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News & Features - April 2012

Randomly Managed NGO Programmes

Thursday 19th April 2012

On occasion, I’ve stepped inside organisations to discover people in programme management roles not really taking a thorough approach to managing their programme of work. In fact their approach has been somewhat random by nature and questionable to say the least. They report to a board, manage a group of project managers, keep a risk register and think “that’s programme management”. I suppose it’s management of sorts, but it also goes some way to explaining why so many programmes don’t achieve the desired outcome.

These are Randomly Managed Programmes and they will often fail because:

1. Leadership is weak;

2. There is a poorly defined or poorly communicated vision;

3. There is little if any focus on managing benefits and dis-benefits;

4. There is a shortage of appropriate effort to change culture;

5. There is insufficient analysis and appropriate engagement of stakeholders;

6. Planning has been insufficient and scheduling unrealistic;

7. There is inadequate board-level support;

8. Communication throughout the programme is poor;

9. There are unrealistic expectations of the organisational capacity and capability to change;

10. There is no real picture of the future capability.

By combining a best management practice framework such as Managing Successful Programmes (MSP®) and an excellent set of soft-skills, common sense and pragmatism, NGO programmes can avoid the above and enjoy a far better chance of being the success stories they deserve to be and provide valuable return on investment.

But it continues to amaze me that those responsible for the appointment of programme managers fail to understand what makes the difference between successful and unsuccessful programmes. It’s almost as if they don’t even consider the risk of failure, until it slaps them in the face many months down the line and red lights start flashing.

Then there are those who believe that so long as the programme manager has a good level of specialist knowledge, or wears a PMP or PRINCE2 badge, then they have a winning programme manager on board. All of this is good, but it’s by no means enough.

As an NGO leader, the next time you’re speaking with someone who could be (or is currently) managing one of your programmes, ask them what programme management approach they use and how the various elements of it could be (or are being) applied to your programme(s). Hopefully what you hear will fill you with insight, confidence and a warm and fuzzy reassurance that the programme manager does not (unknowingly) use an unstructured random approach to programme management, and that their programme is not suffering from any of the ten symptoms listed above.

By Rob Llewellyn – Business Transformation Consultant


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