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Managing programmes in a changing world

I joined in with Managing and Saving Programmes in a Changing World, an audio/Webex conference with LeRoy Ward, Executive VP at ESI, recently.

I couldn’t see who else was on the call (apart from the presenters) and I joined a bit late, so I felt sorry for them that they had started the presentation with no one listening to it.  At the end of the call there were several questions from other people so I gather that was just a participant privacy setting rather than a reflection on the fact that nobody wanted to learn about programme management.

It wasn’t radical – the ESI approach to managing programmes in a changing world is obviously to be great at the basics – but it was a good revision session and a reminder of the differences between projects and programmes.

The presentation was in two parts: managing programmes and the complexities of this, and saving a troubled programme.  This post looks at the first half of the presentation: managing programmes.

Sometimes managing with one sponsor is difficult enough.  However, multi-person sponsorship is more common than having a single sponsor in programme management, especially in large and complex programmes.  Ward highlighted some issues with programme sponsorship:

  • The sponsor needs broader knowledge of the projects and business areas impacted by the programme.
  • The programme requires more resources so the sponsor needs access to those resources in order to secure them for you.
  • Multiple sponsorship means sponsors from different business areas and this can cause conflicts.

Ideally, a programme sponsor should be someone with a sound knowledge of business processes, able to effectively manage resources and help with securing and managing the financials.

In addition to a programme sponsor and a programme manager, the programme management team could include a change manager, a business analyst, a risk manager and a financial manager.

Part of effective programme management is effective change management.  Change management is all about conveying the need for change with a compelling vision of the ‘to be’ state.  Key to this is understanding the environment and culture so you can phrase the messages appropriately.

Ward suggested applying a regular ‘learning milestone’ by which I think he meant reviewing progress to date, making any tweaks and then shifting your approach to do things better.  And I would also add checking to see if the change you are making is sticking.

Ward also talked about choosing key programme team members wisely – just because someone thinks they understand change management doesn’t mean they do.  Apparently change management is a professional discipline in its own right.  I don’t dispute that, but I would love to be on a programme where I could employ a professional change manager plus all those other people to do risk, finances and analysis as full-time jobs.  In my experience it is much more likely for people to muck in and do what needs to be done to reach the end goal without having fancy job titles that delineate their roles from that of other people.

Ward said that to build the full commitment of the organisation to the change you need to acknowledge the impact of it on people.  He said that you need to give people empathy, not sympathy.  People want to be listened to more than they want to be talked at.  I have held ‘Town Hall’ style meetings before, specifically for groups of new recruits, but they are time consuming.  Still, all stakeholder management and project politics is time consuming, but it needs to be done to oil the wheels.

Next week I’ll fill you in on how a programme starts to fail and the main problems faced by teams trying to recover a failing programme.  After that you’ll get to read Ward’s 5 steps for recovering troubled programmes.

About Elizabeth Harrin

Elizabeth HarrinElizabeth Harrin FAPM is a professional project manager and award-winning blogger behind A Girl's Guide To Project Management. She's passionate about demystifying project management and making tools and techniques work in the real world. She's also the author of several books including the PMI bestseller, Collaboration Tools for Project Managers.
Elizabeth lives in the UK with her family. She uses her organisation and project management skills at home, and also to help other bloggers at Totally Organised Blogging.

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