Alan Harpham, Chairman of the APM Group, UK

An update of a paper originally presented at The 16th International Project Management Association's World Congress in Berlin, 2002.

Copyright Alan Harpham.
Published here March 2003.

PART 1 | How and Where | How does Program Management Fit
Program Management | Framework | Reflections
Business Change Manager | Key Processes | Accreditation | Conclusions

How does Program Management Fit with Change Management

There are two kinds of change — proactive and reactive. The former is where we desire to change the way we work; the latter where the change is impacting on us through no intervention of our own. To be proactive, we start by analyzing the organization's environment and the changes that are taking place within it, and determine a new strategy for the organization. Thus, we arrive at a vision by looking at the gap between where we are now and where we want to be, and setting out our strategy for closing this gap.

Reactive change is where we react to external changes. This is achieved most profitably by determining the changes we need to make to our organization to survive these external changes or better still to profit from them. Interestingly, proactive change is often brought about from reactive change. Either way, this leads to a coherent set of programs of projects to achieve the required change.

As Alvin Toffler demonstrated in his book "Future Shock" a few decades ago, it is hard to avoid change. He not only showed how people react when overwhelmed by change but also showed that the rate of change in this world is accelerating continuously. Many of us react in a negative way to change, resenting it and hoping that it will go away.

In an article I wrote on the ordination of women during the last decade, I said: "Jesus Christ was the greatest agent of change the world has ever known. Why is it so many of his followers are averse to change?" In a similar vein, Charles Handy in his book on "The Age of Unreason" starts with the story of a member of the General Synod. This member is participating in the debate on the ordination of women and says in an impassioned voice: "Why can't the status quo be the way forward?"!

As I said earlier in this paper, program management is a disciplined way of handling change in an organization in a proactive way, whilst not comprising the whole of change management. The MSP guide makes this clear in its introductory background to program management.[2] The guide says:

"Change is a way of life for all organizations. New types of business processes are being introduced, supplier relationships are changing, organization merge and divide in response to political or market forces. Organizations are also striving to achieve benefits from improving existing practices, to achieve business excellence, to be better prepared for the future, to enable innovation and to encourage new ways of thinking about doing business. Where there is major change there will be complexity and risk. There could be many inter-dependencies and conflicting priorities to resolve. Program Management provides a framework for the management of complexity and risk.

"There may be a number of reasons for creating a program. Some of the drivers for change are: opportunities arising from mergers and acquisitions; developments in technology; need to improve competitiveness; to comply with industry standards; developments to become a global player; improving the quality and delivery of products and services; changes in the economic environment; new sales channels; adaptation to cope with changing markets; and changes in, or new, government economic policy initiatives ...

"Program Management provides an organization, a set of processes and outputs, and ways of thinking that together enable organizations to implement change ..."

In other words, wherever there is (proactive) change, and it is being well managed, the probability is you will also find program management. Program management is the technique for managing the introduction of these changes. The focus of program management is therefore on the discipline and techniques for managing proactive change. Change management, whilst clearly needing the discipline of effective program management, also encompasses:

  • Analysis of the changing business environment
  • Setting the vision
  • Analyzing the gap
  • Developing the strategy for closing the gap, and
  • Ensuring these are subsumed into the day-to-day operation of the business after the program has delivered the business benefits, i.e. business as usual.

How and Where do Programs Fit into the Business Organization?  How and Where do Programs Fit into the Business Organization?

2. Ibid, p1
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