In this month’s ‘Ask the Trainer’ blog we take a quick tea break with lead MSP® trainer Greg, who has been providing first class training with SPOCE for over 13 years. Greg gives us a brief overview of why MSP® is so valuable in organisations that are undergoing any level of change and answers some of the burning questions posed by you, our clients and delegates.

Q:  So, Greg, in a nutshell, why MSP®?

Today, more than ever the business landscape is changing. Organisations need to be able to transform quickly and effectively to prosper, and even survive. It is programme management that enables organisations to do this effectively. Effective programme management provides a mechanism for bringing new and existing projects and business initiatives to fruition within a single delivery framework. 

This change inevitably brings risk and conflict. MSP® provides best practice guidance on how to deal with these at an organisational level. 

Q:  What do we mean by risks and challenges?

  • Leadership is weak
  • Unrealistic expectations of what the rganisation can achieve
  • Not enough focus on benefits
  • Insufficient support for the change at senior level
  • Poorly defined or poorly communicated vision
  • The culture of the organisation is unable to change
  • Not enough engagement of stakeholders.

Q:  So how does MSP® do its job?

MSP® identifies the three types of programme which organisations could potentially be running i.e. Vision led, Emergent and Compliance and puts them into the MSP® framework.

The MSP® framework

MSP® 7 principles: Within each of these programme types, seven principles will be applied.  Like good project management, good programme management relies on best practice rules that must be followed, such as learning from experience and aligning the vision.


MSP® Governance Themes: Nine themes which need to be addressed throughout the life of the programme. These define an organisation's approach to programme management such as ‘planning and control’ and ‘business case.’


MSP® Transformational Flow: This is the term used for the six processes which guide the programme team through the programme, providing a route through the programme from its conception to the delivery of outcomes and benefits.

 Q:  I’m a Project Manager, I’ve done a PRINCE2® course - what could I do next?

Many project managers simply feel that they are running ‘very big’ or ‘very complex’ projects, or projects that “involve a lot of business change”. When this happens, they can say that they are struggling to apply PRINCE2® to successfully manage these projects. These tend to be indicators to us that some programme management training may be useful to augment their project management skillset.

Much of what is described in MSP® would greatly help project managers, whether the initiative they are managing is called a ‘project’ or a ‘programme’. Some elements of MSP® are quite similar to elements of project management, but there are however, some significant differences.

OK – if you are managing relatively small, relatively straightforward projects, where you deliver a product and hand it over to someone else, then maybe MSP® will be of little interest. But as the scale and complexity, and particularly the degree of business change involved increases, then MSP® will be of increasing value.

So how does MSP® differ from PRINCE2®?

Simply put, is it a programme or a project? One of the main differences, according to the principles of each approach, is that project management (using PRINCE2®) is focused on the delivery of products or outputs, whereas programme management (using MSP®) is focused on outcomes, defined as the ‘results of change’.

Therefore, the scope of change required helps to determine whether project management or programme management is more suitable. Of course, as scope and scale of change increases, so does time and cost, which is why programmes are often lengthy and expensive.

But an initiative to deliver an output, whether it is a sub-set of a programme or not, may be produced using a project management approach (even if it is lengthy and expensive) providing the degree of change is low.

So, to quote the MSP® guide ‘MSP® represents proven good practice in programme management in successfully delivering transformational change’.

Another distinction between projects and programmes is that the benefits (measurable improvements) used to justify an investment, and shown in the Business Case, are typically realised after a project has been completed and disbanded. Whereas, a programme would have a lifespan that includes not only ‘all’ of the projects required, but also transition of project outputs into live use, and the subsequent realisation of benefits.

Click here to download a copy of the SPOCE MSP® e-Book

About Greg

Greg has been delivering first class training courses for SPOCE for 13 years now. Prior to this, he has been both a project and a programme Manager.  His 17 years’ experience has provided him with excellent experience in how to apply project and programme management training to the workplace. It also means he has a solid understanding of the challenges that are faced by project and programme managers in their working lives.  As well as consultancy and mentoring in MSP®, PRINCE2® and AgilePM®, Greg has also provided independent assurance on the methods.