Programs provide a ‘first front line’ for implementation of strategic objectives, as programs are by nature strategically defined and implement a subset of the strategy. As such, programs can also provide a ‘laboratory’ for implementing strategic objectives – for getting strategy implementation right before implementing elsewhere. Programs also provide the bridge to strategy implementation on projects. This article explores some of the key challenges and pitfalls to strategy implementation on programs and how to manage them.
This is the first of a series of four articles on the subject of strategy implementation, where we explore the dynamics and challenges of taking a strategy through the implementation stage. This article, Part 1 in the series, looks at Strategy Implementation on Programs – where a subset of the strategy is implemented in a broad but well-defined initiative. Part 2, Strategy Implementation on Projects, looks at the challenges of timing, tying back to strategy, and measuring progress and effectiveness. Part 3, Strategy Implementation in Businesses, focuses on the complexities of structuring and managing a business in a new strategic direction. Finally, Part 4, Strategy Implementation in Government, dives into the unique problems of implementing strategies within a government organization.
Programs are different from projects in that they are not as time bound. While projects always have a well-defined end point, and a projected cost, schedule, and defined deliverable, programs are more strategic in nature. Programs are over when the strategic objective has been achieved…so whatever that takes, and how long, are open for discussion. That makes the need for continued dialog between program management and organization management critical to keep all aligned with the strategy.
To keep this all in balance, programs have some unique challenges with regard to strategy implementation:
- Focus on Slice of Overall Strategy – Programs are strategically driven – by one or a select few aspects of the organization’s strategy. As such, they are far less temporal in nature than projects…and are complete when the strategic objective is achieved.
- Measure Progress Against Strategy – Programs need to be totally aware of the objectives of the strategy and continuously measure along the way progress toward the objectives – and make adjustments to the strategic objectives should they occur…and provide feedback that may result in adjustments to the organization’s strategy.
- Understand Temporal Nature of Strategy – Timing is everything…and some strategic objectives need to be achieved within a timeframe in order to produce the benefits.
- Define Strategically-driven Projects – Programs need to define projects that are consistent with the program and organizational strategies, and ensure that systems are set up to monitor them accordingly. Adjustments may also be necessary, like pulling the plug on projects that are not contributing strategically, or bolster those that show promise of contributing more than expected.
- Run Program Like a Business – A program organization is much like a business organization; it needs to have strong coordination of activity and cross pollination of ideas across program areas. This keeps everything synchronized and moving in the right direction – toward the strategic objectives.
Programs are unique drivers of strategic implementation within organizations. They can also be experimental…where the process of strategy implementation is tested and refined before being exercised on other aspects of the strategy through additional programs.
Is your organization taking a strategy implementation driven approach to programs?
This Post is Part of the Series: Strategy Implementation
This is a series of four articles on the subject of strategy implementation, where we explore the dynamics and challenges of taking a strategy through the implementation stage.