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What do gravity waves have in common with program management or why program management is not a question of “either/or”


Last week the existence of gravity waves was verified. Albert Einstein suspected their existence within his relativity theory. Gravity waves lead to compressing or stretching of space and time. Hence, they override our usual understanding of dimension and continuity. Basically, every moving mass creates gravity waves. However, in case of normal masses these waves are minimal, so that Einstein believed that it could never be possible to prove their existence. It is absolutely sensational that science managed to prove the existence of gravity waves – certainly, Einstein would announce his happiness about that on Twitter and Facebook. However, there was also a small fly in the ointment related to this discovery: Two black holes, i.e. a mass concentration to such an extent that its gravity absorbs the light almost completely, had to merge in an exceptional cosmic situation.

Due to disruptions or politically and socially forced revolutions, many companies face comparable exceptional situations with severe consequences, which require them to change. When such changes exceed the possibility of an implementation through individual projects, program management is the solution for a professional implementation. One speaks of programs when strategic and comprehensive corporate goals are realised through several projects.

But what ensures that program management will not be an exceptional situation as well? Essentially, there are three topics that will guarantee success – if implemented correctly:

1. The organisational structure of the program as an efficient management system

The organisational structure of a project consists of a project sponsor and a project leader. A project sponsor is often represented by a Steering Committee. A program forms the frame for realizing the program goals in different projects which means that the program lead is also the project sponsor within the program and acts as the Steering Committee for all projects (as a rule, together with his substitute and the PMO lead). Of course, there is also a project sponsor for the program in the form of the company management represented by the operational Steering Committee. The operational Steering Committee is the relevant decision and control committee for the program. Large programs often complement the operational Steering Committee with a strategic Steering Committee, which acts like a supervisory board and should encourage the integration of results into the company. For an efficient management the organisational structure is completed by comprehensive program functions (e.g. PMO, requirements management, change management, release management …). They assure that comprehensive topics – despite an organisational capsuling in the form the project organisation – do not get lost due to unclear responsibilities or are processed redundant.

An efficient management organisation symbolically leads to regulated orbits for all planets


2. The program goals as a content-related framework provider

Studies (1) have revealed that unclear and incomplete goals are the main reason why projects fail. A causality, which becomes more important with the “program”-dimension. The more important is a systematic development of program and project goals as content-related “crash barriers” for which the following procedure has proven its worth:

Similar to vision and strategy, which are the compass for a company, a program vision and SMART program goals, can form the content-related orientation for a program. When both are sustainably developed in workshops together with the program and project leads, a common understanding and support from all parties involved is guaranteed. A compact number of e.g. five program goals can present the “top-down” approach for developing project goals within the project briefs. The consolidated project briefs, in turn, form the “bottom-up” base for formulating the project brief stipulated with the project sponsor. This approach assures that an understood and clearly defined framework without any overlaps exists for all program content.

A successful program start requires shared and stipulated goals

3. Program and standard communication for supporting a smooth collaboration

Following Konrad Lenz, it is always important for communication to bear in mind that “said is not heard, heard is not understood and understood is not agreed”. Therefore, the sheer size of a program requires especially that the existing communication difficulties are tackled efficiently. Two approaches have proven their value:

Firstly, an institutionalised standard communication managed by the PMO (Program-Management-Office). All actors of the program organisation exchange information regularly within this approach. Communication media could e.g. be workshops, steering committees, change committees, project lead jour fixes, blogs of the program management and so on. Success is less supported by an individual or a special medium but rather by regularity and participation of the relevant persons involved (especially project leads).

Secondly, an effective external communication which reaches the recipient and which does not correspond to the sender. Entirely in line with “the worm is supposed to attract the fish, not the fisherman”, a change of perspective is necessary for external communication – away from the business-related internal view, towards an interested external view. The range of media is considerably higher compared to the internal standard communication, so that success – in addition to the above-mentioned motto – is ensured by competent communication management.

Like a communication satellite, an adequate program communication assures a worldwide communication

Today’s gravity waves are tomorrow’s earthquakes. Do something against it!

If you have often theoretically agreed while reading this blog article and if have the feeling that you experience gravity waves of change in your company at the moment without an existing program management for dealing with theses waves, then do not hesitate to contact TEAMWILLE. We can support you with our long-standing competence and experience in the areas of program management, communication and training. According to our motto “project success without detours” we can create transparency and stability in real time.


Landing on Mars will soon be possible with the right program management


(1) Projektmanagement Studie 2008 – Erfolg und Scheitern im Projektmanagement – Gemeinsame Studie der GPM Deutsche Gesellschaft für Projektmanagement e.V. und PA Consulting Group.

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