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Operational art: focus on bigger outcome of programme [Video]

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Posted by APM on 5th Aug 2013

“Project managers often have a danger of focusing on specific outputs they are required to deliver rather than understanding the bigger outcome that the programme they contribute to is seeking to achieve.”

Colonel Martin Sturgeon, speaking at the APM Project Management Conference in June, claimed that if project managers lose focus of the wider objective then they can’t adapt to a changing environment to ensure the overall goal of the programme is achieved.

To illustrate this point the award-winning programme manager used a military concept called operational art. This theory represents the level of command which seeks to link the minute details of tactics on the ground with achieving the overarching strategic objectives at the higher level.

“There is a real parallel between operational art and programme management, which seeks to use projects to deliver particular outputs that will together combine to achieve a specific outcome,” said Martin.

Martin initiated, designed and managed the Ministry of Defence’s Afghan National Security Forces Transformation Programme in Helmand Province.

The APM Conference also showcased another project manager who adapted to his surroundings while delivering a programme in such harsh environments.

Karl Tuplin has spent the last nine years working for the British Antarctic Survey managing the design and build of the scientific research station in one of the most inhospitable environments in the world; Antarctica.

The senior project manager feels that the success of the Halley VI research station came down to teamwork.

“In the early stages of this project we had a fairly unique procurement method. The design team, the contractor and the client team all worked together to develop this design and in so doing they developed close bonds,” he said.

“They all had a passion for this project. So, when we hit problems they were all there working together trying to resolve it rather than working against each other.”

Karl agrees with Martin that project managers need to be resilient and flexible in order to adapt with a changing environment – echoing the themes of the conference. 

“You need to have options – a plan B and plan C. When a problem occurs you have another solution and another way of dealing with it.

“Planning and flexibility helped us to deal with anything that Antarctica threw at us.”

A full round up on the 2013 APM Conference featured in July’s issue of Project magazine.

Watch more interviews with the speakers from the APM Project Management Conference 2013.


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