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Posts Tagged ‘program management’

Sustain Benefits; Organize into Programs

Posted by Ammar Mango on October 4, 2016

programs

If a company assigns a project manager to build a new branch, is the project manager responsible if the branch does not perform well? Most likely the answer is no.  As long as he delivered the branch according to requirements like scope, time, and cost.

This is a major issue today in organizations; there is a gap between the strategic objective, the project’s product or service, and the ongoing operations based on that product. In the branch example, someone decided there was a need to expand into a new location.  The organization assumes that simply initiating a project to open  new branch is sufficient to meet the strategic objectives behind the decision.  So a project manager is assigned to “deliver” a new branch.  But once the branch is delivered, and handed over, the branch is not attracting customers.  So they start another project to correct the issues making the branch not attractive.  etc.

The problem is the sporadic effort of dealing with the initiative.  A much better approach would have been to identify the strategic objective behind the requested expansion.  Assign a program manager, to see the expansion through beyond just delivering a new branch.

So a Program Manager would be assigned to identify expected benefits from the Program, work with key stakeholders to develop a program road map, program plan, and road map.  The program will include multiple related projects that aim at achieving the benefit of expanding into a new geographical location, for example.  The Program Manager will still be responsible for the Program and delivery of benefits beyond delivering an opened branch.

A big part of Program Management is Sustainability of Benefits.  A Program Manager would be responsible for operations, marketing projects, infrastructure projects, customer loyalty sub programs, etc, and whatever else it takes to ensure achieving and sustaining the benefits.  Once the benefits sought are in place and sustainability is ensured, only then would a Program Manager close the Program.

Contrast the above to the act of initiating and closing a project.  The project is about delivering a group of deliverables.  Programs are about delivering values and benefits. According to the Project Management Institute, PMI, Programs Are a group of interrelated projects managed managed to produce benefits that cannot be achieved from managing each project separately.

Organizations who recognize the difference between programs and project will quickly reap rewards of having accountability and governance associated with benefits and value focus that a Program offers, not just a deliverable focus that a Project offers.

 

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Top Ten Differences between Managing a Program versus a Project

Posted by Ammar Mango on September 4, 2016

space program

Program Management is managing multiple related projects combined to deliver benefits not achievable from managing them separately.  This makes Program Management a magnitude of complexity over Project Management.

These are the top ten differences between program and project management:

  1. Programs are about benefits, not just deliverables.  For example, a project manager delivering a system implementation is responsible for the delivering the system functional for the organization.  However, in a program setting, the program manager would probably be responsible for the strategic intent behind the system.  So, the system implementation might be part of an initiative to improve the organization’s ability to do business online.  So migrating online is a program, and the system implementation is one of many projects the program manager has to worry about to ensure delivering the benefit (do business online) .
  2. Programs require a lot of stakeholders’ expectations management, much more than what a project requires.  Remember programs have multiple projects under them and affect many more stakeholders than a project.  So managing expectations become more difficult.
  3. Programs bring about deeper and tougher changes at the organizational level than a project does.  This makes resistance to change much higher towards a program compared to a project.  The program manager must have the ability to deal with this resistance to change proactively and throughout the program lifecycle.
  4. Programs usually have a much longer span of time than projects.  In a single program many projects are initiated and closed over many years (usually).  The longer span of time adds to the complexity of the program and poses its own challenges when it comes to funding, managing stakeholders, getting buy in and commitment, etc.
  5. Programs financial management is more complex than a project.  The inflows and outflows over the span of the program sometimes leave the project financially challenged.  The Program Manager must develop the necessary financial plans to ensure this is handled wisely, with the support of program sponsor and board.
  6. Program Managers must have knowledge of the organization beyond managing projects.  Knowledge of the organizational culture, operations, background, etc., are key for program success.
  7. Benefits realization in programs sometimes come long after the program itself is closed.  This is challenging as the program manager might have to plan for sustaining the momentum for the changes brought by the program long after he or she closes the program.
  8. Risk Management on projects is key, but it is more so on programs.  There is a lot of uncertainty on programs.  For example, not all program components might be known at the beginning of the program.  So estimation becomes difficult early on, causing funding to become a potential issue.
  9. Balancing between controlling program components (projects and operations) and allowing project managers enough autonomy is a challenging task.  Project Managers need room to maneuver on their project, but the program manager must keep a close eye on the performance of the project.
  10. Benefits realization means always keeping an eye on the big picture, and having the wisdom to see the long term vision.  This becomes the responsibility of the program manager, even when everybody else seems focused on short term issues.  Project Managers deal with shorter term issues than program managers.

For More about Program Management and Program Management Certification, follow this link to one of my youtube videos.

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Organize Projects into Programs and Reap the Rewards of Change

Posted by Ammar Mango on September 5, 2013

The area of Program Management is still widely misunderstood.  Ironically, it is as old if not older than Project Management.  When the 1950’s pioneers started building Project Management models like the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), Critical Path Methods (CPM), and Program Evaluation and Review Technique, a program was almost always in mind before the project.

A program aims at achieving a benefit.  So, when a governmental agency undertakes a project to encourage a paperless environment, even if the project is completed successfully, it does not mean that it was able to bring the institution closer to paperless environment.  A project is always about specific deliverables, and by definition is completed when its required deliverables are complete.  So, who will ensure that these deliverables are used, and that they fulfilled the business need for which it was undertaken?  The project is complete, and the Project Manager is on another project.  So who is doing this?

To solve the above problem, some companies are requesting a “support” period during which suppliers are operating the deliverables (whether software, processes, or resources) and ensuring they are bringing in benefits.  This will help, but it is not enough.  Sometimes one project is not enough to achieve benefits.  You need more projects that together will help achieve the goal.  Who will manage and take care of this link?

Another reason to consider a program is that an organization by design is operational, and wants to go back to its day-to-day activities.  This is why many projects fail to change the organization.  They do not take into account getting the organization out of its norms and stability, into embracing the change.  So, when an organizational unit, or executive believes that we need to go paperless, for example, they immediately think of a project to achieve that.  Change usually requires multiple related projects and someone to be accountable to for achieving the benefit, not just delivering a project.  This is why even “successful” projects fail to prove value on the ground.

The answer to this is for executives and organizations to start considering programs and Program Managers to lead the benefit realization, and to spearhead such programs.

I think soon,  the market will be asking for these, and the Program Manager skill will be hot in the market, and many project managers will feel the pressure of having to go beyond their ability to deliver to build a capacity to think strategically and deliver benefits just like a Program Manager would.  These Program Managers will be a potent hybrid of an Executive and a Project Manager, in one person.  I believe this is the Era of the Program Manager.  It should be exciting.

 

 

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Change and Sustainability remain an illusive goal for organizations

Posted by Ammar Mango on June 3, 2013

They seem to be pulling in two different direction but they do not have to if managed properly; Sustainability tries to maintain improvements  and value gained from initiatives, while change management pulls the organization towards something new and further improvements.  How can organizations maintain the balance under such pressures?

The answer starts with the right attitude at the executive level, but cannot stop there.

First, we have to make sure that the new improvement initiative is designed and carried out properly.  Meaning by a competent supplier who built the system based on best practices, culture of the organization, and the organizational level of maturity.  This is a big assumption, and many initiatives fail this test of quality.

Even if the initiative was carried out properly, sustainability remains an illusive goal.  The main reason for that is its strong ties to change.  A situation that needs to be sustained is usually unstable, otherwise sustainability would be an easy task.  The reason for the instability is that the organization is new to this new improved state of operating.  So, tendency is to go back to the old, after the pressure from upper management to adopt new systems cools down.

One of the main reasons for the inability to sustain is that the belief in the change is only at the upper management or even just the sponsor level.  So a strong sponsor will push the organization and force it to use the new system and will ensure that happens as long as the sponsor is in power.  But as soon as the sponsor moves out of the position, or a new management gets in, almost all previous improvements are abandoned.  This is very common in organizations.

Some middle and functional managers have become so skeptical of change and its possibility that they play along with the zealous sponsor knowing that soon enough he will go away or give up.  Once a manager in private told me “We (managers) are like wheat stalks in a field.  We will bend with the wind of change so not to be broken , but as soon as the wind stops blowing, we will go back to our old ways.

Ironically, some organizations become so accustomed to this cycle of new initiatives that soon cool down, that they become experts in the politics of dodging the change.

I am a strong believer in executive support for change initiatives and believe it is a key ingredient for success.  However, when that support does not yield real buy in across the organization, chances for success are really dim.

This is why I believe the real champions of change are the middle managers.  They are close enough to the work that they can influence it, and close enough to upper management to understand the strategy.  The executives have to bring management into the loop early and ensure buy in.  Not by force, but by ensuring that middle and functional management is a partner even in identifying the needed change initiative.  If this is not possible the executives have to bring fresh blood from outside who have the vision and experience in the new proposed system, and give them the power to carry out the change.  This surgical maneuver at the organizational level can be tricky and dangerous but sometimes it is necessary.  Some organizations bring in outside consultants as surrogate managers to lead the change initiatives with the right levels of power within the organization to carry out the change.  This also can be done, given the right level of support to the “outsider” is given by executives.

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Don’t leave your ethics at home

Posted by Ammar Mango on January 27, 2013

When a consultant travels to work abroad, he makes many choices.  One of them is whether to leave his / her ethics at home or take them along.  Quite a few unfortunately pick the former.

I delivered once a leadership training for a group of managers from a well known international company. They were country managers who gathered from different countries of operation for the training.   A segment of the training focused on ethics and professionalism.  It was not long before participants stopped me and objected that ethics and professionalism cannot be applied everywhere.  “In more advanced countries and cultures, people will respond positively to good ethics, respect, and professionalism, but not in under developed countries,” most of the managers said.  I was surprised of the reaction but not too surprised.  I have noticed this trend for years: A professional leaving his home base assumes that everything he learned about values, integrity, and professionalism do not apply outside the “civilized” world borders.  Trying to talk them out of this gets one into accusations of being unrealistic and naive.

Another personal encounter with an HR manager from one of the biggest corporations worldwide shows more of the same.  During our conversation, she got frustrated with me focusing on one of their corporate values which is stated clearly on their website.  The policy was to  to help build professionalism, ethics, and high standards of fairness and partnership at countries they operate in, especially under developed or newly developed countries.  She said, “we go in, get a job done and get out.  I am not going to get entangled into their unprofessional conduct.  I will accept their behavior temporarily to get the job done and leave.  I do not condone their behavior in my country, but they can do as they wish in their country.”

When I first came back from overseas to work in the region, I remember the advice I got from managers and colleagues around me:”If you show leniency, they will eat you alive,” was the advice on how to deal with employees.  Another CEO I worked with told me clearly: “Ammar, the employees have to fear you to perform.”   A third assured me that “you have to show strength and superiority with clients and employees to get ahead here.” I also got a lot of advice to “keep reminding others of your international experience and how it is superior to theirs.”   I think all these offering advice mean well, and they really think this is what they have to do to get the job done.

What I found out in real life is different than the advice I mostly got.  I found out that regardless of the difficulties and challenges of the workplace anywhere I have worked, employees and stakeholders mostly react positively to ethical and professional behavior.  The important thing is for the manager to have conviction in doing the right thing.  A manager can persevere.  The key is not to give up after the first unfavorable encounter when trying to be ethical.   Persevere.  If an employee, or client, or any other stakeholder has had bad experiences with unprofessional conduct, it is normal for them to be skeptical.  Once they can trust your professionalism and integrity, the skepticism will fade and a long term fruitful relational looms.  Giving up too early leads to losing a great opportunity to build bridges of trust and a chance to demonstrate that doing the right thing works.

Giving up on ethics and professionalism just because very few around you observe them is in itself unprofessional.  Be a beacon and an example for doing the right thing.  Isn’t this leadership? Assuming “outsiders” do not deserve the same level of ethics and professionalism as your countrymen is just not right, to say the least.  I believe many of the world problems today stem from this attitude of assuming that one nation deserves professional and fair treatment while others do not.  I cannot think of a better definition of hypocrisy than applying fairness and professionalism in a discriminating   fashion.  Is not that the definition of racism?

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Value delivery & sustainability, not project management

Posted by Ammar Mango on January 10, 2013

What we need is ensuring delivery of value and sustaining it from the project.  Project management is one of the means to do that and while necessary, it is not on its own sufficient.

For example, an organization takes on a project to deploy a new HR system.  Even if the system is deployed and stakeholders are trained, still there is no value.   The value comes when the system is put to use.  Even then, it is still a waste of time on the long run, if the measures to ensure sustainability of the value are not in place.

Many Project Management Offices (PMO’s) ignore the real reason they are there, which is the ultimate success of their projects and that comes from delivering sustained value.  Without that, a project  is a tool to collect money from a promised, but not delivered or sustained value.  On the long-term that does not work.

However, PMO’s cannot solve this problem alone.  Without upper management support on the client and supplier side, it is hard for the PMO to go beyond the narrow marginal goal of delivering successful projects.

Clients need to budget for change management and sustainability.  Request for Proposals must insist on sections that cover both.  I would put a considerable part of the evaluation score of any proposal on these two items.  If suppliers are not capable of handling these parts I would require a change management model to be enforced on the project and request that the supplier bring in the techniques and expertise necessary to do these two parts.

Performing organizations need to discuss with clients the needs for sustainability and ensuring value delivery at the upper management level.  Also, start raising awareness of buyers to the importance of sustainability and the importance of handling it in a structured manner.

The new fad in the coming years will be going beyond deliverables and focusing on value.  This is why “program management” might start getting more appeal.  When you request delivery of services and supporting this delivery with sustainability and change management activities, this endeavor is beginning to take on the shape of a program, not only a project.   Because a program can carry project as well as operational components to it, as it strives to deliver benefits, not only deliverables.

Currently, projects and support periods post projects are looked at as two separate periods, almost separated from each other.  PMOs need to start looking beyond their narrow scope of delivering projects and merely providing support, but to also accommodate programs by forming a Program Management Office (PgMO) for each of its programs to accommodate the need to deliver value.

Many research show that PMO’s will continue to be questioned about the value they bring to an organization.  I think PMOs are safe and will continue to flourish at firms whose main product can only be delivered through projects.  However at firms who deliver value through operations, and projects are means to improve the value delivered, PMOs will be scrutinized to ensure they go beyond just delivering projects and focus more on delivering and sustaining value.

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