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Mentor Blueprint

Business-Critical Program Execution Framework

Our unique Blueprint is at the heart of all we do. The ten lessons in Mentor’s program delivery approach highlight the most classic problems blocking program success. Collectively, they give a business-critical program the best possible start in life. It will help you to set up a powerful custom-built execution framework – that delivers peace of mind for your business.


No-nonsense, insider secrets most businesses never discover.

Our blueprint is the “missing link.” It will inject pace and certainty into business-critical programs. A huge “aha” experience for senior executives.

Is your approach to strategy execution squeezing energy from your chances of success? Do you need help in taking your strategy execution to the next level? No, of course you don’t.

“Tried and tested” approaches repeatedly come up short on business-critical programs. But what if we can get you where you want to be with much more certainty – and a lot faster than doing it on your own? How does that sound?

Program management concepts have been refined and polished for many years. What’s clear is most slip-ups stem from poor management judgements built-in immediately from the kick-off. The trail of chaos that goes with these bungles is completely unnecessary.

Mentor’s Blueprint highlights the most classic problems blocking the rapid results from program success.

There are two major reasons why so-called best practice repeatedly misses the mark. First, large-scale program management wisdom is learned on-the-job: you can’t learn it from books. Time after time, the shakiness of conventional execution doctrine is exposed by real-world experience.

Second, the pivotal role of specific execution building-blocks is not understood. They’re either overlooked, or compromised in some way – leading to futile organisational thrashing, major program delays – or worse, a complete flameout.

These patterns are not simply fine distinctions; they are weighty lessons drawn from battle-tested experience.

The Ten Lessons on Mentor Blueprint

1. Executive Alignment

is binary, you can’t be “mostly” aligned.

The more the executive team shares a common view of the change, the greater the chance of success. All executives must have shared accountability for it – reflected in personal compensation plans; they must visibly commit their organisations to deliver the change. If one or more executives don’t share the vision, it will quickly hit choppy waters. Many reasons are cited for previous failures, like poor program management, ambiguity over accountabilities, ill-defined governance, and so on. There’s so much garbage talked about it. While some of these are indeed true, lack of agreement in the C-Suite is actually the major cause of program failure. Chinks in the team always have logarithmic financial effects downstream; they will be exploited by forces that would prefer not to leap into a better future.

2. Portfolio Structure

focus, focus, focus!

Companies run programs all the time but they fall into two classes – regular and complex. There’s little in between. Many functions have got to grips with the regular, incremental program types – but still manage to make a complete mess of complex, business-critical ones; they attempt to do too much. Blurred “focus” is a rampant problem and causes major delays. Companies setting out to run five or six business-critical programs are probably only capable of delivering one or two. Executive teams struggle to narrow their focus; they have too many competing priorities which confuses the workforce. When it comes to large program portfolios, the law of diminishing returns is as real as the law of gravity. Focus is about directing more energy into fewer programs.

3. Program Strategy

realism, not heroic guesses.

Program Strategy is always driven by a top-level financial benefits case. At that point, the execution strategy is always predicated on assumptions that hover between “wild” and educated guesses. That’s why business-critical program portfolio strategies tend to be naïve and unrealistic. They take for granted a company will achieve standards of delivery brilliance never achieved before. Schedules are based on nothing going wrong – which is absurd. And when it does, not only has the business no surge capacity to handle the crisis, it is completely unprepared for the financial shock that has been hiding in plain sight.

4. Program Organisation

more-of-the-same is never enough.

Senior executives make harmful decisions about organising for major programs. Organisation choices for business-critical programs have a dramatic impact on results. Programs fall into two classes – regular and complex; there’s little in between. Complex programs tend to be “business-critical” because the future of the business depends on them. But crucial organisation design questions are regularly overlooked – or messed up in some way. Each program requires a tailor-made team, a custom organisational model – and a dedicated, standalone plan.

Read more about organisation in this free ebook – “Are You Jumping The Gun?.. And putting your programs in the firing line?”

5. Program Director

a true leader and full time executive appointment, not a co-ordinator.

Everyone wants a strong Program Director but when they get them, they don’t want them. Being comfortable never leads to success. Who is the best person to run a program? Someone who is available? Someone the CEO feels comfortable with, rather than someone who has better skills and hard-core practical experience? Treat the appointment as seriously as a COO, CFO or CTO. Choose an experienced and capable “heavyweight” Program Director; a full-time appointment – not to be timeshared with any other role – and whose authority is never open to question. The Program Director is an executive, not a coordinator.

6. Team Resource

more-of-the-same is never enough.

Business-critical programs can’t be done with fragments of people’s time. Resource allocation is a chronic issue. Businesses prefer not to disturb functional structures – even if it means a program flounders. Extensive “time-slicing” means the business hasn’t done enough to convert strategy-speak into action. The typhoon of routine daily activity prevents this. Making regular priority-trades between normal business and business-critical program activities is essential. Functional heads in every business always play a pivotal role in “nourishing” a business-critical program; they’re an indispensable part of the extended program team. Many of them sit on critical resource levers that make every program tick.

7. Program Control

conceal a flaw and the world imagines the worst.

Pragmatism is at the heart of execution – the performance management system is pivotal to control. It strives for crisp, evidence-based answers to four basic questions: what’s happened, why, is it going to continue- and what are we going to do about it? The reluctance to face facts is widespread – a major cause of poor execution. Weak control and reporting can mask detailed implementation difficulties for months. There must be an extraordinary level of intensity in the review process, focusing on truly significant drivers of progress. But measurement is much more than judging progress – it’s also to find ways of performing better. Make sure people know the score – all the time.

8. Business Partnerships

cheap isn’t always better.

Most programs are built on the success of at least one major supplier. Choosing the right suppliers and having a strong working partnership can make or break it. When you need a top-notch partner, it’s critical to screen out offers that are “too good to be true.” It’s just a question of when you pay – before or after. Quality comes with a price. A “partner to win” approach to supplier management, with joint business plans, eliminates long-term timewasting and unproductive bureaucracy. Many companies have similar goals but the reality rarely matches the rhetoric. Companies have much to gain from strategic supplier relationships.

9. Program Risk

success is no accident.

A conspicuous approach to risk management is essential to steer clear of fire-fighting. Many battered executives have learned that having “zero contingency” in program plans is a ridiculous approach. Sudden calamities do occur. Rough-cut schedules are always immature, intrinsically risky – and filled with wild guesses and made-up numbers. Hundreds of decisions affecting the schedule have still to be made. In particular, cross-dependencies between programs running elsewhere in the business are either not examined in enough detail or overlooked completely. The impact is always serious. Program commitments based on “provided-that-someone-else-does-this-by-then” statements are not worth a candle – a clear sign that dependencies have been ignored. Understanding the nature of risks; how likely they are to appear; and, specifically what can be done to lessen the brunt, gives program teams real confidence that potential disasters can be prevented, or worked around.

10. Communication

precise, spin-free and in “plain” language.

Management can usually articulate the case for bold initiatives forcefully. The biggest problem is always a lack of understanding in the business about what it all means. If people don’t understand, they waste valuable time trying to read between the lines – and seeds of cynicism quickly grow. The first step in making program strategy concrete is to explain the facts, without spin. The foundation for good execution is based on being very clear on what is required – and what has been achieved. Being precise is vital to success. Benefits only come when a program strategy is implemented. Half measures don’t work. Plain talk is never easy to do but if you want to invigorate people, encourage them to make sacrifices and be innovative, you have to communicate explicitly – and then keep doing it.

Do we really need another view? Hasn’t everything worthwhile already been said?

Yes, we do, and no, it hasn’t. Embarking on a gruelling business-critical program is nerve-racking enough for any company. But launching a program without wrestling not-so-obvious execution issues to ground, simply invites havoc.

By the time problems surface, companies are caught flatfooted – completely unprepared to respond.

Even though companies understand the menu of execution stuff, there is usually a “missing link” in this knowledge.

We’ve soaked up lessons that nail the biggest problems plaguing execution strategies today. Cracking them is the “missing link” – literally the difference between winning and losing. This is powerful stuff.

The great myth about execution is that one style or methodology can trump another every time. But it’s the power of your execution blueprint that matters. We have new insights to share – and a clear approach to execution success. And we haven’t done it by trashing everyone else’s ideas – but by building up our own.

Give your business-critical programs the best possible start in life.

The Mentor Blueprint sharpens your company’s edge; deals decisively with the most common flaws in execution strategy and sets up a powerful, custom-built, execution framework – that delivers. If you crave no-nonsense advice, we can make your life a lot easier. You’ll have instant access to execution wisdom that it has taken us over 25 years to hone. Would you like us to explain more?

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