Planning is key to project success
Middle managers are responsible for executing multiple programmes initiated by their supervisors. Managers should follow a system that encompasses a well-developed governance mechanism, clear objectives and proper planning to manage these projects effectively.
A programme governance mechanism is essential for quality assurance and progress monitoring. 'Setting this mechanism requires identifying the programme's ownership and determining the accountability of the parties involved,' said Jenny Lam Wan Mei-fong, business improvement manager, Cathay Pacific Airways. 'I define the scope, objectives and results of a programme clearly for effective team alignment,' she said.
With clear programme definition, Ms Lam begins the planning process. 'Programme planning involves setting out the tasks with key milestones for team members and for programme managers to manage time and resources,' she said.
At this stage, team management skills were used to mobilise team member commitment, she said. 'Team management is about getting the team to work wholeheartedly to achieve the planned results. I need to ensure good communication within the team.'
Identification and management of risks that may arise were also crucial to the successful completion of the programme, Ms Lam added. 'I anticipate risks associated with the programme and develop ways in advance to manage or mitigate them.'
Successful programmes managed by Ms Lam include the integration of Cathay Pacific and Dragonair in 2006. Ms Lam joined Cathay Pacific as an accountant in Hong Kong in 1988. She was seconded to the accounts office in Singapore for three years in 1990. In 1998, she was transferred to the business improvement department with the focus on cost management.
'The main duty of the department is to drive continuous productivity improvement and direct resources that add value to the airline,' Ms Lam said.
She has also managed programmes that were jointly owned by Cathay Pacific and several other corporations. She finds managing cross-owned programmes the most challenging. 'Different companies have their individual policies and required returns,' she said. 'To manage these programmes effectively, a manager needs to have good interpersonal skills and a good understanding of the participating companies' objectives to establish rapport with their representatives in the programme.
'I propose a set of guiding principles to support open communication and issues management, and to facilitate decision making. Programme stakeholders are free to provide input and comments in a fair manner. Then all participants should be guided by the principles accordingly. I am also responsible for reinforcing the principles throughout the programme.'
After programme completion, Ms Lam reviews the process so that she can improve on future programmes of a similar nature.
'I will work on the completion report, measure the results and analyse the extent to which the intended objectives have been achieved,' she said.
'There will be a debriefing with the team and we share the lessons learned. The completion report will be archived for sharing.'
She enhances her skills and advises other middle managers to manage programmes through benchmarking.
'I talk to other companies that have completed programmes of interest to me and learn from their experience. I also review the completion reports of other programmes.'
Keys to effective programme management
Put adequate programme governance mechanism in place
Clearly define scope, objectives and results of a programme
Plan the programme properly
Mobilise team members and get their commitment
Manage risks associated with the programme