Managing Projects, Programs and Change Initiatives

Plan, Lead, Deliver, Realise — Projects and change doesn’t just happen, they need leadership to be successful

Evolution of Project Management

Project management and program management have matured during the last 20 years or so. There is a clearly defined profession with a formal Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK), numerous methodologies and frameworks (e.g. PRINCE2 and MSP), defined competency standards, professional membership associations (e.g. PMI and AIPM), and their formal accreditation systems.

There was stability and consistency, until Agile emerged as an alternate approach to delivery. It has shaken up the profession, and to some extent a degree of catch up remains. It has helped clarify large Change programs and the approach for delivering continuous change, whether that be systems, process or organisational.

Bimodal philosophy

We are certain that best practice will adapt. Until then, Core Consulting Group (CCG) blends both approaches through our Bimodal philosophy. We recommend clients adopt a similar approach, choosing components from each method that make sense for them. In our opinion, the PRINCE2 and Managing Successful Programs (MSP) project board still remains the best approach for governing projects.

Skills of an effective Project Manager

Much has been written about what makes an effective project manager. Read the textbook, and you may be misled into thinking it is all about creating artifacts. At Core Consulting Group (CCG), our focus is on delivering value and benefits within the objectives of the approved business case. This is particularly important for strategic projects.

The textbook states that project management “involves the discipline of planning, organising, controlling, and managing resources to achieve project goals and outcomes”.

We believe that while all this is important, it is the ‘soft skills’ that count: the communication skills and the ability to influence and lead people to achieve a common goal. Due to the temporary nature of projects, in global environments involving vendors, contractors, politics, and funding constraints, it is the management of these areas that differentiate the good from great.

Managing Up/Managing Down

A key aspect of project and program management is managing up: working with the sponsor, senior users, and suppliers to engage the executive management of an organisation to deliver on their strategic goals. It also involves respecting their oversight and governance roles, learning from their experience, and utilising them to support business change. Regardless of the way large change initiatives or programs are delivered, we understand the complexity of change and the need for collaboration, colocation and a commitment to incremental and continuous change. See Bimodal delivery for more about how this would work.

Project and program management clearly involves managing teams of people, both internal and external, through contractors and vendors. Communication skills, commercial experience, persistence, and problem-solving skills are critical. With Agile solidifying as a sound way to deliver software, titles such as the Scrum Master and Iteration Manager may need to be used.  Either way its about managing people and work to deliver a set of common objectives.

Continuous change

Continuous change is somewhat different, often involving a blend of “project” and “business as usual” resources.  A focus on the product rather than the project, with delivery of value to the organisation being key.  Managing delivery of change requires similar qualities in terms of the manager but the approach and focus may differ.

Building client capability

The work we do for clients varies, from taking the role of project or program manager to training, coaching, and supporting professional development. Ask us about our graduate project management program: we would be happy to share learnings from this innovative approach.

Case studies

Further reading

White papers & Articles

Best practice

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