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Program management in a changing world

Recently, I participated in Managing and Saving Programs In A Changing World, an audio/Webex conference hosted by LeRoy Ward (Executive Vice President at ESI).
It wasn’t revolutionary – the ESI approach for managing programs in a changing environment is clearly to be great at the basics – but it was a good revew session and a reminder about the differences between programs and projects.
The presentation consisted of two parts: managing programs and the complexities thereof, and saving a troubled programme. This post will focus on the first half of this presentation: managing programs.
Sometimes, managing with just one sponsor can be difficult enough. Multi-person sponsorship is more common than a single sponsor for program management, especially for large and complex programs.
Ward highlighted some problems with program sponsorship:
Sponsors need to have a greater understanding of the business and projects that will be impacted by the program.
Programs require more resources, so sponsors need access to these resources to ensure they are available.
Multiple sponsorships can mean sponsors from different business areas, which can lead to conflicts.

A program sponsor should have a solid knowledge of business processes and be able to effectively manage resources.
A program sponsor and program manager are two of the possible members of the program management team. The program management team could also include a change manager and a business analyst.
Effective change management is an essential part of program management. Change management is about communicating the need for change and presenting a compelling vision for the ‘to-be’ state. Understanding the culture and environment is key to expressing the message in the right way.
Ward suggested that you have a ‘learning milestone’ every other day. This would be a review of your progress, any adjustments and then a shift in your approach to make things better. Also, I’d add that you should check to make sure the changes you are making are sticking.
Ward also spoke about the importance of selecting key program team members wisely. Just because someone thinks that they understand change management does not mean they do.
Management is a profession in and of itself. While I agree with that statement, I would love to be part of a program where I could hire a professional change manager and all those people who do risk, finance, and analysis as full-time employees.
My experience shows that people are more likely to just get on with the job and do what is necessary to reach their goals without fancy job titles that clearly define their roles.
Ward stated that in order to get the organization’s full commitment to the change, it is important to recognize the impact on people. Ward stated that empathy is more important than sympathy.
People want to be heard more than they want being talked at. Although I have previously held ‘Town Hall’ meetings for groups of recruits, they are time-consuming.
All stakeholder management and project politics are time-consuming, but necessary to keep the wheels turning.
Next: The main problems teams face when trying to recover a failing program
Ward’s 5 Steps for Recovering from Troubled Programs might be of interest to you.