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Program Management... For A Change

Aug 17, 2007
How do we begin to get a handle on change initiatives that were started last year....the majority of which either didn't get off the ground, lost steam somewhere along the way or just didn't produce any real results? How do we figure out which ones are key to our business? And how can we ensure that these initiatives actually produce results?

You may not be alone in feeling like change projects are not producing real results for your business. Some companies are great at starting projects and putting teams together but just don't have the skills, the discipline or the strategy in place to see any real results from change efforts.

We recently polled a client with the same complaint. They felt like they were seeing teams coming and going, but no real progress was being made.

When we counted up all of the projects that the executive team could think of, it was no surprise they were feeling overwhelmed. With more than 70 change projects going on in various parts of the organization and no system for planning and measuring progress, the results of those initiatives was far from spectacular.

So how should you approach change initiatives in your business?

Today's business environment has dictated that change is clearly the rule and not the exception. And some companies are making so many changes that it's downright confusing... and sometimes even destructive!

Do any of the following sound familiar to you?

*Confusion about change initiatives and how they fit with company direction (Vision, Strategy, Goals, etc.)

*More change initiatives going on than employees can track (and/or understand!)

*Task forces and Committees galore... frequently careening out of control or colliding with each other!

*A few key managers and employees serving on so many Task Forces they are running out of gas! (folks literally "meeting themselves coming and going")

*Change initiatives that seem misaligned with the Vision/Strategy of the company and with other initiatives

*Change initiatives that seem mistimed... needing the most intense work just as the company enters its already "busy season"

So if any of the above situations sound familiar, your firm may be a candidate for a more systematic way of managing change! Program/Project Management may be very helpful to you!

A pure and simple fact is that the majority of companies do a better job of "running their businesses"; on a day-to-day basis than they do "changing their businesses."

For example, companies would not think of producing products or services for customers without product specification and blueprints, without systematic processes, and without trained, responsible personnel working in those processes.

Yet for a change taskforce, any or all of the following are common... no clear specs for the change project, no clear charter for the assigned team, no game plan for producing results, no hard schedule to get results into place, no clear assignments of accountability and responsibility, and usually untrained personnel!

So, what's a manager to do? Successful companies have been using the disciplines of Program and Project Management for years to keep changes and new developments going in the right direction.

*Project is defined as a temporary endeavor undertaking to create a unique product, service, or organizational capability. (Many of the Task Forces we see in companies are formed to support a "project")

*Program is defined as a group of projects managed in a coordinated way to obtain benefits not available from managing projects individually. (from Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge by W.R. Duncan) Steering Committees are used in some firms as a way of "getting a handle" on multiple projects that might interact with each other.

*Program/Project Management is defined as the systematic body of knowledge and skills needed to ensure the successful completion of Programs and Projects "on target, on time, and on budget." Informal Steering Committees in many companies are rudimentary tools for Program/Project Management.

But don't all managers know about and use Program and Project Management? The simple answer is "No!" Most managers do not know Project Management much less Program Management!!

Managers have been trained and experienced in "keeping their business running", not in the tools and techniques specifically designed for changing those businesses! But with "change is the exception and not the rule," it's time they learned!!

So if your organization needs to develop its capacity for managing change, consider accessing the capability to do systematic, professional Program and Project Management.

"Accessing" may mean building your firm's processes and structure for Program/Project Management and doing concentrated employee development in those subject areas. (Service as a program or project manager is a great tool for developing organizational leadership skills.)

Accessing for many companies also means getting assistance from outside firms who have been engaged in Program/Project Management.

The bottom lines are that (1) it seems that the "multiple change" environment will now be a natural part of our business world, and (2) the two disciplines of Program/Project Management with their systematic upfront planning for change can pay big dividends for today's changing organization!
About the Author
Get a free copy of the 250-page change manifesto Change is the Rule: Free Change Management Book

Dutch Holland is principal and founder of Holland & Davis, specializing in helping clients implement change.
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