A rose by any other name...

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Am I the only person to be accused of being pedantic about taxonomy? The trouble is (my perspective!) that it is very important to ‘say what we mean’ and ‘mean what we say’. All the ‘serious professional careers’ hold this very dearly: lawyers, accountants, doctors, engineers… and if you do not feel that we, project management professionals, are in this category then I think that you and I have different views on our profession!

My concern is the lack of understanding – or is it just loose language – of the difference between programme and project. To me it is very simple: programmes are about delivering ‘outcomes’; projects are about delivering ‘outputs’. And the key is that programmes require ‘change’ in business as usual to achieve the shift in ‘outcome’. The secret to successful programme management is (again, my view) to focus on the desired outcomes (get people out of the weeds of the project output) and the change component required to achieve it: the focus here needs to be on stakeholder management. Where programmes often fail is that the programme manager focusses too much on the (apparently) main projects that make up his programme – all too often because the programme manager has developed from being a project manager and is in his (or her) comfort zone at the project level.

Do you recognise echoes of this in your life and find yourself frustrated in this situation? If so, take a lead from the APM president’s blog and write a New Year’s resolution for someone you feel may be creating a risk to the success of the enterprise you are engaged in by missing the subtly of this taxonomy pedant – a pedantic point that is so much more than being just a pedantic point!

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