Running a successful corporate program will call on almost every leadership principle you can imagine. From defining the problem to measuring success, leaders emerge through the process. In fact, I personally promoted a leader based on the leadership traits I witnessed during such a change project.
Satish Subramanian is a Principal at M Squared Consulting, a SolomonEdwards company. He has over 25 years of experience in technology consulting and advises companies on business transformation. His new book, Transforming Business with Program Management provides the necessary steps to ensure solid program management. I recently asked him about his work.
Success Starts Upfront
“Success starts upfront” is all about problem definition. I have seen this numerous times in organizations. One of the most egregious examples was when it was clear the group was working on two very different problems. Neither side even realized it until months into it. Why is defining the problem so important? Would you share an example from your work?
The problem definition step is a critical one in the early stages of the business transformation journey. This step ensures the problem is well understood and agreed upon by stakeholders prior to expending significant organizational resources for a long period to solve it. It positions the transformational change program for success, facilitates the delivery of agreed strategic objectives, and realizes the transformational vision.
One example is that of a well-known biotech company that outsourced its finance, accounting, and payroll functions to an off-shore location as part of a strategic initiative to reduce cost. In hindsight, the organization realized it should have redesigned the business processes to overcome significant process gaps and then consider outsourcing. The inadequate upfront definition of the problem resulted in the goal of cost reduction not getting met in the designated time frames.
What’s your definition of program management?
Program management is the alignment and integration of multiple dimensions (strategy, people, process, technology, structure, and measurement) to execute organization transformation strategies, deliver the transformed future state, and achieve the desired business outcomes.
Would you share the program management life cycle phases?
Program management life cycle is the four-phase approach to drive a business transformation program from start to finish. This life cycle enables and sustains business transformation by articulating vision, developing an integrated transformation program plan, driving the plan, removing execution barriers, delivering planned business outcomes, and realizing business benefits. The illustration highlights the four phases and the eight processes that constitute the program management life cycle.
The four phases are:
- Phase One – Set the stage
- Phase Two – Decide what to do
- Phase Three – Make it happen
- Phase Four – Make it stick
Finding Strategic Advantage
What does it take for an organization to turn its program management into a strategic advantage?
Organizations need to constantly innovate business models, products, services, processes, and systems to maintain a strong competitive position in the market-place. Organizations initiate business transformation programs to drive such innovation. The successful delivery of a transformation program provides the strategic advantage and competitive edge. A mature organizational program management capability is needed to lead such a transformation program to success. Organizations today must give renewed emphasis to the tenets of program management, which provide the focus, structure, and discipline necessary to achieve the desired business outcomes. A structured and rigorous program management practice is critical to drive a business transformation program to success. Organizations need to realize that program management is a strategic desired business capability. Organizations have to invest in building and sustaining a mature program management capability to achieve the strategic advantage of an improved competitive positioning in a dynamic market place.
Your book Transforming Business with Program Managementand process is geared toward large organizations. What can a small business owner implement that would really make a difference in her business?
The approach, processes and techniques highlighted in my book factors my experiences in advising large, mid-size, and emerging growth organizations on transforming themselves to stay competitive. The external market forces of digitization, globalization, regulation, new technologies, and ever-changing customer tastes are impacting small business owners too. Small businesses need to build program management capability to successfully implement strategies and programs as that can really make a difference. The ten-step roadmap enumerated in the book to drive programs to success equally applies to a small business owner. The resources needed to execute the roadmap are lower due to the lesser complexity of a small business.
How An Outside-In Perspective Enhances Success
The “outside-in” perspective is one that I think is vital to the success of any strategic initiative. Talk about the environmental scan. What is it? Why take the time to do it?
An environment scan brings the external, macro environment perspective in identifying and analyzing organizational strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Strengths and weaknesses are characteristics of the enterprise, division, or business process – its operational assets and liabilities. Opportunities and threats are internal or external factors that can positively or negatively affect an enterprise depending on where its strengths and weaknesses lie.
It’s critical for the business transformation program management team to invest the time to perform the environment scan. It provides the basis to prioritize and define the problem and determine the step-change improvements that will result in a significant edge over the competition. An environment scan not only ensures the transformation initiative will tackle the right strategic problem, but also creates the burning platform for a business to transform.
You’ve worked with many types of organizations. What is it that distinguishes the best organizations, the ones who really operationalize transformative program management?
The best organizations are high performers who have a good track record of delivering successful business transformation. They have built a mature transformative program management capability that improves business performance and readies the organization to sustain improvements. In addition to the investment in developing a superior transformative program management capability, the best organizations have these distinguishing characteristics:
Leadership across all levels of the program structure on the technical and human side
Sponsorship at the initiation of the program and throughout the program life cycle
Governance practices that institutionalize controls but do not create any bureaucracy
Stakeholder engagement from the start to the end of the transformation program
Outcome management which entails defining and tracking delivery of business value
Transforming Business with Program Management