Programme Manager.  Project Manager.  Scrum master. All different roles with different job descriptions.  You could choose to be very specific and some people are.  Over the last fifteen or so years, I’ve had each of these roles in my job description and found that the ‘intent’ of the role and ‘getting things done’ is far more important than losing time over arguing about what each title means.  Far more important is what needs to get done. ‘Delivery’ is what it’s all about.  After all, time spent on the existential nature of a project vs a programme vs a product is just using up delivery time.

I’ve worked for a range of public and private sector clients dealing with everything from closing ticket offices for London Underground and re-organising IT support in the Prison Service through to delivering new digital services for the Department of Energy and Climate Change, and campaign websites for Public Health England.  Across all of these projects (with a small ‘p’) I’ve found that a common approach to delivery holds true.



Number One

In ‘project speak’: what’s the vision?  But in language that anyone can understand: what will the end of the project look like?  And ensure that everyone working on the project, involved in the project, or directing the project (in any way) shares this view.  Don’t let differences about what needs to be delivered drag on, the delivery team want clarity so they can focus on the job in hand, and those paying the bill want reassurance that they’ll get what they need. (I’ve deliberately chosen ‘need’ not ‘want’ but that’s a different blog…)

Number Two

Break down the project into deliverable chunks – the ‘product backlog’ concept in scrum excels when married up with the ‘product increment’ of SAFE for this.  By which I mean have an overview of what needs to be done and by when, but don’t worry about the ‘how’ until just before you need to.  Teams used to Agile techniques generally have no problem here, those who don’t will need a lot of support to help them park the questions about problems which may appear in several months; some individuals will need even more help and reassurance.

This isn’t about ‘palming them off’, dismissing their concerns or about forcing them to fit in; it’s about helping them to understand that we need to get to their concern, but unless we concentrate on the short-term goal (with an eye to the bigger understanding) then it’ll all go wrong well before their worry hits home.  Ultimately it’s about focussing on the things that you need to solve today.

Number Three

Sometimes being a Delivery Manager is easy; everyone gets what needs to be done and how to do it.  And sometimes little problems will arise; let these resolve themselves, let the teams find timely solutions.  And sometimes it just all goes wrong.  In which case, get involved and quick – this is where you earn your keep.  The reason for getting involved is to help the team find a solution.  Be the person that helps them walk through the problem: do we know what’s gone wrong?  If not what do we need to do to find out?  What are the solution options?  Who needs to be involved in any decision?  And then make sure that everyone that needs to be informed is – and that they are kept informed – until the issue is resolved.

The level-headed DM – ensuring a calm urgency is brought to bear on all parts of delivery – is what a good DM brings to the table.

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