Our Strategic Program Life Cycle

Our Strategic Program Life Cycle

Our program management life cycle is designed to provide control over the work and the use of resources to accomplish it.
Program life cycle (pre-program preparation, program initiation, program set up, delivery of program benefits, and program closure) through which program benefits are managed and ultimately realized.

Our four phases of program benefits management (benefits identification, benefits analysis and planning, benefits realization, and benefits transition) can be easily mapped and used for strategic vision realization. The program benefits (strategic vision) can then be managed using PMI’s program life cycle framework, essentially overlaying the disciplined program management approach on what is the most important “program” within any organization: its strategic plan

Pre-Program Preparations: The goal of this phase is to establish a firm foundation of support and approval for the program.

The process involves developing a strategic plan starts by developing the vision of what the organization is going to look like at the end of the strategic planning horizons. Often, the strategy development team will assess where they are currently by looking at the organization’s strengths and weaknesses and by determining the external environment’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT analysis). Those end points become the gap that will need to be bridged by implementing the strategic plan

The organization then develops, evolves, or confirms its mission statement and creates its vision statement. The vision statement is that high-level description of what the organization will be at the end of the planning horizon. From that ending point, the strategic planning group formulates the three to five strategic goals that, once realized, will create the vision. In the vernacular of program benefits management, benefits identification will identify and qualify business benefits

Program Initiation: The goal is to develop in greater detail how the program can be structured and managed.

Once the strategic vision and strategic goals are finalized, the executive in charge of executing the plan would be wise to enlist the skills of an experienced program manager with the authority to implement the governance needed to realize the identified benefits (goals). At this point, the program manager will oversee benefits analysis and planning as the program is initiated

Furthering the implementation of the strategic vision, an organization would create strategic initiatives for each of the strategic goals. Using the program management discipline, the organization would initiate the strategic plan by creating a specific justification for creating the vision. Further clarification of the benefits of the vision and the objectives can help to determine if the vision is feasible in order that the outcomes will justify the effort.

In keeping with effective program management governance, a program charter document is created. This document will authorize the program manager to apply organizational resources to, in the case of the strategic plan, create the organization’s strategic vision.

A best practice with most programs requires the program charter to be approved by the program sponsor. In the case of the program to implement a strategic plan, the charter should be reviewed by all of the executive team members that are involved with creating the strategic plan. Strategic plans should be reviewed and changed or verified at regular intervals.
Another part of the charter that is important for the approval to move past program initiation is the list of potential risks
The charter will name the executive sponsor and program manager. Unless an organization has a department that is tasked specifically with the strategic planning process, the concept of a more central point of contact for the strategy work will be a change to the way the organization may have worked in the past.

Program Setup: To establish the required infrastructure, develop a detailed roadmap, create the required set of planning documents and integrate them into a program management plan.

The purpose of program setup phase is to progressively elaborate the program charter and develop the foundation for the program by establishing an infrastructure and building a detailed ‘roadmap’ that provides direction on how the program will be managed and defines its key deliverables”

The term “progressively elaborate” means that we are moving from the higher-level strategic goals toward individual initiatives with verifiable deliverables. The roadmap created is meant to deliver all the results desired for each of the strategic goals considering both logical dependencies and initiative prioritization. Here is one of the areas where a program management discipline can add enormous value in implementing a strategy

An effective program management discipline develops a detailed program roadmap representing the initiatives and the timing of the deliverables from those initiatives. Previously, a high-level roadmap was developed, and now that is further elaborated. The major factors that determine the logical progression within the roadmap are the logical dependencies and the prioritization of benefits to be realized.

Our program architecture is developed to show how and when the benefits will be delivered from the strategic initiatives. As for delivering the strategic vision, the program team must be mindful that the benefits realized by the individual strategic initiatives may not line up with the completion of the activities within those initiatives. The importance of communicating expectations and results is paramount within a strategic plan program life cycle.

One tool that is extremely valuable in any program, and especially so in a program executing strategy, is the Program Work Breakdown Structure (PWBS). In executing strategy, the first two levels of the PWBS come directly out of the initial strategic planning process. The top level is the strategic plan followed in the second level with those top four-to-six strategic goals. The most likely next level of detail is the strategic initiatives. Those become the program components, which typically will be assigned to mid-level managers and directors within the organization. “The program work breakdown structure (PWBS) provides a deliverable-oriented hierarchical decomposition of the work to be executed and accomplished by each project (component) of the program

The goals is to design a process that makes use of an issue tree, and in the case of creating the components necessary to implement strategy, the team begins with a strategic goal and articulates the definition(s) of success in achieving that goal. Further, the team then names components to be achieved that satisfy the definition of success. In the case of program components to achieve a strategic vision, there should be no overlaps (mutually exclusive), and, once completed, there should be no gaps in the satisfaction of the goal (collectively exhaustive).

Program governance should outline how the individual components will be managed. Often with strategic initiatives, the management of the individual initiatives is not consistent because of differences in skill levels and backgrounds in project management by the individual component leaders

Program governance should create a consistent and reusable process for the components and follow the process for reporting benefits realization, managing change requests, and communicating status. Change management, risk management, and control of issues become extremely important because of potential interdependencies with other components and the benefits realization expectations at the program level

As the individual components begin to organize, the overall program budget can be developed with more complete information. As the program and component teams progressively elaborate specific deliverables, schedules, and estimates of effort and duration, the cost of implementing the strategic vision becomes clearer. Certainly cost estimates, as an input to benefit analysis, are an important consideration as the program moves through the next decision gate and toward delivery of program benefits.

The program setup phase should include defining the Change management process, there are many influences both internal and external to an organization, which may necessitate a change in the program

The program should have a defined process to document the desired change, review it, and determine the impact of the change; decide if the change will be approved; and, if needed, make the required changes to the program plan to incorporate approved changes. It becomes vitally important to identify the person or persons who will be reviewing and approving or disapproving the change requests. Most likely, changes will be categorized by impact, and the review process will vary according to those categories

There is one more important piece in program setup before the strategic plan moves into delivery of program benefits. That piece is the program communication plan. Communications planning is always extremely important for projects and programs alike

Program managers understand the importance of a comprehensive communications plan based on stakeholder analysis. In implementing a strategic plan, it becomes important both to communicate at different levels within the organization, as well as to make sure that the information released does not compromise the future success of the organization.

Delivery of Benefits: The goal is to initiate the component projects of the program and manage the development of the program benefits

Program Closure: The goal is to execute a controlled closedown process

The program closure should only happen if the strategic vision changes and if the level strategic goals are replaced.  Make sure all components go through a closing process. In addition, any benefits that are realized or partially realized should be documented, and a determination should be made as to the transition to operations based on the revised strategy

Lessons learned should be accumulated. The program manager and team should attempt to get a final review of overall progress with the executive oversight committee. Finally, the determination should be made regarding the program team and any role they will have in implementing the new strategic vision. The focus needs to be on how well the program was executed based on the vision and plan that was true at the time. A change in strategic direction should be viewed as a changed end-state vision and not be a negative reflection on the progress toward the old vision.