How often have you heard the phrase
Informed team members understand the end game and become aware of efforts outside of their area of responsibility. Through this information gathering, teams can gain insight into the overall program and begin to identify areas of redundancies, reuse, and risks. In a positive environment, team members are open about the risks they identify in the project and can establish mitigation strategies for it and potentially include it in the expected monetary risk assessment. In addition, it is crucial to understand that a negative risk in one project could be a positive risk in another
Project or in the program as a whole. When team members communicate these risks, it enables the program manager and their project managers to be aware of the risks and to possibly leverage them into positives for the overall effort. With awareness and knowledge, teams can work together to ensure a clear and concise view of the product, service, or result, enabling individuals to understand how their part of the program will contribute to the overall success of the effort. We as program managers need to include the team in the development of the vision, risks, and benefit realization plans. Team members responsible for QA, development, engineering, marketing, customer service, and requirements all can offer helpful suggestions about the challenges, opportunities, and land mines we will encounter as we take on the effort. I believe in involving the team as early as possible to ensure that we don’t waste time chasing down issues that are unnecessary to the program or project rather than identifying a viable solution to the problem.
You would be amazed at how often program managers start an effort without a clear understanding of the program, complexity, risks, assumptions, and constraints. When assigned a program, the very first question to be asked should be, “What does success look like, and how will we know when we have achieved it?” Unfortunately, many stakeholders do not know. This is a process that a program manager needs to go through to identify what the goals are—not just the high level, but the detailed objectives and how they will affect the stakeholder community and benefit the organization at large.
A program manager will use the program vision to ensure that everyone understands what the effort is intended to produce. Program managers must be able to be both a sender and a listener in communicating the vision. In other words, they cannot simply state the vision and expect understanding; they need to elicit questions, concerns, and assumptions, and to gather recommendations. This conversation is one that must take place throughout the program life cycle, and it is the program manager’s duty to be willing to adjust as new information is identified. We will discuss conversational approaches later in the book, but realize that the sender-listener relationship is one way that program managers build confidence and trust in their team members.
A clear, concise, and nonambiguous understanding of what the effort is intended to create and why that is beneficial to the firm or customer is required to ensure that both program stakeholders and team members know what is being built and how the program will be beneficial to them. Each team member should completely understand what is required, who is doing what portion of the program, and not only what he or she is working on individually but also on why it is important to the program and the effort as a whole. In addition, if we don’t know what we are building, how will we ever know when we are done or what success looks like? Understanding the vision provides us with decision-making boundaries that are used in everyday actions and enables the team members to ensure that a common goal is followed for the program at hand. However, if the vision is even slightly off, project team members can end up with gold-plated features, adding additional functionality that is unnecessary, or miss crucial aspects of the feature sets.