Program Management: 4 Helpful Hacks

I’ve been a consultant for most of my career and learned great tips for managing a successful program. As a project leader or a key stakeholder in projects led by others, I’ve seen what works – and what doesn’t. Recently, program management has gotten even more complex with virtual teams, large-scale transformations, and new technology.

These are my favorite hacks for managing projects and programs that may help you too:

Pictures are worth a thousand words.

I’ve never heard anyone say, “I’m not a very visual person.” A simple Gantt chart or image that shows the project sequence, key relationships, and critical milestones can accelerate team understanding. Start each meeting with the same timeline picture that notes “we are here” and anchors the team on where you are today, and they can anticipate what’s ahead.

A simple RACI is your friend.

How often have you been in a situation where you need to nail down accountability for a deliverable? Or you may be accountable for an action but don’t have to actually be the one who does the work. Clarity can be achieved with a RACI chart.  At first, a RACI may seem old school or cumbersome, but it works if you keep it simple. I’ve never introduced a RACI that was a waste of time.

I need you, and you need me.

It’s easy to focus solely on your project and assume everyone else will deliver on their responsibilities as planned. But what happens when a group’s deliverable is too late for another group to use and affects meeting their deadline? Build in a regular cadence for leaders to reflect on “what do I need from other groups to be successful in the next two weeks?”. (This question is broader than the agile stand-up meeting question: “Do you have any blockers that will prevent you from doing your work?”) By considering dependencies with other groups, you can anticipate risks and your reliance on others to meet their deadlines. Understanding what each area will deliver and their due dates creates a more cohesive and integrated program team.

How do your stakeholders feel?

Don’t forget to stop regularly and ask two questions:

  1. How are our stakeholders responding to these changes?
  2. Can they absorb what we are delivering?

Managing the change and the stakeholder’s journey is as critical as managing each deliverable and milestone. Your stakeholders will ultimately determine if your program is adopted and if it really works as intended. Always consider and acknowledge their experience throughout the program at every step.

Well-executed program management is not easy, but it can be the most important ingredient in determining the success of your program or initiative. Your organization will benefit if you prioritize smart program management from the start.

What is one of your favorite hacks for managing programs?

Cheryl Farley is a Partner with PeopleResults. Follow her on LinkedIn or connect via email at