Part three, the last in our series: Be ready to alter course
By their very nature, programs are longer term initiatives; they typically span multiple years. Thus, it is highly probable that business conditions will change during the course of the program. Additionally, upon program commencement, a high degree of ambiguity exists as to what final outcomes will look like several years down the road.
Consequently, it is critical to continuously scan the environment to see if conditions have changed since the program’s inception. If so, be ready to make necessary course adjustments. Where ambiguity exists, the program is responsible to engage with and account for unknowns and bring certainty to its work. ‘Sticking to the plan’ risks not being on top of changes that affect the program’s direction, effectiveness and outcomes – ultimately delivering an obsolete solution that misses organizational targets.
Program management factors
Several areas require constant attention. The following steps can ensure a program remains responsive and relevant:
- Examine the continued alignment to strategic direction: Leaders initiate programs to support strategic direction. If the strategic direction has changed, the program also needs to change direction and realign.
- Regularly review assumptions: Assumptions made early in the program design and definition process underpin crucial decisions. If these assumptions are no longer valid, change the program accordingly.
- Monitor the business landscape: Business remains fluid and dynamic by nature. Internal and external landscapes can and do change. If organizational priorities, business results, competitive pressures, market conditions or precedent-setting legislation force a new direction, change tack and set the program on the right course.
- Be current on tools and technology advancements: Throughout the duration of a program, new advancements in tools and technology may present more efficient, cost-effective options. Incorporate these regularly into program components.
- Seek out stakeholder expectations: Stay attuned to stakeholder expectations and perceptions; again, do not rely on assumptions. Stakeholder expectations change over time and these should influence program direction.
- Evaluate program performance: Last but not least, the performance of component projects needs to be constantly evaluated. Move resources, change priorities and sequences, replace projects with alternatives and cancel poor-performing components.
How to monitor influencing factors and change course as required
Four key methods guide course alterations on programs:
- Define a set of key measures and metrics and report on them regularly to ensure the original intent of the program remains relevant and on track to meet the desired goals and objectives.
- Together with program leadership, plan and execute a regular process to review the program’s foundational elements. These include – but are not limited to:
- Strategic direction
- Organizational priorities
- Business results
- Assign explicit responsibility to individuals within the program team to monitor and report on changing external factors, including:
- Technology landscape
- Vendor relationships
- Market conditions
- Competitive environment
- Relevant regulatory changes
- Design and maximize the use of stakeholder engagement forums. Take the pulse of diverse stakeholder groups via focus groups, advisory councils and special interest groups to solicit feedback. These can significantly influence the outcomes of a program.
A word of caution. The reality that ‘circumstances may change’ sometimes creates a tendency to not plan a program adequately. Flexibility and proactive assessment of the environment must not preclude proper planning. This critical balancing act illustrates why program management and program leadership requires a high level of experience, expertise and skill to successfully execute and deliver business benefits.
About the Author
Ruchira Chatterjee, MA, PMP, CMC
Ruchira has over thirty years of experience transforming and managing progressively larger and more complex departments and projects. She has held senior corporate positions such as Program Director in Wealth Management, Director Client Services in IT, Director Model Operations of a Property Casualty Division, managed Application Development and Business Systems functions and has several years of management consulting experience with SPM Group and most recently Diabsolut.
With over 25 years of direct management consulting and business transformation experience, Ruchira has led a significant number of successful consulting assignments in both IT and business areas. She is equally comfortable in both private and public sectors. In addition to her consulting expertise Ruchira has directed very large and complex initiatives to the delight of her clients. She has recently led transformational initiatives in the public sector involving significant number of external stakeholders (industry, aboriginal communities, and the public). She successfully directed the transition of a Facilities Management outsourcing program for a client representing $400 million annual revenue. She was the Program Director on a Wealth Management acquisition initiative with $35 million annual budget. She managed a program to bring about operational and technology transformation of a Property Casualty Insurance business division. On multiple occasions she has held accountability for projects/programs to bring about organizational changes, start up new departments and functions and implement significant change initiatives. She is a subject matter expert in portfolio, program and project management as well as change management and its impact on organizational culture and successful execution of strategy. Ruchira was the Practice Lead for Program Management at SPM.
Ruchira is a seasoned senior consultant with excellent organizational and interpersonal skills. She has an impressive track record of successful consulting engagements and program/project implementations where she has consistently built very strong trust relationships with her clients, team members, peers and superiors. She has a reputation as a change leader. Ruchira is an excellent collaborator, facilitator and coach dealing effectively with individuals at all levels including executive leadership. She combines leadership and motivational attributes with organizational and communication skills to keep teams focused and goal oriented and achieve consistently superior results.
Ruchira holds a Masters in Economics and is a certified Project management Professional (PMP) as designated by the Project Management Institute and a Certified Management Consultant (CMC). She is certified in ADKAR- Prosci’s Change Management methodology.