You program manager, don’t be so inappropriate!

In society and in business, there are certain rules others place on our behaviors. These may be generally called etiquette. Even if most will not like to follow an etiquette, since, in the end, it poses restrictions on our actions, and people in general would prefer to act and behave as they wish, all in all, rules of conduct are greatly useful to our kind, since they they prevent people to act in a manner that will annoy or cause discomfort to others. An etiquette helps lubricate human relations.

What does all this have to to with program management? Nothing? Well, everything! Unfortunately, I’ve seen too many a program management consultant infringe on the most fundamental of all consulting etiquette, which is to never prescribe anything that’s not directly applicable to their client’s organization, even if it has been successfully applied in other realms.

In spite of all clutter in the program management literature the theory behind this discipline is rather simple. One must identify the benefits to be delivered by the program and direct efforts, in terms of projects and operational activities, so as to make sure that the benefits are attained in an allotted time-frame and budget. There comes the trick, unfortunately too many think that the benefits targeted by a program should be enjoyed solely by the executing organization, and worse, that they should be expressed in monetary terms.

Programs are transformational in nature, they aim at transforming an organization, the environment at which it operates and, in some cases, society at large. More often than not benefits delivered by programs cannot and should not be expressed in monetary, net present value, terms. Besides, benefits accrued to other stakeholders than shareholders, such as customers, employees, society, government and future generations must not be ignored, and in some cases, they are core to the program.

Governments are probably the organizations most frequently involved in programs. They not only directly execute long-term programs, but also sponsor, finance and force the execution of transformational efforts in other organizations. How can you program management consultant advise your client to care only about NPV benefits to you client’s organization, if it’s a government agency or if it is being financed by a government agency?

Don’t act so inappropriately and consider all other stakeholders and all other measures outside of run-of-the-mill financial statistics! Benefits are future conditions no just surpluses to the shareholders.