December 18, 2014

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Project management advice, tips, tools and recommended resources for existing and aspiring project managers.

6 Winning Practices for Effective Programme Management

Today we will look at managing a programme and which recommended practices you want to consider when managing a programme.

If we look at a simple definition of a Programme, it is that a Programme is a group of projects, which are grouped together because they contribute to the same objectives in the business strategy.

Here are 6 recommendations for managing a programme:

1. Review the Strategy

When kicking off your programme, the first step is to review your business case and agree on the objectives that your programme is responsible for delivering. This is important, as the objectives are what you use to peg your projects to. If you end up creating new projects that don’t contribute your specified objectives, then they should be excluded from your programme!

2. Line up management support

It is of utmost importance to gain the support of your executive team through the Business Case. This will help you to identify the benefits and costs of running the programme, the risks you foresee and what it is that you need to make it a success. It will also help you get the funding you require, as your Business Case will justify the funding needed, by stating the benefits to be realized.

3. Start carefully

Now that you have the funding and support from management, you’re ready to kick-off. Before launching into scoping your projects—instead define your overall programme of work in depth first. Create a Program Charter setting out your vision, objectives, roadmap and deliverables. Then set up a Program Office and appoint the key members of your administration team.

4. Project selection is critical

You’re now ready to define your projects and other related work. Scope out each project carefully and make sure that the benefits delivered from all of your projects combined, deliver the goals stated in your Business Case. Selecting the right projects to deliver the right benefits is critical. Make sure you categorize, evaluate, select and prioritize your projects carefully.

5. It’s all down to execution

Now kick off your projects in a logical order. Spread your programme resources (people, time and money) evenly so you don’t have resource constraints. Never schedule critical projects to take place at the end. To retain the buy-in of your Sponsor, make sure your projects deliver value early.

6. Control chaos

After your projects kick off, changes in the business often cause a level of chaos. Your projects change in scope, their budgets get constrained and resource shortages start occurring. How you react to these changes will determine your level of success as a Program Manager.

When this happens, step back and re-assess your programme. Outside influences are often the cause and these are things that you alone can fix. Only in exceptional circumstances should you dive into the depths of the program itself and work alongside project managers and teams at the micro level. A good Program Manager will instead step back and make macro level changes to influence the success of the programme.

For more project related resources like training, software and products, please visit the Resources page.

Clash Between the Titans: PRINCE2 vs Project Management Professionals

This post was sourced from an article that was published in “The Project Manager” magazine, authored by Dr Christopher Worsley.

The clash referred to here is between the institutions or training companies providing PRINCE2™ courses and who are promoting method accreditation versus training organisations offering courses that promote professional project management.

It has taken time and much research, some funded by the national and international project management associations, to develop a consistent view about what makes a good project manager.

There remains work to be done, but consensus is growing about their attributes, and for a professional curriculum and valid assessment criteria to be created.

Where is the problem?

The problem is the difference between education and training.

Not sure what the difference is? Simply check your reaction to your child coming home and saying he/she had sex training rather than sex education at school today!

Institutions who offer PRINCE2™ would claim that some 50 000 individuals sit the PRINCE2™ tests every year, while the institutions who offer PMP certification educations would be hard-pressed to find 5 000 taking advanced project management qualifications worldwide.

We need to worry that the personal development budget for future project managers is being consumed by training programmes, when this money could be better spent in educating them in project management.

Senior executives want people skilled at running projects. People skilled at running projects are distinguished by their attitudes, their skills, the responsibilities they intuitively accept, and the tasks and procedures they follow.

It is a well-researched finding that the best predictor of project performance is level of previous project experience. None of these are the outcomes from the typical five-day accreditation training course, including two days of tests.

What project management education does, is develop judgement and attitudes. It focuses on disciplines, not procedures, and forces focus on the factors that lead to success in projects.

There is a place for procedures. They are the distilled wisdom from hundreds of man years of others’ experience, but they are not rules, they are guidance; something that someone – whose only exposure to project management is a method course and anecdotal experiences, shaped by that method – rarely grasps.

How to resolve the clash?

The first and most important thing is to make the case for developing project management expertise, rather than project method expertise.

The major project management organisations, such as the APM, the International Association of Project Managers (IAPM) and the Project Management Institute (PMI), must make their cases much clearer and deliver to the marketplace clear guidelines about what good project management education should look like.

Both the APM and the PMI have long-standing entry-level knowledge programmes that are preferable starting points for project management education, but they suffer from many of the same faults as the method accreditation courses, with a public image that attaining these underwrites some sort of professional status in project management when they patently do not.

And project managers who value their contribution to their organisation and to their country should demand loud and clear that they are professionals and expect professional status with all that comes with it: recognition, responsibility and qualifications.

Dr Christopher and Louise Worsley are Managing Directors of PiCubed, Delivering Change through Projects, Portfolios and Programmes, a South African centre for excellence in project management. It is a sister company to CITI – a highly respected project management education and consultancy business in the UK.