5 Critical Factors
Is your program properly organised and fully resourced with the right number and mix of skills?
Does the program plan recognise that there are three interrelated plans – the Work, Schedule and Budget?
Does your program director have undisputed authority to deliver the business case? And are they the right person for the job?
Are your supplier planning methods as robust as your own internal processes?
Is there a recognised program dependency register which is the definitive record of what contributing functions must do to support the program?

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MentorBlueprint

Business-critical program execution framework

Our unique blueprint is at the heart of all we do. Five of the 10 factors are critical in Mentor’s program delivery approach and 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.

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How to avoid program failure being “designed in”

The MentorBlueprint 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?

“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?

The MentorBlueprint highlights the 5 critcal factors that block program success.

Based on accumulated wisdom, patterns and pragmatic know-how – gleaned from over 100 program “rescues” – these 5 “bone-crushing” common factors are not properly dealt with at the start of each program:

  1. Executive teams are not as aligned as they like to think they are
  2. Many program “organisation structures” are misleading and unworkable
  3. Most program “Plans” are targets based on someone else’s view of what “ought to be possible”
  4. Supplier Management does not receive enough attention. And reputable suppliers are just as prone to program adversity as their clients are
  5. Weak Dependency Management can – and does – hobble any program.

And if a business doesn’t tackle these areas accurately, at the start – some type of breakdown will be designed-in to every program

The MentorBlueprint – the 5 critical factors

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. Planning

planning saves time in execution.

The program plan is made up of three interrelated plans – the Work, the Schedule and, the Budget. All should be consistent and synchronised. They rarely are. As a rule, the description of the Work is the most thorough. People are good at describing what they want done. But if a program is transformational, at least 80% of the initial time schedule is bound to be questionable because of its uniqueness. A truth that’s routinely overlooked. Obviously, the Budget depends on the precision and accuracy of the Schedule. And if this is way-off, the Budget will be dubious. Hence first-cut plans tend to be a little naïve, unrealistic – and riddled with heroic guesses.

3. 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.

4. Supplier Management

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.

5. Dependencies

silence isn’t golden, it’s deadly.

No business-critical program can be delivered in isolation. It relies on work packages – or dependencies – completed by different projects from within the program; from other programs; and, from other functions within the business. Including external hardware and software vendors. In fact, each work package is a mini project. And if these are not identified, understood, negotiated and managed, big holes in the program plan are inevitable. Disconnects are hazardous and can easily cause a program to come to a shuddering halt. There must be a formal “airtight” framework – which provides documented confirmation to the program on the work supplying functions will complete, by when and at what cost. This framework has to include Suppliers.

The MentorBlueprint – the 5 essential elements

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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.

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.

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

The MentorBlueprint 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 30 years to hone.

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