Program Management Pills


Everything Starts With a Well-Structured Meeting

Programs are complex, so during program startup meeting it is important to spend some time discussing the overall approach the program will use.

The startup meeting can begin by reviewing the agenda and clarifying the overall objectives for the meeting.

As the meeting proceeds, the Program Manager presents the program objectives to all participants and shares its priority and goals.

When each item in the agenda has been covered, the Program Manager summarizes what has been accomplished or decided.

During the meeting, the Program Manager should also share the program roadmap, the high level dependencies among projects in the program and potential conflicts.

Before ending the meeting it is crucial to identify activities for follow-up and assign a responsible for each task.

Keep in mind: to create a positive environment for collaboration the organizer should schedule some social interactions where people can have some fun and spend time together.


Startup Meetings Begin With Strong Business Case

Program startup meetings begin with building a strong business case which contains costs and expenses for travel, logistics and other needs.

To organize an effective startup meeting for your program it is important to develop an agenda that will guarantee a strong start of the initiative.

In detail, the agenda should include necessary items for the program such as planning, process definition, role refinement, roadmap analysis, communications plans and so on.

The Program Manager should allocate sufficient time for each item in the agenda.

It is also crucial to set up a meeting room to easily allow participants to join the meeting and stimulate discussion and interaction.

Keep in mind: arrange and test internet connection to allow people, who will not able to attend the meeting in person, to attend the meeting remotely.


Organise The Kick-Off Meeting

The first component of a program plan is the program kick-off.

Program Manager has to organise kick-off meeting to guarantee a healthy start for the program.

The suggestion is to create a clear and motivating vision that describes why the program matters.

The Program Manager should work with the program Sponsor and key stakeholders to develop a vivid description of the future created by a successful program.

The purpose of the kick-off is to establish a clear understanding of the overall program and its objectives.

Keep in mind: program kick-off is useful to examine program assumptions and build enthusiasm and relationships among program participants.


Conduct a Review To Improve Methods and Processes

When a program starts, it is important to create the program charter.

Program charters should include the following:

  • Business case
  • Vision and strategic alignment
  • Objectives
  • Initial costs and expected benefits
  • High-level deliverables
  • A road map for deliverables
  • Governance structure
  • Initial issues and risks
Program Managers use data included in the program charter to start planning the Program.

Keep in mind: a program charter is important because it defines key aspects to achieve program goals and outcomes.


Conduct a Review To Improve Methods and Processes

Inadequate program management processes create chaotic environments where teams march in random directions with little chance of success.

To avoid this from happening, when a program begins it is useful to conduct a review aimed at improving those methods and processes that have not worked well previously.

For small and medium projects it makes sense to periodically invest time in refining recurrent management tasks.

Whereas, to undertake large projects it is important to have well-defined processes. These processes help to track many aspects of the work in a coherent way.

Keep in mind: big programs need some investments to develop and reinforce processes over time.


Organize a Program Information System

Programs usually have lots of information to be managed and diverse teams.

These factors make information management and communications difficult.

Program Managers can start by organizing an online program information system that allows people to find what they need without assistance.

It is also important to tailor communications in order to provide stakeholders with data they need at the right time.

Pay attention that sending all information to everyone, all the time, is a formula for disaster.

Keep in mind: communicating effectively on large programs takes time and requires a strategy and a plan.


Develop Plans to Engage with Stakeholders

Managing stakeholder expectations is extremely important to programs’ success.

Stakeholders have a tendency to change their mind over time. Their needs and expectations may shift during the program.

To prevent this from happening, it is important that Program Managers develop plans to engage with stakeholders on a regular basis to keep them informed about the program’s progress.

It could also happen to lose a key stakeholder (e.g. the sponsor) at a certain moment during the program.

If there is a gap in needed support, the Program Manager should fill it as quickly as possible.

In those cases, the Program Manager should understand who has something at stake with the program and try to have his/her support.

Keep in mind: retaining long-term support is a critical factor to program success.


Evaluate Technological Changes

As programs usually have a long duration, program managers need to be ready to deal with changes.

There are programs that depend on technologies.

When these programs start, it is important to evaluate the possibilities for technological changes that can have an impact on the program.

To face potential changes, program teams should develop designs that allow the integration of new capabilities throughout the program journey.

Keep in mind: Program Managers should create some contingency funding in the program budget to cover unexpected costs (e.g. upgrades, trainings etc.).


Prepare Compelling Business Cases

Ongoing funding for lengthy programs is challenging.

Continuous programs have to compete with new initiatives that an organization can undertake.

For this reason, it is important to prepare compelling business cases and presentations that share past accomplishments to secure ongoing program funding.

In general, at the program start, it is useful to find ways to deliver value as early as possible.

Keep in mind: adopting agile approaches can help to produce results to support continuous program funding.


Manage the Program Complexity

To successfully manage program of projects it is important to manage complexity from the early stages.

When a big program starts it is important to plan how to manage the program complexity.

Generally speaking, decomposition is one the techniques to manage system complexity effectively.

Breaking things up in smaller pieces helps to easily handle the program.

Then, it is also important to carefully manage the interactions among the resulting parts.

Keep in mind: program complexity needs to be monitored throughout the program and not only at the beginning. In fact, new issues can occur that could suddenly change things.


Pre-Mortem Analysis

Program risk management is critical for program success.

When a program of projects starts it is useful to conduct a pre-mortem analysis in order to avoid problems and improve the chances of program success.

It starts by challenging people to envision failure scenarios.

Then the program manager lists all reasons for failure by talking with each team member.

Once all items have been reviewed and detailed, they are used to find program alternatives and set more realistic program goals.

Keep in mind: the pre-mortem analysis is useful to make sure everyone involved is feeling confident about the choices they have made and will remain vigilant to spot the warning signs of potential problems.


Program Risks

Managing program risks means also taking into account risks at program level.

To manage programs, program managers have to consider several sources of risk: staffing, funding, duration and so on.

Program-level risks can be caught by identifying workflow interfaces between projects.

At the same time it is important to deeply analyze each correlation between projects.

Keep in mind: these risks can be most visible when considering the whole program and not focusing on specific parts.


Determine the Strategy to Assess Risks

When a program begins, the program is perceived as an obvious success.

A program to be successful needs to manage risks properly.

As programs are collections of projects, managing program risks means also managing some risks that arise from within projects.

At the same time, programs have risks that are at program level.

The remaining program risks could be external to the program (e.g. related to organizational or strategic aspects).

Keep in mind: when a program starts you need to determine the strategy to assess all program risks.


Programs are Useful to Solve Problems

Programs are undertaken for many reasons.

Some programs seek to solve a problem some others address a specific organizational need.

Generally speaking, program benefits are difficult to evaluate, especially for those programs that are opportunity oriented.

The suggestion is to begin the benefit evaluation by considering the stakeholders who are expected to benefit from the results of the program.

The longer the program, the more uncertain the estimated benefits will be.

It is important to assemble the best estimates of expected returns. For marketable products/services set out the revenue streams expected.

Keep in mind: be skeptical of assessments that appear too optimistic. It would be worthwhile to review the assessment periodically after program has started.