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15 Steps to a Successful Program Recovery

Sometimes a manager planning or leading a program of work misses something important, falls out with a key stakeholder, or doesn’t lead and motivate the program team sufficiently. 

The organization then appoints a new program manager to recover the situation and lead the program team to success. If you are that recovery program manager, here are the 15 key things that you need to do.

  1. Confirm the program objectives, scope, deliverables, timescales, constraints, and budget.
  2. Meet the key stakeholders, the Client/SRO, and the program team.
  3. Understand exactly where the program is going including the financial position.
  4. Find out what the previous program manager did wrong, and ensure you avoid doing this during the program recovery. 
  5. Build good relationships with the program team, thank them for their work to date, and reassure them that you will lead and collaborate with them to ensure that the program will be a success.
  6. Some of the team may be feeling a sense of loss, as their previous leader has been replaced, and are uncertain whether they should give their loyalty to the new leader. Understand their outlook.
  7. Review all plans critically and help the team update and improve their plans as required. Then update the overall program plan, so the senior stakeholders can quickly see what has been achieved even in the earliest stages of the program recovery.
  8. Determine if you will need a higher budget to complete the work.
  9. Then agree upon this new budget with your sponsors and the program board quickly.
  10. Build good relationships with stakeholders and reassure them that the program is now in safe hands.
  11. Review the performance and contribution of each of the program team members. Do some need coaching/training/clarity of direction to be successful?
  12. Review the program reporting, controls, risk, and issue management, to ensure that you are fully aware of what is happening across the program. Change and improve these if required (ie to provide simpler, more impactful progress reporting)
  13. If the organizational environment around the program is very volatile, consider doing some scenario planning with some of the program team before embarking on a program recovery, so as to be ready if there are changes to the program scope, budget, phasing, etc.
  14. When appropriate, consider inviting an assurance team to review the program performance, to reassure the sponsor and stakeholders that all is well
  15. Whenever a key milestone is achieved, celebrate and thank those involved for their work. Similarly, when the whole program is completed, give positive feedback to the team members and share with their line managers to help their careers develop since they will have ‘grown’ significantly.

Managing a program of work is challenging and there are often unexpected changes to deal with. As the recovery program manager, it is important that you take over and rapidly stabilize and recover the program, and ultimately lead it to success. 

Using the tips above, a reasonably experienced program manager should be able to lead a program recovery whilst motivating and managing the program team.