Applying Program Management Theory to XPS

This post is an excerpt of my newly published paper “Managing strategic improvement programs: the XPS program management framework”, published in the peer-reviewed and open-access Journal of Project, Program and Portfolio Management (Vol. 3, No. 1). The complete paper is available for download at my publications pages.

Multinational companies are implementing an increasing number of improvement programs; they spend more money, more often and on bigger programs. A shared aim of all the programs is change in one form or another. A specific type of program that has received a lot of attention and spending among multinational manufacturing companies in the past decade is the company-specific production system (XPS ).  XPSs are multi-plant improvement programs that are coordinated from the corporate headquarters and implemented in all subsidiaries of the firm. However, research and practice show that the implementation of process improvement programs is a challenging task that often ends up unsuccessful despite good intentions and substantial resource investments. In the JPPPM paper, I investigated how Program Management Theory can help provide deployment guidelines for successful XPS implementation in global firms.

Program management is a popular approach for bringing about change in corporations. One of the most usual and acknowledged guides for program management is the book Managing Successful Programmes (MSP) published by The UK Office of Government Commerce. The MSP framework (OGC 2011) is a holistic, structured and detailed account of how to manage programs from the start to the end as shown below:

The Managing Successful Programs framework (OGC, 2011, p. 6)

This framework is clearly useful for many types of mega-projects, but it it does not fit the management of an XPS perfect. There is another theoretical perspective in the Program Management Theory that criticizes this type of frameworks from the project-based  program management literature. The strategic perspective on program management argues that the one-size-fits-all recipe for program management that has been advocated by the project-based perspective is erroneous for more strategic programs.  The MSP framework is based on the classic project management principles of role hierarchy, linear life-cycles  defined activities, structure and control. Strategic programs differ from project-based programs in that they are: (1) proceeding, (2) emergent, (3) dynamic and (4) people-oriented. Therefore, other program frameworks are needed for programs like XPS:

  • Proceeding: An XPS is intended as a never-ending strategic program of continuous improvement.
  • Emergent: The the end goal of XPS is a ‘moving target’ as it is all about continuous improvement.
  • Dynamic: An XPS program must simultaneously deliver the same change capability in subsidiaries that naturally are at very different maturity stages.
  • People-oriented: The real product of an XPS program is a capacity for change rather than a physical technology.

For all these reasons there is a need to develop more flexible, yet helpful, frameworks for the program management of an XPS. While the project-based perspective of Program Management Theory  is rightly criticised for being too rigid and uniform to fit a strategic program such as the XPS. The strategic perspective, on the other hand, is too vague and leaves XPS practitioners with little help other than advice to focus on competence building and to allow for different approaches. By adapting the well-developed program management frameworks from the project perspective to the peculiarities of the XPS as a strategic program, I developed and proposed the following framework:

The XPS program management framework (Netland,2012, p. 41)

The XPS program management framework proposed is based on the process perspective that allows managers to focus attention on different phases of the program. The XPS for each phase is determined by its three elements: content, structure and process. A first project phase is needed to establish the program. Thereafter, by performing XPS program management, subsidiaries should be able to move through three phases: re engineering  continuous improvement, and finally process innovation. In the paper it is suggested that each phase requires a specific focus in the subsidiary, but also that the focus of each phase must be sustained beyond that phase.o

To download the whole paper please find it in my publications page or at JPPPM Vol.3 No. 1.. Cite this paper: Netland, T. H. (2012) Managing strategic improvement programs: the XPS program management framework. Journal of Project, Program and Portfolio Management, 3, 31 – 44.o

Recommended literature from Program Management Theory

  • Gray, R. J. (1997) Alternative approaches to programme management. International Journal of Project Management, 15, 5-9.
  • Lycett, M., Rassau, A. & Danson, J. (2004) Programme management: a critical review. International Journal of Project Management, 22, 289-299.
  • Milosevic, D. Z., Martinelli, R. & Waddell, J. M. (2007) Program Management for Improved Business Results, John Wiley & Sons.
  • OGC (2011) Managing Successful Programmes, Norwich, United Kingdom, The Stationary Office, Office of Government Commerce
  • Pellegrinelli, S. (1997) Programme management: organising project-based change. International Journal of Project Management, 15, 141-149.
  • Pellegrinelli, S. (2008) Thinking and acting as a reat programme manager, New York, Palgrave Macmillian.
  • Reiss, G. (1996) Programme management demystified: managing multiple projects successfully, London, Spon Press.
  • Thiry, M. (2002) Combining value and project management into an effective programme management model. International Journal of Project Management, 20, 221-227.
  • Vereecke, A., Pandalaere, E., Deschoolmeesterl, D. & Stevens, M. (2003) A classification of development programmes and its consequences for programme management. International Journal of Operations & Production Management, 23, 1279.
  • Williams, D. & Parr, T. (2004) Enterprise programme management: delivering value, Basingstoke, Hampshire, Palgrave Macmillan.

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