Framing Success – Four Tips for Program Managers

Very often the program manager feels squeezed between the company’s goal of making a profit and maintaining high levels of customer satisfaction. That’s why the framing success is a must for the program manager must in terms both of his work with customers and or her leadership within the organization.

Make no mistake . . .framing success is critical and should be performed early and continually.

I know a program manager whose leadership team gave him two not-so-subtle hints about his relationship with the customer. The first hint was a cartoon picture of a dead man in a coffin. The caption read: “Here lies the program manager that gave the customer everything they wanted!” The second hint was a job application for the Salvation Army, since he obviously wanted to unselfishly serve the needy without adequate payment.

The following 4 framing tips apply to newly assigned program managers, but are also applicable to all programs if adequate framing of success criteria has not already been accomplished.

Tip 1 –  A newly assigned program manager should spend his or her first weeks doing a full assessment of the scope of work under the program’s control. A common fault of “newly assigned” program managers is jumping to conclusions based on limited information or information provided by a select few people. Information is coming at a rapid pace and you must assess the entire picture, making sure you understand the full context to ensure good decisions.

Tip 2 – Expect to be bombarded with a variety of problems and issues. You must assess and prioritize each in light of program goals.

Tip 3 – Program personnel will also have expectations of you, and those expectations and framing success is required. If not, the program personnel will be disappointed with anything less than superhero results.

Tip 4 – Start framing success by:

       A – Performing a gap analysis on all program performance aspects.

       B – Determining what you can realistically accomplish based on the resources you have available. Obviously, if you have performed a thorough gap analysis there will be items that you will have to table or set aside for future action. Put these in priority order with the resource costs and obstacles associated with them defined.

       C – Defining how you and then your boss will measure your success.

       D – Shaping the lens through which people such as your boss, stakeholders, and program personnel define success.

Remember it is commonplace for organizations to provide unrealistic goals and objectives… sometimes bordering on fantasy.  You are responsible for defining the terms of success based on the goals and objectives, resource limitations and organizational constraints. Framing success is necessary and the foundation of good communication to the entire organization.

This article supports Chapter 11 of my book The Handbook of Program Management

Copyright 2016 SEBA® Solutions Inc.

Posted by Dr. James Brown in Program Management, Stakeholder Management.


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