Community of Practice
SME: Torbjørn Netland
OPM CoP will feature thought leaders. This series kicks off with Torbjørn
Netland, a researcher at SINTEF Technology and Society and the Norwegian
University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim, Norway who recently
contributed to the Journal of Project, Program and Portfolio Management
edited by the OPM CoP Council Lead, Dr. Nigel Williams.
Program Management Theory to manage global process improvement programs
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. A few examples are Alcoa Business System, Boeing Production
System, Bosch Production System, Jotun Operations System, Siemens Production
System, and Volkswagen Production System. 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 my paper "Managing strategic improvement
programs: the XPS program management framework", newly published
in the Journal
of Project, Program and Portfolio Management (Vol. 3, No. 1),
I investigated how Program Management Theory can help provide deployment
guidelines for successful XPS implementation in global firms. Here follows
Program management is a popular approach for bringing about change in
corporations. One of the most 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 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. Other program frameworks are needed
for programs like XPSs that are characterized by being:
- Proceeding: An
XPS is intended as a never-ending strategic program of continuous improvement.
- Emergent: 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.
The real product of an XPS program is a capacity for change rather than
a physical technology.
The XPS program
For all these reasons there is a need to develop more flexible, yet helpful,
framework for the program management of an XPS. While the project-based
perspective of Program Management Theory is rightly criticized 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 propose the following framework:
Figure: The XPS
program management framework (Netland, 2012 p. 41)
The XPS program management
framework 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. The paper is freely available for
download at the Journal of Project, Program and Portfolio Management.
- Milosevic, D. Z.,
Martinelli, R. & Waddell, J. M. (2007) Program Management for Improved
Business Results, John Wiley & Sons.
- Netland, T. H.
(2012) Exploring the phenomenon of company-specific Production Systems:
One-best-way or own-best-way? International Journal of Production Research,
- OGC (2011) Managing
Successful Programmes, Norwich, United Kingdom, The Stationary Office,
Office of Government Commerce
S. (1997) Programme management: organising project-based change. International
Journal of Project Management, 15, 141-149.
S. (2008) Thinking and acting as a real programme manager, New York,
- 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.
- Williams, D. &
Parr, T. (2004) Enterprise programme management: delivering value, Basingstoke,
Hampshire, Palgrave Macmillan.
Torbjørn Netland is a researcher at SINTEF Technology and Society
and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim,
Norway. In 2011-2012 he has been a Fulbright Visiting Research Fellow
at McDonough School of Business. He blogs at www.better-operations.com,
tweets as @tnetland, and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.