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Programme Management Principles Tutorial

This Program Management Principles tutorial is offered by Simplilearn. The tutorial is part of the MSP® Foundation and Practitioner course.

In this lesson, we will focus on the principles of managing successful programs. Let us begin with the objectives of this lesson in the next section.


By the end of this MSP program management principles lesson, you will be able to:

  • Identify the constituents of the MSP® framework

  • Explain the 7 program management principles.

Let us move on to the next section to discuss the MSP® framework.

Now, let us look at this video explaining about the program management principles.

MSP Framework

In the pictorial representation of MSP® framework shown, the outermost ring constitutes the program management principles. This ring shows the importance of principles and highlights the fact that the other core concepts of governance themes and transformational flow have to work within these principles.

The second ring in the diagram shows the governance theme and the inner ring represents the transformational flow.

In the next section, we will focus on a brief introduction to the principles of MSP® and find out how they help in program management.

MSP Principles Introduction

MSP is a common framework for understanding all programs, as it is based on some program management principles which are universally applicable to all programs and are self-validating as they have been proven in practice.

They empower the practitioners with added ability and influence to shape the transformational changes aimed by the program.

There are seven principles that constitute MSP®, they are -

  • Principle 1: The first principle is remaining aligned with corporate strategy. This means that at no point of time, the program should deviate from the organization’s strategy.

  • Principle 2: The next principle is leading change, which emphasizes that change should be led effectively.

  • Principle 3: The third principle is envisioning a better future and communicating the same. This means that we need to share the future aimed at the program.

  • Principle 4: The fourth principle is focusing on benefits and threats to them. This ensures that all benefits are realized and threats to them are managed.

  • Principle 5: The fifth principle is adding value, which means that the program should add value to the organization.

  • Principle 6: The sixth principle is designing and delivering a coherent capability. This principle focuses on delivering a capability that is useful and in sync with the program objectives.

  • Principle 7: The last principle is learning from experience, which tells us not to repeat the mistakes that might affect the success of the program. We will now discuss these principles in detail.

Let us begin with the first principle in the next section.

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Principle 1: Remaining Aligned with Corporate Strategy

The first program management principle is remaining aligned with corporate strategy. This principle is focused on creating a robust and flexible working environment for the program, to help it adjust to strategic changes.

  • Corporate strategy can be very volatile in nature and is driven by external and internal changes.

  • The program has to work in a suitable environment and cope up with the radical change of boundary which may happen often or sometimes.

  • If a program does not adjust to the change of strategy, then it will lose its purpose.

  • Programs have to often prove or disprove strategic ideas. This means that a program has to provide an effective feedback to strategists so that they can refine the strategies based on previous experiences.

  • The lessons learned can be very useful for future programs. External drivers may cause frequent changes of direction, and the program should be capable of keeping pace with the strategy and survive the changes.

For confirming these conditions, we must ensure that the business case of a program is robust and has been finalized after considering all alternative options.

Throughout the lifecycle of the program, the business case needs to be reviewed frequently to ensure that it is aligned with the organization’s strategy at all times.

Most importantly, flexibility is demanded only for programs. This is not advised for projects where a flexible scope can end up in disaster.

In the next section, we will discuss the second program management principle.

Principle 2: Leading Change

The second program management principle is leading change. Good leadership is required for changes to be driven successfully. This principle not only manages complex tasks but also leads people to change.

  • Good leaders should have the capability to guide the team through confusion and manage the uncertainties.

  • They should have the ability to direct the program in the right direction, without losing the sight of vision.

  • For good leaders to foster trust, it is important that they lead with consistency and transparency.

  • Openness will allow the stakeholders to raise and discuss risks and issues.

All these stakeholders need to be actively engaged, and the “people aspect” of the program should be carefully addressed. By “people aspect” we mean those phases of the program where we need to deal with people and ensure that they are satisfied with the program.

Leaders have to deal with finding the right people for the right roles. This is because a strong and well-equipped team increases the chance of a program to be successful. Well-led changes focus on people and bring their skills into play at the right time.

Leaders need to provide a novel solution and see the bigger picture. This means that they need to constantly cope with complexity and ambiguity, especially in the early part of a program.

A leading change also means supporting change through the transition from old to new ways of working. It is important to ensure that new ways are fully embedded in operations and as soon as this is achieved, the old systems should be disbanded.

Leaders should lead by example. Employees and other stakeholders will be more comfortable following a leader who does what he preaches.

For example, a program's vision is to create a new office which is far from the city, in a healthier environment. Few employees might be hesitant to leave the old office, as the new office is far away.

In such circumstances, a good leader should share the vision of a healthy environment. Also, he should be the first one to move to the new office so that other employees feel motivated to do the same.

In the next section, we will focus on the third program management principle.

Principle 3: Envisioning and Communicating a Better Future

The third program management principle is envisioning and communicating a better future. Any program is conceived with the aim of a better future in mind.

This future can be due to a planned transformational change that may be brought by delivering a new capability. It is very important to share the beneficial future state with other stakeholders to gather support for the program.

The leaders of the program should describe this future as “vision”. Then the vision is further refined and developed in the early part of the program. The vision should be maintained throughout the life of the program with minimal changes.

If the vision has changed significantly, it could mean that program has been altered significantly and needs to be re-assessed. Vision is one of the main tools for ensuring ongoing strategic alignment of a program.

Lack of vision reduces the chances of a program’s success. Once the vision is created, it is important that it is shared with all stakeholders through clear and consistent communication.

This will help to get a buy-in and commitment from stakeholders. Also, vision is something that has to be communicated repeatedly to ensure that stakeholders remember it well.

A program that doesn’t have a clear and well-defined vision will leave stakeholders confused about its future intent. So, it’s the task of the leader to develop a vision and maintain it throughout a program.

Let us now have a look at the fourth program management principle, in the following section.

Principle 4: Focusing on Benefits And Threats to them

The fourth program management principle is focusing on benefits and threats to them. Any program is conceived with the vision that it should achieve the strategically aligned benefits of the organization.

The other points of focus are as follows:

  • All the activities in a program are focused to realize the planned benefits. A program is judged by its ability to deliver these benefits. However, the program also has to ensure that all these benefits are of strategic importance.

  • Programs should not only focus on day-to-day challenges but also be ready to manage strategic and long-term issues or threats to the benefits and optimize all opportunities to maximize them.

  • Benefits management should be at top of the program board agenda. The success of the program is assessed by the ability to achieve benefits.

In the next section, we will discuss the fifth program management principle.

Principle 5: Adding Value

The fifth program management principle is adding value. A program is not only an umbrella for multiple projects, but it also adds value to them.

A program should deliver more benefits as compared to the individual outputs delivered by the constituent projects. If a program is unable to add such value, it is better we close the program.

Now let us revisit the example of developing a city we discussed in previous lessons;

That is, Example: City reconstruction can be referred to as a program. In this program, we will have smaller projects like laying roads, building houses, creating parts of the city, transport infrastructure, etc.

This example makes it clear that a program constitutes of smaller projects, where all the projects are aligned to deliver one outcome, which in this example is “a new city”.

Each project is going to deliver output in the form of a road, a transport system, or a house. A project that focuses on making roads cannot identify a benefit that it will bring unless the road is linked to a particular housing society.

Projects do not help you visualize the bigger picture. But program ensures that additional benefits can be identified and realized during its tutorial. This is also the case for related and dependent businesses.

A program also helps in avoiding double counting of benefits, which is a major value add-on. This ensures that we have proper figures related to benefits realization and so we can ensure that no two projects work on similar deliverables.

Another way of adding value is by maximizing the benefits of one project for another project. For example, in a product-based firm which delivers a telecom solution, it is imperative that changes to one product might give an opportunity to enhance other products with minimal extra effort.

In the next section, we will discuss the sixth program management principle.

Principle 6: Designing and Delivering a Coherent Capability

The sixth program management principle is designing and delivering a coherent capability. A program should be able to deliver the business architecture or final capability as defined in the blueprint of the program.

The deliverables of the program should be coherent and focus on good quality. All quality requirements should be optimized as poor quality of even one output may derail the whole program.

The program should be scheduled in such a way that it maximizes the benefits and reduces the impact on operations. Ideally, no delivered outcome should be unutilized in a program.

The schedule should aim for maximum incremental improvement in a program when put in operational use. A program should ensure that the project scope and outputs are carefully delineated.

All the inter-project dependencies should be identified and there should be a clear understanding of program vs. project responsibilities. A program should not take over the project management responsibilities.

Projects should have well-defined boundaries in which they are free to operate as long as they deliver the promised output. Only the situations that cannot be managed by the project and fall outside the defined boundaries should be escalated to program management.

Program management should provide guidance to projects and ensure that frequent reviews are conducted to verify continual alignment of projects to goals. The program blueprint should be regularly updated to reflect the changes during the lifecycle of the program.

If a program at any point of time realizes that the capability delivered by it is not aligned to business strategies, then the program must be closed immediately.

Let us now look into the last program management principle in the next section.

Principle 7: Learning from Experience

The seventh program management principle is learning from experience. A program can be considered as a learning organization which matures during its lifetime.

Frequent reviews make it possible to reflect on issues and adjust the program so as to avoid the recurrence of such issues. A program is best served if all the members of the management team are active learners.

The management team should be ready to learn from each other’s experience and accept the ideas from stakeholders as well. This opens up new opportunities.

The team should also focus on improving performances during the life of the program.

In the next section, we will focus on an example based on the concepts discussed.

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MSP Principles Problem Statement

Mr. Smith Gordon, the CEO of Nutri Worldwide Inc., has identified Kylie Honkele, the CFO, to be the Senior Responsible Owner of the program, Nutri snack. He wants her to quickly start preparations for the new recipe of the evening snack.

Mr. Smith has asked Kylie Honkele to come up with a business case and identify which country to target initially.

The steps that Kylie wants to take are as follows:

  • She has decided to take some time to do market research and come up with a robust business case. She wants to make sure that every base is covered and the organization does not run into trouble.

  • She wants to make sure that strategic drivers are extended downwards in the program. The program will consist of making the correct recipe, getting clearances from the concerned health ministries and preparing the advertisement plan as well as the logistics.

  • Kylie has decided to be the face of the program and meet the quality heads of Nutri Worldwide Inc. in these countries. She also plans to identify other critical stakeholders and meet them personally.

  • She has decided that as she is yet not sure about the viability of the program, the vision statement can be prepared once the recipe is decided.

  • Kylie has asked William Cooke, the EVP—R&D, to list the benefits that can be derived from the program. She plans to keep benefits management as the top Program Board agenda.

  • Kylie has also asked for the case study of previous programs that have been implemented and has reviewed them.

Let us find out if the approach taken by Kylie is correct.

MSP Principles Solution

Kylie has taken some quick decisions. Let us review them one by one. She wants to have a robust business case to avoid any fallacy and also ensure that strategic drivers are always visible.

This is a good idea and it is in sync with the MSP principle “Remaining aligned with corporate strategy”. Kylie wants to be the face of the program. This is again a correct approach.

She is showing everyone that she believes in the success of the program and thus increases the morale of the program team. Her willingness to deal with stakeholders is in sync with the principle “Leading change”.

Delaying the vision statement, though, is a bad approach. A vision statement is necessary to communicate the benefit of the program. Lack of vision statement will confuse the stakeholders as well.

Ensuring that all the benefits are listed and benefits management is the key agenda of the Program Board is in sync with the principle “Focusing on benefits and threats to them”.

The ultimate success of the program is based on its ability to deliver the planned benefits. While reviewing previous programs, Kylie has shown her willingness to learn from them.

It is in sync with the principle “Learning from experience”. It ensures that new programs learn from the best practices of previous programs and at the same time avoid similar mistakes.


Let us summarize what we have learned in this MSP program management tutorial:

  • The MSP framework constitutes the program management principles, the governance theme, and the transformational flow.

  • The seven principles of program design in conjunction with transformational flows and governance themes increase the chances of success of a program.

  • Some of the principles of program management are remaining aligned with corporate strategy, leading change and envisioning and communicating a better future.

  • Programs which are conceived to realize benefits are based on the principle of focusing on benefits and threats to them.


With this, we come to an end with the tutorial on Program Management Principles. In the next chapter, we will focus on Governance Themes Overview.

  • Disclaimer
  • PMP, PMI, PMBOK, CAPM, PgMP, PfMP, ACP, PBA, RMP, SP, and OPM3 are registered marks of the Project Management Institute, Inc.

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