation at the end: Does the business buy into the model and can you identify owners for each benefit?

  • Get together a workshop with lots of stakeholders.

  • Ensure common understanding of “benefits”
  • Brainstorm the benefits.

  • Refined the model until it works.

  • Look out for potential benefit owners.

4. Set up an information hub for the programme

The programme office = information hub/nerve centre for the programme. That means the programme office has the authoritative version of the documents that matter. It could be as simple as a shared wiki system with built-in change control.

Situation at the end: people use the information hub to find out what’s going on.

  • Think about the information that you gathering.

  • Identify the key information and keep it safe.

5. The idea of Black Swans…

A ‘black swan’ is something big and unexpected. Just as soon as you begin to get that comfortable feeling that the programme is beginning to settle down, in will flap a giant black swan. You need to be prepared to deal with it. You don’t see Black Swans coming.

Key: have a plan B

Situation at the end: You will be saying ‘Well that was a chaotic few days, but we ended up in pretty good shape.’

  • You are very busy, but sit down and think about the information you’ve gathered in the team you’re working with.

  • Imagine the most extreme black swan you can think of – the boss gets sacked, you merge with your biggest competitor, the budget or timescale is cut in half or doubled.

  • Run a simulation, play with ideas and different scenarios. How will the Black Swan be dealt with?

The black swan theory or theory of black swan events is a metaphor that describes an event that comes as a surprise, has a major effect, and is often inappropriately rationalised after the fact with the benefit of hindsight.

The term is based on an ancient saying which presumed black swans did not exist, but the saying was rewritten after black swans were discovered in the wild.

The theory was developed by Nassim Nicholas Taleb to explain:

  1. The disproportionate role of high-profile, hard-to-predict, and rare events that are beyond the realm of normal expectations in history, science, finance, and technology.
  2. The non-computability of the probability of the consequential rare events using scientific methods (owing to the very nature of small probabilities).
  3. The psychological biases which blind people, both individually and collectively, to uncertainty and to a rare event’s massive role in historical affairs.