Brexit: a case study of MSP worst practice

A year ago, I wrote that Brexit was heading for failure. I compared the Brexit programme to a rudderless ship, lost at sea.

Brexit is a huge programme run by the UK government. The UK government is the home of “best practice” methods like Prince2 and MSP. So it’s appropriate to judge Brexit using the MSP method for programme management.

A year ago, I said Brexit breaks all the rules for MSP Programme Management. The Brexit Programme uses worst practice, not best practice. It’s not driven by a strategy, there’s no attempt to create a common vision and there’s no blueprint. It was clear a year ago that the Programme was like a rudderless ship. Now, one year later, the ship is heading onto the rocks.

Brexit is entering into new waters

This week, Brexit has moved to a new phase. In MSP terms, it’s now in transition. For MSP, the transition should only start when everything is ready. When all the new capabilities are ready, and it’s time to go live. MSP says that transition is not driven by a date, it’s driven by readiness. It’s supposed to be a well-prepared transition from the old (the current state) to the new (the future state). The future state is described in a blueprint.

Ships heading into the unknown

Brexit has entered transition. On the 29th March, the UK leaves the UK. But from this week, in mid February, the transition starts. Any ship leaving a UK port today, heading to a distant port may not arrive until after the 29th March. When the ship arrives at its destination port, it might be facing new rules (the future state). Scotch Whisky going to South Korea might face a 20% tariff if the ship carrying it arrives after 29th March. Who knows?

So the transition has started, and it’s unplanned and unprepared. The future state is unknown.

So Brexit has entered its transition, and all the MSP best practice, has been ignored:    
    •    the future state blueprint is not defined (deal? or no-deal?)    
    •    the capabilities are not in place. For example, 11 new laws are still missing (they are very slowly going through the UK parliament). And only 7 trade deals have been secured out of the 69 new trade deals needed.    
    •    there is no transition plan (plan for a deal? plan for no-deal?)    
    •    the go-live date is not determined by readiness, but is an arbitrary date fixed by the UK Government

A special place for Brexit

Brexit has now earned its place in the pantheon of bad practice. It joins other infamous programmes, in the hall of infamy of Programme Management. It joins the Bradley Fighting Vehicle programme, immortalised in the splendid film The Pentagon Wars. And the 2004 Greek Olympics, immortalised by abandoned sports venues and an abandoned airport.

Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, warned of “a special place in hell” for “those who promoted Brexit without even a sketch of a plan”. There is a special place reserved for Brexit in the hall of infamy of Programme Management. Brexit is on the podium, it’s number one. It’s a perfect case study of programme failure. Pure hell.

Written by Jeff on February 14, 2019 in blog
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