Brexit is failing to apply the basics of MSP programme management

Brexit is heading for failure. This major programme is dominating British political and economic life and will continue to do so the several years. The British government gave us MSP (Managing Successful Programmes) but it is failing to apply MSP basics to the Brexit programme. As a programme, Brexit is failing.

Brexit is a major transformation programme. Some early estimates said there were over 500 government projects working on Brexit. One academic argues that the Brexit programme is more complex than the US moon landing programme in the 1960s.

Brexit is clearly a programme. And it’s clearly transformational. It will have a huge impact on British law, trade, immigration, culture and much, much more. MSP is designed for such major transformation programmes. But the British government is not using own toolkit. Their failure to use their own proven method is driving Brexit towards failure.

No clear strategy

The first problem for this programme is the lack of strategy. MSP insists that a programme can and should support one or more high-level strategic objectives.

The problem here is that Brexit is not part of any strategy. The referendum was called for tactical reasons (to silence critics in and around the ruling Conservative Party). The decision to leave Europe was not part of any strategy; and since the referendum, the government has not developed any visible strategy. Is the strategy to stay close to the EU? Or to go for worldwide trade deals? Or deals with the British Commonwealth? No-one knows.

No shared vision

The second problem for this programme is the lack of vision.

MSP recognises that it may be hard to create a shared vision but underlines the importance of building a shared vision. The vision explains the destination of the programme. This provides a cornerstone of a successful programme, on which so much is built.

Again, the government has not developed any shared vision – each minister has their own vision. One vision is to be like Norway, another vision is to be like Canada. Others mention Switzerland or Singapore. There is no attempt to create any shared vision. This has crippled the Brexit programme.

No blueprint

The third problem of this program is the lack of a future state blueprint.

MSP says you should model the future state, which is the situation in place at the end of the programme. This model is called the “blueprint” in MSP. The difference between the current state and the future state is called the “gap”. You fill the gap with project work.

Until recently, we all believed that the government had 50 impact assessments, sector by sector. We are told these existed in “excruciating detail”. This seemed to be a sort of gap analysis. This suggested there was indeed a final blueprint. But the 50 impact assessments have proved to be a fiction. They don’t exist. There is no blueprint, there is no gap analysis.

The most glaring omission concerns Northern Ireland where Brexit generates multiple constraints. A blueprint for Northern Ireland which resolves those constraints is possible, but is not part of Government thinking. MSP provides the tools, but the government doesn’t use them. Without a blueprint, the contradictions rest unresolved.

Until you have a future state blueprint, you don’t know the gap, and you don’t know what projects to run. Because there’s no Brexit blueprint, those 500 projects don’t know what they have to achieve. A project with unclear goals cannot succeed.

Heading for failure

The Brexit programme is like a rudderless ship. The strategy is unclear, there is no vision, the programme is lost at sea. Work has started on 500 projects, but to do what?

In most organisations, such drift would not be tolerated. The programme would be cancelled. Brexit needs to be rescued or cancelled. Sadly for Britain, neither option seems likely today.

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Written by Jeff on February 9, 2018 in blog
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