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Seven top tips for programme management

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For many the number seven is deemed to be lucky while for others it has religious significance. There are seven wonders of the world, seven colours in a rainbow, and seven pillars of wisdom. The human working (short term) memory can usually (just about) cope with seven items. So why not have seven top tips for programme management?

So what merits inclusion in the top tips list?

The best thing about the internet and living in ‘on-line’ Britain is that there are a wealth of reports from trusted sources instantly available concerning the progress of those really high profile programmes.  At the top of the pile is London 2012, but there are others such as Edinburgh Trams, the Cardiff Millennium Stadium and Heathrow’s Terminal 5 all of which have all been subject to independent audit or Parliamentary scrutiny.

So what can be gleaned from these very public programmes; both good and bad?

Surprisingly it isn’t difficult and certainly not rocket science to compile the following list:

  1. Vision:  Does you programme have a vision as clear and compelling as London 2012:  a) to deliver world class games b) regenerate the East End c) leave a legacy of sport for the UK.
  2. Organisation:  Are roles and responsibilities in your programme clearly defined and do you have people with the right skills and experience?
  3.  Benefits:  Is your programme delivering or likely to deliver benefits?  The Millennium Stadium in Cardiff is not just an iconic sporting venue, it has been an integral part of the city centre development.
  4. Business Case:  Does your business case show that the benefits exceed the costs + risks + the timescales?
  5. Risks:  Is risk management being applied to every aspect of your programme; not simply construction.  Cast you minds back to the security guard shortfall just before the Olympic Opening Ceremony.
  6. Change management:  Are you attending to those critical change management issues?  The Transport Committee of the House of Commons highlighted this and other issues with the opening of Heathrow’s highly impressive Terminal 5.
  7. Communications and stakeholder engagement:  The interim findings of Audit Scotland about the progress of the Edinburgh Tram Programme underlines the significance of effective communications.

I would be interested in your views?  Do you agree with my tips or are there others you would like to include?


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  1. Merv Wyeth
    Merv Wyeth 29 November 2012, 05:24 AM

    Hi Jim,I think this is an excellent list and I have been unable to find anything that was actually missing, although I have come up with a couple of themes from my own experience which has predominantly been around ICT in the public sector projects and programme types that have rarely covered themselves in glory!Firstly, professionalism, and I quote from the comprehensive 6th edition of the Body of Knowledge "The learning and development of organisations, teams and individuals are in a constant state of flux as they attempt to meet the challenges and competitive forces of the marketplace. This requires a dynamic approach to learning and development, using all the tools available."Secondly, tools of the trade. Whilst the generally accepted wisdom from the Agile Manifesto is that individuals and interactions are valued even more than processes and tools. It also holds true that 'if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.' So it is a balance!I am particularly interested in the push to re-engineer projects and programmes for UK PLC along Agile Principles and methods as per the the Government ICT Strategy (See the Strategic Implementation Plan: Moving from the what to the how)What can be achieved when this shift, of super-tanker proportions, is executed well was demonstrated in Knibergs work with the Swedish national police authority as documented in his book Lean from the Trenches: Managing Large-Scale Projects with Kanban.I would also recommend a read of Brian Wernhams book Agile Project Management for Goverment serves to shine a light on this brave new world in which effective project and programme managers must now operate.

  2. Richard Renshaw
    Richard Renshaw 03 September 2012, 06:45 PM

    @ Jim, such I thought a good post. I wanted to offer up that such tips could prove helpful prompts when in due course the revision of existing programme management publications come up for update. For example APM 's Intro. to programme Mngt. Guide at the URL below.