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Is there ever a typical day in the life of a programme director?

Over the last few weeks, we’ve been having conversations with our associates and clients about their typical day working in programme teams.

What’s become clear is that whilst no one day is the same, the challenges and frustrations are. But there’s good news! As long as you have the skills to handle them the right way, these obstacles can be a thing of the past.

We’ve compiled some of the most frequent challenges along with our recommendations on how to overcome them.

#1. There are so many people to update

“It can sometimes feel like I’m in a never-ending round of meetings updating people on the same thing.”

There’s no escaping that communicating and engaging with stakeholders is a key element of a Programme Director’s role. From the C-Suite to your programme team and from the end-user to third party providers there can be hundreds of people that need to be updated on your programme. But this needn’t be overwhelming - not everyone needs a daily communication. We suggest that you:

  • Create a stakeholder map and categorise those stakeholders into groups.

  • Define who needs to know what and when by developing an engagement strategy.

  • Create specific time in your diary to communicate with the groups who need less frequent updates and create specific agendas.

  • If people ask for updates point them in the direction of the meeting. This will free your time up for those who do require immediate attention.

  • Use your experienced team members and delegate certain programme updates to them.

Remember to keep revisiting the stakeholder map as the programme develops, more people join programmes as time goes on and you don’t want to fall back into old habits.

#2. I’ve got no time to think!
“I seem to be making decisions on the spot without having time to think about the alternatives.”

Being a Programme Director means juggling many responsibilities. Filling your diary with meetings and talking to people all day can be exhausting and a tired Programme Director is not an effective Programme Director. It’s important to create space, whether that’s for you to unwind and clear your head or to have thinking space about the best way to approach a new challenge or make a new decision (or maybe create that stakeholder map!)

“Easier said than done” you may be thinking but we believe creating space in your diary is as important as booking the next meeting.

  • Consider changing the length of your meetings so they’re 45 minutes instead of an hour, or 20 minutes instead of 30. Not only will the meetings become more effective you’ll have some time to prepare for the next one.

  • Remember, thinking time can be collaborative. Consider blocking out time to have a brainstorming session with your team or gather feedback on how the programme is going.

  • Take a physical break. Just 15 minutes away from your desk has been proven to reduce stress and improve performance. Think about your personal preferences and how you can make breaks work best for you.

  • Role model the act of taking time out – your team members may be feeling the same way so encourage them to have breaks too.

#3. There seems to be a new curveball every day
“We’re expected to deal with internal challenges but now there seems to be so many external factors that are bringing us problems.”

Just as we were getting used to working in a post-pandemic era new economical and geo-political challenges have come our away which are having an impact on how we do our jobs. We’re seeing soaring inflation, higher costs, and an employment market where the employee is demanding more in terms of salary and benefits causing challenges in finding and keeping talented people.

It may be time to consider undertaking an assurance review.

A business change assurance and quality review framework can be used to provide business change assurance effectively and efficiently at any individual project stage – this is particularly helpful when unexpected external factors come into play which mean you have to adjust your programme’s deliverables.

Think about the challenges you’re facing and where independent external advice could be of benefit.

In the form of a ‘critical friend review’ Marlowe’s tools and techniques break down the complexities of business transformation and provide practical advice, guidance, and prioritisation of issues in a focused report.

#4. Programme teams feel so much more disparate now
“It felt so much easier to get things done and find out what’s happening when we were together in the office.”

The post-pandemic reality is that hybrid / blended working is here to stay but not being physically together with your team shouldn’t affect the success of your programme.

The pandemic has enabled us to recognise that the people in our teams work best in different environments, be that the office, at home or even in the local café. It’s important to recognise people’s preferences and you will get the best out of people who are working in environments which enable them to bring their best selves to work. That doesn’t mean that you can’t be a cohesive team.

  • Continue with your huddles in-person and virtually to share information, developments, and updates.

  • Book a meeting room if you’re in the office so that any of your team who are in the office can join in person.

  • Encourage everyone to participate so they still feel part of a team.

  • Remember to give feedback; praise and highlight where things are going well.

  • Don’t forget just because your team aren’t in the room that doesn’t mean you can’t give them a call or drop them a message to check in on them or how they’re progressing against their deliverables. They’d probably appreciate it.

#5. There’s no time for development
“It’s so busy I don’t have time to develop myself or my team.”

Being a Programme Director requires many skills; leadership, communicating and knowing which change methods to use and when to adapt them to name a few. These skills are ones we’ve learned over the years, but as the external, working, and technological environments evolve so too must we.

We know it can be hard to find the time but learning new skills and enhancing existing ones will make you and your team more effective, so the time spent developing will be paid back!

There are three broad areas to consider:

Individual leadership coaching: Essential roles of a Programme Director include creating a shared vision for the programme, motivating your team and engaging stakeholders effectively. To do this it’s important to understand your own leadership style, the impact and influence you have and when to adapt them.

Effective communication: Being able to define and articulate what the programme is about is vital to the success of a programme. When you consider that you’re working with multi-generational employees in a blended / hybrid work environment you need to ensure you’re using the right channels and the right tone, so it meets their needs and importantly engages them. And it’s not just about pushing the communication, you need to have the skills to listen too.

Developing your team: Bringing your team together for specific learning opportunities will enable you to identify any skill or knowledge gaps within your team that could impact the success of your programme. It will also highlight any need for personal development for individual members of your team. And giving your teams the space to learn is likely to motivate them highly too!

We can help you review your strategic aims, identify the gaps and opportunities for development, and provide you with a proposed plan that will work around your existing deliverables.


About Marlowe

Marlowe Consulting specialises in business change and change communications to support organisations who are undergoing transformational, technological, and cultural change. With over 30 years of business change experience, we are adept at adapting! Please contact us if you would like to know more about delivering exceptional business change.

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