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Program and Project Management: Two Critical Tools For Effective Organizational Change

Aug 17, 2007
Changing the way an organization works requires intense management. That needed management can be provided by two mature management disciplines that are not often used in a normal, run-the-business environment: Program and Project Management.

Program Management focuses on achieving an organization's long term interests, enacting its strategy, or reaching its vision. It includes identifying the needed organizational steps to enact the strategy or reach the vision and then turning those critical steps into a change program made up of multiple, manageable projects.

Program Management ensures that all projects have the resources needed to complete their unique tasks on target, on time, and on budget. It also ensures that projects have necessary coordination and cooperation to keep them from colliding, conflicting, taking resources from each other, etc.

Program Management includes formal Risk Management, systematically identifying and mitigating possible risks to the change program. In addition, it flexes projects around the highs and lows, ebbs and flows of the business to keep the right overall amount of organizational energy focused on completing the change program.

In short, Program Management exists to ensure that needed changes are systematically and successfully integrated into the day-to-day operation of the company.

The second management discipline is Project Management. Project Management focuses finite resources on the completion of its unique assigned work on target, on time, and on budget.

It gives the capability to bring concrete results to a defined task in a defined time period. For example, we might use Project Management to guide the installation of a new telecommunications system, or to plan and control the alteration of the employee performance systems in a merger to ensure that employees of both companies were paid from the same compensation structure.

Project Management needs to be done in a similar fashion in all projects to enable Program Management to understand overall status or progress toward its enacted strategy or desired vision.

Failure to adopt a uniform Project Management method will ensure that the organization will not do a good job managing change, and that the projects that the organization attempts to run simultaneously will not be comparable, making overall Program Management practically impossible to do well.

The use of Program and Project Management allows the organization to assign clear responsibilities and accountabilities for enacting strategy or reaching a desired vision.

Of course the ultimate responsibility and accountability for any change program rests with the CEO. The CEO can delegate the day-to-day work of Program Management to another executive team member with both the needed experience/capability and organizational rank/credibility. Projects can then be assigned to other team members who have the capability to make the project successful.

For Red Zone Program and Project Management to be effective, we believe that both the program and project managers should be formally appointed and should show up on the firm's organization chart. There should be a direct attachment between the Program Manager and the CEO. It is also recommended to link a Steering Committee above the Program Manager.

Generally, the members of the Steering Committee are the CEO and his direct reports, although on some occasions, other members might be added depending on the nature of change program.

So there you have it, the two most valuable tools for managing an organizational change on target, on time, and on budget. Program and Project Management have what it takes for effective change. Where are you and your organization in developing needed Program and Project Management competence?
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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