The 7 MSP® Principles: A Closer Look

I haven’t changed my mind about MSP®. It is one of the best program management “road maps” around for getting a program defined and on track through a successful and controlled start, middle and end.  This structured, non-proprietary program management method focuses on delivering defined and measurable benefits to the business. MSP uses an integrated framework of elements for successful program management: principles, governance themes, and processes.

As promised in a previous post, it’s time to take a more detailed look at the first of three pieces of this integrated framework: the set of seven common-sense principles that guide experienced program managers and their teams during the program life cycle.  I think of these principles as a short-list of strategic things that good program managers always keep in mind and use to target their program’s ultimate success in achieving its objectives.  The seven principles guiding the use of MSP are:

  1. Remaining aligned with corporate strategy
  2. Learning from experience
  3. Designing and delivering a coherent capability
  4. Adding value
  5. Focusing on benefits and threats to them
  6. Envisioning and communicating a better future
  7. Leading change

Let’s take a closer look at each one of them.

Remaining aligned with corporate strategy.

Programs need to stay aligned with corporate strategies, even if those strategies change over time. This works in two directions. Programs take strategic drivers from the business and use them to govern their constituent projects and business change activities. In return, programs provide feedback to the corporate strategists regarding the strategic ideas that a program is proving or disproving.   Managing programs requires the programs themselves to be agile and adaptive as strategic plans may change over time.

Learning from experience.

Programs and their teams are expected to learn from previous experience in order to improve their performance over time.  Lessons learned are sought, recorded and acted upon throughout the program life cycle, typically at major review points.  This approach allows the program and its team members the opportunity to assimilate and learn things that may have a positive impact on their program as it progresses.

Designing and delivering a coherent capability.

Program capabilities are defined in the program blueprint and delivered according to the program plan. Keeping a handle on program scope and quality allows your program to release its incremental improvements with minimal operational impacts. Program managers must focus on the bigger picture of the program and not manage the projects that are part of their program.

Adding value.

Programs add value to the organization by exceeding the benefits provided by the straightforward sum of their constituent projects and major activities. Program benefits should exist in addition to and above the individual project benefits of its constituent pieces.  Managing business change at a program level allows you to identify and claim these additional program benefits and their added value.

Focusing on benefits and threats to them.

Programs satisfy strategic objectives by achieving their desired outcomes and delivering the resulting benefits of the program to the organization. Program benefits must be relevant to the strategic context of the organization in order to add value.  Risk management is crucial to ensuring that these program benefits are achieved. Addressing operational, tactical and strategic risks that impact business benefits across the program life cycle is a key element of success

Envisioning and communicating a better future.

Programs must define a clear vision of the desired future state they seek to create as part of the transformational change they will deliver to the organization. The program’s vision should be defined early in the program life cycle, and refined as necessary over time. Program managers are responsible for effectively communicating this vision to program stakeholders as well as and ensuring that the vision stays aligned with corporate strategies.

Leading change.

Program managers are “agents of change” and will be leading others through the changes their program plans to deliver to the organization. Leadership is an essential program management skill.  Effective program managers lead through a combination of consistency and transparency. Leading change requires actively engaging your program stakeholders across the program life cycle.

Well, there you have it! I think that a copy of the MSP method is required reference material in any program manager’s bookshelf, including mine.  The method is documented in the publication ”Managing Successful Programmes” which is officially published by The Stationary Office, or TSO. Serious program managers seeking to enhance their knowledge, skills and professional credibility target should consider MSP certification.  Learning Tree offers two excellent certification courses for folks interested in becoming a certified practitioner of MSP.

Stay tuned as we take a more detailed look at the governance themes and transformational flow elements of this method in subsequent posts.

Susan Weese

*MSP® is a registered trade mark of the Cabinet Office.

Type to search

Do you mean "" ?

Sorry, no results were found for your query.

Please check your spelling and try your search again.