Project Portfolio Management

5 Change Mistakes a Good Program Manager Won’t Make

By nature, program managers spin a lot of plates. They also want to make those plates spin better by spurring changes that improve the bottom line. However, changes don’t necessarily mean good results, and sometimes, program managers make mistakes that are costly to their business. In a post for Axelos, John Tibble points out five change mistakes that a good program manager will know to avoid:

  1. Ignoring the old 70-percent-failure factor
  2. Associating “change” purely with “communications”
  3. Addressing change too late in the program lifecycle
  4. Assuming one size fits all
  5. Downplaying the significance of formal change management

Be Realistic with Change

A decade-old Harvard Business Review article showed that approximately 70 percent of transformation delivery programs failed to deliver their target benefits. Program managers need to anticipate risks and possible failure associated with each stage of their program’s life cycle. Specifically, it is crucial that they actively manage “people-focused business change” to prevent failure and tackle the drivers behind the risk. Program managers should also know that wins are the result of a good plan combined with good timing. A change can only produce positive outcomes if it is tailored to fit its environment and implemented in the early stages, not near the end of the life cycle. Addressing change early will help enhance your business readiness and client contentedness.

When a change is underway, attempt to successfully deliver the message to the public, and make sure they receive it properly. Don’t rely on the communications manager/director to be responsible for the change—they are a good place to start, but not everything you need to work on. Good program managers often engage and lead communications that aim at raising awareness and promoting positive action. Each manager has a different leadership style, and unfortunately, not everyone possesses enough skills to ignite a change. That’s why you need a good team structure to give a hand. Tibble writes about this:

Transformation needs a team of peers, rather than reports; of colleagues rather than bag-carriers. A good programme manager will understand the need for a strong set of peers to help them deliver and a great programme manager will have the emotional intelligence to respect the differing skills that are required for the transformational challenge. A poor programme manager will simply think it all too “pink and fluffy”.

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