Why are we doing this?

GoalsThe critical first step in the life of a program is the establishment of objectives. By answering the question, “why are we doing this” provides all stakeholders associated with the program a clearly defined focus. This focus will significantly increase the chances for success.

The challenge in creating objectives is that this activity mandates that a very few sentences need to reflect the commitment and direction of the entire organization.

The best practice for completing a objectives defining milestone is to make the process iterative so that all constituents have had the opportunity to contribute and have their voices heard.

Objectives definition is not something you contract out. Yes, a consulting company can assist with facilitating the process; however, the organization must take an active role in the process. It is only through this active engagement will the organization adopt and take ownership.

The simple view of the process to define program objectives is:

  1. Start at the top – The organization’s President or CEO (pick one) and/or program sponsor (senior level manager) says, “I want….” (fill in the blank). Input from this level of management says, “We know of the work and we approve”. Also, this input will shape and provide guidance to the next steps.
  2. Next – Once step one is achieved, the next level of management needs to be engaged and given the opportunity to respond and/or contribute. From the program manager’s perspective, getting this level of contribution adds further validation for the program. Additionally, step one should reflect the view of how the program’s objectives align to corporate level objectives. (Pity the manager at this level who adds details that do not align to corporate goals; a sure way to lose funding when things get tight.)The easiest way to solicit input from this level of management is to start your correspondence with, “From the desk of [insert President/CEO’s name here], the following program is very important to [organization name here]. We believe that by achieving the following [President/CEO input here], [organization name here] will…”Included in this communication will be a detail about the program’s timeline along with a sense of urgency to getting feedback by [insert date].
  3. Thank you! (Review) – Once you have received key stakeholder information and have crafted a short, precise list of objectives you will want to send a ‘thank you’ communication. This correspondence will include the program’s objectives. At this time, anyone who is not aligned with what you have listed will raise a question or ask for clarification. This is great! This shows that they are interested in this work and want to ensure their interests are recognized in the list of objectives. Again, thank them for their input and inform them that you are scheduling a meeting to review and finalize. (Be sure to say whose coming.)
  4. Meeting (Review) – Invite all key stakeholders, and work hard to get all (most) of them to accept and attend. Prepare the program overview and state clearly that the goal is to finalize the objectives for the program to ensure they are aligned with [insert President/CEO’s name here] and [organization name here]. Get ready for some good dialog as each word is dissected. Once you near the end of this effort, you end the meeting by saying that these objectives will be how the program is managed and measured, and you will provide statuses based on this list. Be sure to get everyone’s agreement.

The steps above will greatly enhance your chances of management commitment, provide a focus for the program and act as a foundation when the program encounters business challenges, such as budget, resources and scope.

Why are we doing this?

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