How to turn program strategy into effective execution

The ability to go from strategy to execution is essential for the successful delivery of business critical programs. Organisations are placing more emphasis and resources on good program management.

The team has been planning for months, and the strategy appears to be watertight. But, at the final and most crucial stages, your program falls apart. It’s something that happens all too often – around two-thirds of programs collapse, in fact, and many of those that do make it through are late.

The biggest reason for this? Poor execution.

Handled ineffectively, these programs can be a real drain on resources – or, even worse, a complete waste of time altogether. In order to get it right and maximise your return on investment, strategy must flow seamlessly into execution, with the same attention given to both.

It needn’t be difficult, either. The tips below will certainly help.

Make responsibilities clear

Successful programs are never the work of just one person – they require integrated teams of people, all pulling in the same direction, each with their own responsibilities. There should always be one member at the top, however; someone who is accountable.

This leader, who will ideally have program management experience, must have the capacity to make this program their main focus. It’s no good if they’re more concerned with their own job spec, and can only dedicate a small portion of their time to the program execution.

Ensure as well that the person accountable has easy access to everything that is happening, and that all other team members have a clear line of contact. They need to do more than just oversee – they must be involved.

Value communication

The importance of contact and communication cannot be overstated. Your team needs to work in absolute harmony with one another, on the same wavelength with the same overarching objectives.
Strong communication should also be the top priority when choosing your program leader. Their role, more than just telling people what to do, will be to act as a link between the CEO and the program. They must be ready and able to have frank conversations about what’s going on, what’s needed and whether the work is on schedule or not.

Someone already in a director role may have the kind of relationship that could be useful in this situation.

Respect everyone’s skills

While the overall goal will be relevant to everyone, each member of the team will have their own objectives to focus on, relating, of course, to their individual skills. And, for the team to be effective as a whole, everyone must bring something different to the table. It’s crucial that these skills and responsibilities are respected.
The program manager may believe something should be done in a certain way, but they must be able to trust the expert. They’re in this position for a reason – harness their power instead of micro-managing.

Appreciate the importance of program management

Above all, give program management – and more specifically, execution – the attention it deserves. It shouldn’t just be a concept that comes up every time a new program starts. It’s something that takes time to master and it must be considered at all times.

The ability to go from strategy to execution effectively, not just in the technical workstreams but across all parts of the business, is hugely valuable; especially at a time when businesses are searching frantically for ways to differentiate themselves and get ahead of the competition. An increasing number of organisations are placing it alongside finance and marketing in terms of importance, with some even allocating permanent teams to it. You may not need to go quite so far, but take inspiration at least.

Don’t be afraid to bring in help, either. Especially, if you’re facing a complex, business-critical program challenge.  Smaller companies can still give the necessary attention to program management without stretching their resources or asking people to take on responsibility beyond their skills and experience. Costs of delay are orders of magnitude larger than any fee you pay for expert help.

 

 

Download our special report, “Getting with the Program”, where a number of CEOs were asked to share wisdom from their experiences of strategy execution.

 

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