Programme Management Uncovered – Part 5

How will the Programme work?

There are many aspects to this.  The ideal place to start is with the production of a Programme Initiation Document (PID) which captures in one place everything which has been discussed in parts one to four – the why, what, who and when.

One of the key steps at an early stage of a Programme is the various elements of Mobilisation.  These activities are essential and there should normally be a concerted effort to get the programme moving swiftly along, and a summary looks like this:

Kick off Project Team Governance Structure Steering Group Workbook Ways of working Quality plan
Description A cohesive and skilled team of professionals A structured reporting matrix to give clarity and accountability A balanced body compromised of the right individuals A log of the risks, issues, actions and decisions An agreed “modus operandi” A set of activities to ensure high standards
Benefit Capable of managing and leveraging best practices. Clear roles and responsibilities and effective management. Effective, timely decision making, sign off on key deliverables and gates. A tool to manage the progress of the programme. Smooth operation of the programme. Increased chances of successful implementation.

I will go into most of these further in more detail in this section.

A major part of the Programme is to set out the stages of the programme design as follows:

The information for the Strategy and the Business Case has been covered in Part 1.

Another term for the Discovery stage is Analysis and Design.  It is here where the detail behind the requirements and challenges are captured in some depth, the problems and issues documented and analysed, the “AS IS” business processes mapped, the systems landscape understood, etc.  This stage may also revisit the strategy and business case by expanding more details on the direction and opportunities involved, and more information gleaned on the “size of the prize” and this is helpful to ensure the case for change is robust and compelling.

In the next stage, looking at Scenarios and Solutions, the steps will depend on the complexity of the situation but are likely to include some or all of the following:

  • Brainstorm/generate all possible options
  • Eliminate infeasible options
  • Assess key technical issues – eg IT, tax, compliance etc
  • Develop assessment criteria
  • Run a workshop to evaluate the options against the criteria
  • Estimate the likely cost and performance benefits
  • Develop short list of 3 to 5 options to take forward
  • Identify quick wins
  • Refine the selected options – look into key activities/processes, IT challenges, people issues, change management issues, practicalities, risks, migration options and overall feasibility
  • Score and select the preferred option
  • Update the business case for the chosen option.

Depending on the nature of the solution, it is highly likely that there will be a technical development stage, where systems will need to be specified, built, tested and made available.

The next stage is to plan the most effective migration and implementation approach.  Again this will depend on the circumstances and the complexity of the solution.  There are always a number of options which need to be considered and assessed depending on timescales, cost, risks, benefit return etc.

Then finally once the solution has been available and is up and running, it is wise to look at whether it is running smoothly, effectively and fully optimised.

It is also normal to have some form of “stage gate test” (with agreed exit criteria) which must be passed satisfactorily.   The substance of this will vary depending on the specific nature of the programme but generally the key elements will normally follow the 7 levers of change (vision/business case, organisation, processes, people, systems etc) and the detail will depend on the stage which is being decided upon from feasibility, solution, build/test, migration etc. The Steering Group will want to be involved in all of the major “go/no go” decisions.

Normally programmes should have some form of “Change Impact Analysis” to test/ascertain whether the proposals will work effectively when implemented. See attached chart.

Governance is all about strategy, control, leadership and managing risk.   Much will depend on an organisation’s culture but most programmes are governed by a steering group and I have already covered the role and membership of a typical steering group in part III above.

The chart below sets out some excellent attributes for good governance.

It is essential to be clear about everyone’s role and responsibility.  Also the best steering groups are proactive, positive, dynamic and decisive.

With regard to cadence and progress reporting, the key is to find the right balance.  In order to drive progress, keep momentum and stay on top of the activities and issues arising, it is best to have some form of a weekly (or fortnightly) progress report.  A summary of this should be prepared monthly, which is typically how often an active steering group should meet.  However at different stages of a programme, for example, in the lead up to a major launch or “go-live”, it is customary to meet more often.   There are many examples of formats for progress reporting and steering group management.

The need to manage stakeholders was introduced in part III.  They are another key element of any programme so it is essential to know who they are, understand their position and stance on the programme’s objectives (supportive or otherwise), and have a communications plan for them.  This can be achieved through stakeholder mapping and analysis, which should lead to a stakeholder liaison plan.

The first part of the “who” was the Team.  Because even the best Programme Manager can’t do it on his own. Mobilising and building the right team is a key activity.  And team building doesn’t stop in phase one, it must continue throughout the programme, especially longer and more difficult programmes – to avoid programme fatigue.  Being close to the team and being energised, focused, attentive, listening, etc will all improve the chances of success.  One of the challenges of large, national or global programmes is that the team will probably be based in many different locations.  This is made easier with the abundance of technology available today, so in addition to telephones and email, there is video-conferencing, webcasts, Skype, Webex, instant messaging, etc.  I have written a paper on Virtual Teamworking which is in the attachments.

A critical part of every programme is the change management strategy and associated communication strategy and approach.  There are many theories and models on this topic, many techniques, many excuses, and I will cover some of them.  Many elements have already been mentioned, including vision, case for change, leadership, sponsorship, impact analysis, stakeholder management, managing resistance, communications, values and benefits focus.

The extended team should recognise that there is an emotional cycle of change which typically takes people on a roller coaster of emotions which starts off reasonably comfortably then goes down through the stages of loss and doubt, then worse into apprehension and discomfort before “bottoming” out in a “danger zone” before beginning to climb out the other side through stages of discovery and understanding before ending up in a better place.

Most people will have seen the “40 excuses not to change” which range from “we tried that before”,  through “its too radical” and “ lets sleep on it”  to “I knew a guy who tried that once “  !

Thanks to colleagues at RGP for this next one.

The key to this is defining and agreeing the appropriate change management style.  The correct choice of style can be determined by the use of a two by two model, plotting the choice of styles from collaborative and consultative through to directive and coercive on one axis and the scale of the change on the other.  The right answer may also vary at different stages of the programme.

Another way to describe the elements of the change strategy is as follows:

Communications – this is a vital element of the change programme.  The various audiences have already been partially covered in the section on Stakeholders, so there needs to be a communications strategy developed to work out what needs to communicated, to who, how often, using which channels etc.  The different stages will include Awareness, Understanding and Involvement.    Some programmes have there own Branding.

The various channels available will include:

·         Meetings – Roadshows, briefings, forums, working lunches, etc

·         Physical documents – posters, newsletters, briefings, FAQs, etc

·         On line (web site/email) – progress updates, FAQs, surveys, etc

·         Training – from general awareness to detailed process/systems training, etc

Every programme of any significance will have a Programme Management Office (PMO) – this can range from one versatile individual doing all of the tasks to a sizable programme probably requiring a manager and a skilled team.  This team will maintain the plans, assist with progress reporting, team logistics and administration and running the RAID log.

The RAID log is an essential tool on every programme – RAID stands for Risks, Actions, Issues and Decisions.  These are often found in a single workbook, with a section for each.  The risks should be captured, assessed and monitored in the Risk Register.  The actions from all key meetings should be captured and tracked.  The Issues should be captured in an Issues Log.  Similarly with key Decisions.   For the record, my definition of the difference between an issue and a risk is “an issue is something which is “live” today, and a risk is something which might happen in the future”.

When it comes to progress tracking and reporting, there are certain basic rules and templates which can be used.  There is often push back project managers, workstream leads and team members when it comes to the format, style, frequency of these so depending on the culture, so you will need to find the right balance between push and pull.  However this is a critical part of the PM’s role so a way must be found and agreed.  See attached example as a starter.

The PMO will often consist of a quality manager who is responsible for ensuring the integrity and discipline of the programme.  There should be a quality plan and a regular quality review.  See the attachment for an example of a quality plan.  “The quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence” – Vince Lombardi, American football coach.

Finally, in this section, some words on “Making it Happen”, programme Logistics and Values.

Making it happen – hopefully with a clear vision, a compelling business case, a strong mandate from the Board, the sustained sponsorship from the Steering Group, etc it will “ all just happen”!  Or will it ?  Possibly, but what it will also need is the Energy, Drive and Commitment of all of the team, and the Resilience, Diplomacy and Teambuilding skills of the Programme Manager.

Logistics – There are a large number of fundamental administrative considerations which need to be put in place.  These include office space and equipment, IT facilities (laptops, network, printers, etc), communications equipment, video conferencing, (spider) phones, etc.  Then when the team starts, there will need to be some programme induction, possibly training, and ideally the production of a Team Charter – this will set out the agreed “way of working” including some ground rules for meetings and behaviours, and what team members can expect of each other.  A useful exercise is to develop and agree some “team values” – these will prove useful when the going gets tough. The PMO will need to set up the tools and processes, the cadence of meetings and communications, possibly a simple timesheet system, etc.  And basic things like coffee making, lunch, the loo and the nearest pub should be organised also!

Values – In most modern businesses, there is an increasing number who believe that having clear, shared values is of real benefit when managing people and driving results.  The same applies to change programmes – I have found in recent programmes that if you get these in place, and people believe in them, then people respond to them, work better together and increase the chances of successful outcomes.  Programme values often follow or reflect the Organisations values – Some examples include – Achieving excellence, Taking responsibility, Teamwork, Customer focus, Thinking outwards, Integrity, etc.  And like the project and team charter, the process of drafting and agreeing them has real value also.

RACI – This stands for Responsible, Accountable, Consulted and Informed – see attached sample grid.  Not everyone likes (or understands) this concept/tool, but often they are very useful to ensure people know what their role is, how they will be involved and who is ultimately accountable for the delivery of the various workstreams and deliverables.

Resource management and Holiday tracker – A major part of running a multi-functional team, in different places, and potentially including some from different suppliers is managing the resources carefully, diligently and sympathetically.  There are many resource management tools so the key is finding the most suitable.  Sometimes there is a need for timesheets to track time (and therefore costs) and also a holiday planner is always a good idea, particularly in the summer months when many might be away for two or three weeks and the programme needs to keep its momentum.

Global travel business – Transformation Programme

The goals of this cross business transformation programme were to improve customer service levels, to reorganise the business into a single UK entity and to drive efficiency.

The key factors in making this a success were:

·         New UK MD involved on a daily basis

·         Board directors owned the programme and  its constituent parts

·         Regular stakeholder meetings


Message – Stakeholder engagement is vital to success.


Central Government department

The department’s challenge was to find a better, more cost effective way of delivering IT/ERP systems based on either SAP or Oracle.  There were many potential solutions including an in-house function, moving to a software-as-a-service model, outsourcing to another large government department or outsourcing to a commercial third party.  Each solution was analysed in detail and the pros and cons of each identified and costed.

Message – the devil is in the detail.


Large Shared Services Programme

Big team – 120 – mostly consultants and contractors – from six different providers/suppliers

Challenges – different roles, different ways of working, different values – different expectations

Solution – clarity of roles, detailed plan, weekly progress meetings, many joint workshops, lots of communications

Message – Build a robust approach and get people to buy in to it.


Global Professional Services Company

Turnaround programme

Clear vision

Strong leadership

Senior stakeholder support

Focused change management strategy including change agents

Lots of communications

Frequent programme progress meetings

Message – strong leadership and visible sponsorship with accountability and values