Claire Smith


Masters in Major Programme Management



By Claire Smith

Module Four

Whatever your expectations of the MMPM programme, did they include Jesuit cash boxes, mediaeval churches, balloons as nuclear waste, the ambiguous nature of bottles of water and the question of evil? Including crises of spirituality in a textbook on management accounting and control systems was unexpected. Like Mary Poppins’ carpetbag, the quantity and variety of the MMPM contents exceeds its apparent external capacity.

Constructing a management accounting system with a sober and unsentimental view of human nature led to the beautiful simplicity of the twin key cashbox. Overcoming complicity, wilful misrepresentation and the hubristic refusal to acknowledge human limitations form part of our two-year struggle with megaproject snares and delusions. Bent Flyvbjerg’s sublimes sound suspiciously like vanity, refusals to work through all the complexity and variables of the major programme mental sloth. Talking about the programme and what we do, I hear myself talking about stopping, reflecting, reconsidering, and redefining. Rejecting the devil of superficiality and all his smooth, shiny glib works could resonate with some. As we spent time on the last day considering evil, where then is virtue? In that successful delivery of clean water, functioning sewerage systems, wiser stewardship of resources down to individual illumination and the transmission of the insights gained to a wider audience.

Part of the discipline of the programme is to give shape, structure and form to what can be a jumble of past experiences, past studies, half-grasped lessons and current predicaments. We now grasp the advantages of process rather than cursing its pointlessness. During the next apparently tedious agenda item, we will recall that proxy debate about the colour of the carpet and switch on our inner anthropologist. And as we embed our growing knowledge in praxis, we will give that glib Mephisto pause for thought. Temporarily.

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