Program managing in complex environments

After 20 years of service in the banking sector, needless to say we have developed a broad view of this sector strengths and flaws. In particular, Banks are a very challenging sector when it comes to change. Their strong silos made it difficult to conduct large scale international programs and yet, they manage to adapt to ever changing regulations. One of the program we worked on, was a worldwide program aiming all banking activities. This was particularly interesting since the same projects and methodology were rolled out in all activities of this bank: a lifetime opportunity. This large scale program aimed at transforming and demonstrating the institution ability to operate safely in a consistent way accross all its activities.

Let me tell you about two of the project within the program that just sum up our twenty years plus of experience in program and project management. Just so you understand, one of the biggest project -millions of clients- within the program was sponsored by the head of the activity, a ComEx member. In a different activity, slightly smaller -thousands of clients impacted-, the activity head, also a ComEx member, delegated the project to his deputy quite a senior executive too.

In the first instance, the head of the activity kicked off the project personally. It took her literally less than 5 minutes to explain to the 70 people in the room how the project important was, the stakes and the necessity to deliver. You could feel the momentum, people’s pride to see their top senior leader talking directly to them without a high posture. Leadership, respect and energy she inspired to her staff was undeniable. The project team replicated this pattern involving key users of all business lines every step of the way ensuring any changes will be fully integrated in their new model. Specificities to business lines were treated as exception yet always considered. Needless to say, the project budget and plan was rigorously followed up and despite some delays, it delivered pretty much in time.

In the second project, the deputy split the work and sub-delegated it to initiate several sub-projects and meet every business lines specificities. One team oversaw the work and consolidated all reporting for committees chaired by the deputy. Quite logically, people within business lines felt natural to be considered with their own specificities and took a stand to defend their way of working and own local stakes. Resistance to change was obvious. This second project took almost twice the time with the difficulty to explain every differences between target models emerging from all subprojects. Another ultimate project had to be kicked off to finish this and somehow outline the overall consistency in the models.

It is always very difficult to compare large scale projects difference in scope, stakes, constraints: so many reasons to hide behind Murphy’s law to justify delays and additional costs. But yet we had the opportunity to get as close as possible as a realistic comparison in that particular case. And this led us to put our 20 years of experience and this remarkably meaningful story into several key factors essential to program management. Simply enough, it didn’t go beyond 6 key indicators that can be used to assess a project or manage it over time: Requirements, Clients Expectations, People and skills, Strong governance, Roadmap, Budget (for more detail see our article on this topic).

To ensure a specific focus could be done, we had a few more allowing to drill down and to be used depending on the area to focus on. From the project course (sponsorship, people, roadmap) to delivery quality (requirements and user expectations) up to executive management communication (budget) all ingredients to succeed in project management are there. If you want to know more, please, contact us.