During this stage of the Program Management Cycle, significant effort has been invested into measuring, documenting and sharing the results achieved. The final step to be taken involves leveraging the program’s accomplishments and improving upon its shortcomings.
Learning & Continuous Improvement
Through the process of measuring and reporting, you have likely already identified a variety of opportunities for improvement. To ensure as much is learned from each year as is possible, it is important to apply some discipline to recognizing these opportunities.
Program Management Cycle
Examine each stage of the Program Management Cycle and the steps involved. The systems, processes, techniques, and approaches should all be assessed. In some cases, it will be obvious what didn’t work and why, and in others, some investigation may be necessary. The following are some examples of what should be reviewed and adjusted to improve the program:
- The sources of impact within scope.
- The depth or accuracy with which each source of impact is measured.
- The way projects are prioritized and methods used to select a final group.
- How projects are planned and executed.
- The approach / techniques used to report on program results.
- Who within the organization is involved and accountable at each stage.
- The involvement of external support or expertise.
- How individual steps are integrated with everyday processes.
While it may not be possible to address every opportunity for improvement, it is important to document all that have been identified. The improvements themselves should be managed as projects, including identifying the tasks involved, roles and responsibilities, timelines, etc. That will ensure potential improvements are actually prioritized and executed. When opportunities to improve are deferred to the future, carefully documenting the details will ensure they are not lost or forgotten.
While continuously improving the Program Management Cycle should remain a focal point through each phase, it is also necessary to periodically examine the foundation laid through the Program Setup module, which would include assessing the following elements:
- Leadership Team.
- Program Vision.
- Program Management Team.
- Triple-Bottom-Line Measurement Systems.
- Project Assessment Framework.
Given how a program may evolve and grow, to ignore updating these elements is to risk holding back progress. While it may not need to happen every year, those elements will need to be updated and improved over time.
Overall Program Performance
Assessing the overall efficacy of the program can shine light on opportunities to improve. Step back to look at how the results fall in line with the vision and objectives. Perhaps efforts and resources need to be refocused to maintain sincerity or to address the need for a cultural shift. As organizational priorities and circumstances change, it may be necessary to make related adjustments to the program. Naturally, elements like a project assessment framework or Program Management Team may need to be reworked to reflect significant organizational changes.
Developing a highly effective sustainability program is no small task. Keeping morale and motivation high can be challenging especially because change is difficult and uncomfortable. You won’t build a highly effective program overnight, so it’s important to recognize positive steps whenever you can. Effectively engaging employees should include creating opportunities for sharing wins and celebrating success. Recognizing the progress and thanking those involved will help to build momentum and a more positive association between the program and its stakeholders.
People gravitate towards programs that are successful. People also love to be involved with efforts that are making a difference. A sustainability program has the potential to attract people, but you can help by paying attention to the branding of the program by promoting its impact and its success. If people within an organization are to get behind something that is beyond their current responsibility, it will make a difference for them to feel like they are supporting a positive, winning effort. All too often, sustainability-minded individuals are visibly and vocally frustrated with slow progress, and that merely contributes to a culture of cynicism and righteousness that can make pursuing sustainability feel like a battle. While it sounds like a vicious cycle, the good news is that the cycle can also be virtuous; program success leads to more enthusiasm which leads to more success.
The following are some tips for celebrating program success:
- Recognize accomplishments early and often.
- No victory is too small to celebrate.
- Use the communication channels wisely.
- Be authentic and transparent; do not exaggerate.
- Celebrate program successes and the contributions of individuals.
When done well, recognizing what has been accomplished will encourage increased participation and help to generate the cultural shift that is so important to the long-term success of the program.