Multiple conflicting needs, priorities and politics pose a major challenge for programme management. To ensure the effective and efficient performance of any programme, it is essential for programme stakeholders to see programmes as the strategic vehicles that they are, and to provide the support they need to achieve their management needs. From this perspective alone can an organisation successfully manage and balance the programme and programme management priorities and ensure that the programme and its project components best serve the organisational strategy and goals.

To achieve this, those involved in programme management should understand what the most important aspects of programme management are at any given moment in the life of a programme. This becomes an important precondition for the successful prioritisation of management efforts. 

Critical Success Factors (CSFs) are those factors whose absence makes success quite difficult to achieve; they therefore capture the aforementioned management priorities.

Experience has shown the following to be common Critical Success Factors (CSFs) for the effective execution of Programme Management and PgM²:

  • Understanding that programmes are strategic vehicles.
  • Understanding how programmes are different from projects and portfolios.
  • Understanding how programme management is different from project management and portfolio management.
  • Achieving clear governance and a clear allocation of responsibilities.
  • Following a programme methodology, as well as an aligned project management methodology .
  • Involving a wide range of stakeholders and ensuring their engagement and buy-in.
  • Connecting programme-level milestones and project-level milestones.
  • Engaging the right people with the necessary knowledge, skills and attitude.
  • Allocating the effort and attention required for the programme to be managed effectively.
  • Planning and executing the required monitoring & controlling activities.
  • Having access to programme management support (e.g. a Programme Support Team PgST).

The following constitute additional role-related Critical Success Factors (CSF) for effective PgM² governance:

  • Programme Management Roles should be assigned to members of the organisation who have the necessary experience, skills and authority (by position or by delegation) to play their role effectively.
  • Those who play a role in a Programme’s governance (usually senior management) need to make themselves available and set aside the time needed to fulfil their responsibilities.
  • Those who play a role in the programme need to ensure that they adopt the PgM² Mindsets and develop the relevant competences and domain expertise. These can be acquired through relevant training.

To achieve the above, effective Programme Managers (PgMs) need to allocate their attention and efforts wisely among the multiple management activities competing for their attention. This becomes a vital parameter in programme performance, since allocating these efforts wisely establishes important performance enablers that increase the chances of overall programme success.

At the end of the day, it is all about consistently doing the right things at the right time (and for the right reasons). It is about achieving a productive balance between the management of short- and longer-term activities and goals in a way that enhances every aspect of performance (e.g. behaviours, the quality and sustainability of results, the maximisation of resources, etc.). This allows creativity to be unleashed, positive alliances to be forged, and a productive harmony to be achieved within the project.

Achieving programme orientation is an orgsanisational change project.

But keep in mind that, above all, a well-thought-out Business Implementation Plan (#PM2) to manage the necessary organisational change needs to be in place as the challenges of implementing programme management within an organisation are mostly related to the organisational changes required.