With so many moving parts it can be difficult to stop your mind from catastrophising the ways in which projects can come unstuck.
Anticipating problems is critical to the job and one thing, but lying awake at night unable to rest will drive you towards an early grave.
Programme managers are the linchpins of change but the weight of project headaches can keep them from successfully managing that.
A team headache
Communication, expectations and the people themselves.
This is a role where a workman really can blame his tools. In programme management you will only be as successful as the team you have supporting you.
You can’t be a jack of all trades and deliver programmes single handedly, which is why you need a reliable, accountable and capable team to leverage.
You’re responsible for hiring the right people, but unlikely to be in full control of sourcing who arrives at those interviews.
This is why the quality of talent being fed to you by your PSL, or filtering through HR, is so crucial. You can only work with the candidates that are supplied to you, so revisit that pipeline.
Are you really securing the best talent in the market or are you working with rusty tools?
A financial headache
You can only forecast with what you know and guestimate what might happen. Justifying why a project costs more than originally outlined, or being powerless to stop it heading over budget, is one of the biggest headaches of programme management.
That, and when the powers that be tighten the purse strings but maintain their expectations.
When companies cut costs with hiring they end up paying a bigger price for it. Short term savings on budgets will be felt later on bottom line productivity.
Accept that the project won’t go to plan, budget cuts might happen, and learn to work in these gray areas that you can’t change, foresee or control. Don’t dwell on budget cuts but focus on what you can do.
A delivery headache
You can see the deadline moving closer but you can’t stretch time any further.
If the timeline was unrealistic then you need to better manage expectations. It creates a lot of sore heads for PMs but you’re bound by your initial plans. So start with the end in mind and be agile enough to move with the changes that will arise.
Pressure from seniors and other parties can shoe horn processes into unreachable targets.
Don’t set yourself up to fail by agreeing to demands or listen to team members that are simply paying you lip service. You have to look at the reality.
When processes break down the chain reaction can destabilise a project, which means you have to be proactive in monitoring delivery before it becomes a case of damage control.
It returns to how effectively you’re delegating, tracking and reviewing your projects and the software that’s enabling this.
Keep a handle on the process by holding the doors of communication constantly open.