Governance Themes in MSP

April 12, 2009 by  Filed under: Management 

One key element of the Managing Successful Programmes (MSP) methodology is the concept of Governance Themes. These nine themes constitute a governance or control framework for programme management. The MSP manual presents guidance for handling each theme in the form of ‘Best Practices’, which have been developed through consultation with professional programme and project managers.


This Governance Theme describes the overall structure, as well as the individual roles and responsibilities of all those who are involved in the programme. The guidance provided ranges from the vague (“Responsibilities of the Sponsoring Group: Championing the programme”) to the more measurable (“Key attributes of the Programme Manager: Good knowledge of techniques for planning, monitoring and controlling programmes, including risk management”). In all cases, the MSP manual stresses that the responsibilities and profiles given must be tailored to the needs of the individual programme.


Although the MSP methodology is “primarily designed to cater for leading and managing transformational change” and is particularly suited to programmes managed within environments of high complexity, risk and ambiguity, there is one aspect of the programme that should not, except under the strongest external pressure, ever be altered. The Vision Statement, a document written by the Senior Responsible Owner and a team of senior management and representative stakeholders, describes the future state envisioned as the successful fulfilment of programme objectives.

Leadership and Stakeholder Engagement

Engaging stakeholders, including employees, is essential if a programme is to succeed, as without adequate support from the right people, a programme may lack the resources that it needs to fulfil the benefits projected in the Vision Statement.

A stakeholder is anybody who has an interest or investment in the development of the programme. This investment may be low or high, and can be set in opposition to the influence of individual (or groups of) stakeholders within a matrix designed to help create and analyse stakeholder profiles.

Benefits Realisation Management

The purpose of Benefits Realisation Management is the clear identification of benefits, and the use of these benefits as a roadmap for the programme. MSP illustrates this through the Path to Benefit Realisation diagram, which details the steps from Project Outputs to Strategic Objectives.

The pivotal position of Benefits between Project Outputs and Strategic Objectives demands that each project should be initiated and evaluated in terms of the programme strategy, ensuring that no programme carries ‘dead wood’.

Blueprint Design and Delivery

The Blueprint expands upon the Vision Statement. It is a model of the future organisation, which is designed to fulfil the Vision Statement, and describes in detail its working practices and processes, its required information input, and any supporting technology. A Blueprint should also contain documentation about the current state of the organisation, in order to facilitate ‘gap analysis’, through which an organisation may understand the purpose, and refine the nature of the programme that is to be implemented.

Planning and Control

The Programme Plan is a key control document that details how the programme is to be run. It provides information about resources, risk management, individual projects, deadlines, constraints and scheduling.

The aim of control is to ensure that the programme remains on-track and delivers the desired benefits, and that any accompanying transition is effected smoothly and profitably. This is enabled through planning and preparation, thorough implementation of planned processes and post-programme/-transition monitoring and support.

The Business Case

The MSP Business Case, like the PRINCE2 Project Management Business Case, is intended to answer the question: is this programme (or project) worth the required investment? The information aggregated for this purpose includes: the value of the benefits, the associated risks, the cost of delivering the Blueprint, and the estimated timescale for achievement.

The Business Case is a work-in-progress, and must be updated at regular checkpoints throughout the programme to ensure that the programme’s viability can be monitored.

Risk Management and Issue Resolution

MSP is a methodology ideally suited to ambiguous and uncertain programme environments. Managing risks and resolving issues is therefore a key MSP Governance Theme. Risks are uncertain events that would influence the outcome of a programme; an ‘issue’ is a risk that has occurred. Risks do not necessarily have to be negative, and managing the opportunities that risks can present is an important part of this Governance Theme.

The MSP manual provides a four-step process to Programme Risk Management: Identification, Assessment, Planning and Implementation. The Issue Resolution Process is presented in the form of a flow diagram that follows two basic steps: capture and log the issue, and then perform issue assessment, which places the issue in one of three categories. These three categories each lead to an appropriate response, which can then be implemented and recorded in the Issue Log.

Quality Management

The difference between MSP Quality Management and PRINCE2 Quality Management is that, while in PRINCE2 it is the degree to which the project output matches the Acceptance Criteria that is managed, in MSP it is the efficacy of the programme and its benefits in achieving the strategic goals that is at stake.

Quality Management is a continuous activity during and after the life of the programme, and an effective Quality Management Strategy is essential to ensuring that programme benefits are successfully and comprehensively realised.


The MSP Governance Themes are not intended as a prescription for programme management. It is not the intention that a new programme manager should sit down with the MSP manual in hand and follow its guidelines like a rule-book. Instead, the Governance Themes provide a means of organising the individual approach to programme management, in such a way that the purpose of the entire venture is closely bound to the activities of the programme itself.

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