Friday, 6 February 2015

Seeing through change in a program is a massive leadership challenge. In addition to the need to manage a large number of complex activities and tasks, people have to be motivated, led and prepared towards the necessary transformation. It is impossible to move to a better future without clear and transparent leadership. The kind of leadership that is required in program management is the one that always:
  • Gives clear direction (line of sight) and clarifies its (program) purpose
  • Engenders trust with consistent and transparent behaviors
  • Manages by exception
  • Provides provision for reviews at major decision points
  • Actively engages stakeholders (throughout the program)
  • Appoints the right people at the right time
  • Can live with a measure of uncertainty (Risk taking behavior)
  • Solves problems and creates novel solutions
  • Delegates responsibilities where necessary whilst retaining overall control
  • Supports the transition until new methods are established and embedded.
  • Clear focus on benefits and uncertainties surrounding them
General Leadership responsibilities (a few)
  • Confirm tolerances with senior management
  • Approve initiation documentation
  • Approve Plans for initiation
  • Approve the supplier contract (if the relationship between the customer and supplier is a commercial one)
  • Provide overall guidance and direction, ensuring program remains viable and within any specified constraints
  • Respond to requests for advice from the Program Manager
  • Ensure that risks are being tracked and managed as effectively as possible
  • Make decisions on escalated issues and risks
  • Authorizes the program governance arrangement and its adjustment, improvement and enforcement
  • Intervenes to control risks and issues that affect the alignment of the program with organizational objectives
  • Initiates assurance reviews of risk and issue management effectiveness
  • Ownership of strategic risks and issues, ensuring mitigation actions are dealt with at the appropriate senior level
  • Consulting the senior management and other key stakeholders, maintaining their buy-in, especially in preparing for and carrying out transition and transformation
  • Leading the ongoing monitoring and review activities of the program, at major milestones including commissioning formal reviews such as audits/health checks, if required
  • Monitoring progress and direction of the program at a strategic level and initiating management interventions where necessary
  • Ensuring that adequate assurance is designed into the control mechanisms
  • Authorizing the program plan, and the required monitoring and control activities
  • Securing investment for the program
  • Ensuring that the business case is controlled and audit provisions are in place to account for changes as the program develops
  • Scanning the business horizons surrounding the program for issues that will lead to realignment of the program in some way
  • Ensuring that the progress of the program remains aligned with the business case
  • Consulting with the senior management to identify any early-warning indicators of change that may undermine the business case or cause it to lose strategic alignment
  • Initiating independent assurance reviews of business case and therefore the program viability
Good leaders engender trust through leading with consistency and transparency. Program management is most effective when issues are debated freely and risks evaluated openly. This requires personal courage and openness to challenge. Conversely, where there is lack of trust, stakeholder engagement and team working are so much harder. It is a sign of weak leadership to dismiss risks, issues and concerns by members of the team without appropriate examination and consideration. Leading change means actively engaging stakeholders. In achieving transformational changes, programs will alter the working practices, culture and style of organizations. The people aspects of change must be recognized and addressed if the program is to succeed. A good program actively engages stakeholders and takes seriously their perceptions of value and benefit. Program management needs to be much more actively people-oriented than might be the case in a project.

Good change leaders can live with the uncertainty that inevitably comes with delivering programs. Uncertainties can be made worse if:
  • The path to achieving the vision is not clear at the start
  • Plans have to deviate during the course of the program
  • The vision itself needs refining as work progresses.
Leading change also means supporting the change through the transition from the old to the new until the new ways of working are fully embedded. This area is often neglected or underestimated. It can result in excellent project outputs but the capability they offer not being exploited. The program may then be branded a failure, when in fact it was a failure of change leadership, not the program or any of its projects. Good leadership involves planning changes, preparing for their implementation, resourcing and then implementing them. The transition process should ensure business stability is maintained. Managing the transition involves leading people through change into an unfamiliar and probably uncomfortable new way of doing things.

It is never true that managers cannot be leaders or that leaders cannot be managers. People occupying roles in the program’s management team need to display both sets of competencies and outlooks based on the context and situation there are in. Nor does it mean that leadership is exclusive to an individual and the sponsor. A well managed program evidences dispersed leadership: at some time or other, all roles in the management team must display leadership qualities. 

One of the mechanisms that most leaders employ to influence key stakeholders is to conduct early ‘visioning’ workshops or ‘burning platforms’ to help draft the program vision statement and motivate key stakeholders. Leaders use the program vision statement to influence and persuade stakeholders to commit to the beneficial future. Such a workshop is an opportunity:
  • To engage the right stakeholders early (the ‘leading change’ principle), even including clients and suppliers
  • For leadership to explore and define what might be called the ‘do-nothing vision’.

Author - Vijayakumar Reddy, CTO & Lead Trainer, A2A IMTCS Pvt. LTD.

© Copyright 2015 A2A - IMTCS. All rights reserved.
The Swirl logo is a trade mark of AXELOS Limited. 
PRINCE2® is a Registered Trade Mark of AXELOS Limited.
MSP® is a Registered Trade Mark of AXELOS Limited.
Copyright © AXELOS Limited 2009 & 2011. Reproduced under license from AXELOS