Dealing with Failure and Setback as a Program Manager
As a program manager, it is inevitable that you will face setbacks and failures along the way. While failure can be difficult to cope with, it is a natural part of the process of innovation and progress. By understanding how to handle failure effectively, you can turn setbacks into opportunities for learning and growth. Over the course of my career, I have had the opportunity to work on multiple programs of varying degree of scope, budget and schedule and have seen my fair share of setbacks, and I wanted to share some tips and tricks from my experience to help develop and hone your program management skills:
Understand how to handle failure: As a program manager, it is important to understand that failure is a natural part of the process of innovation and progress. When failure occurs, it is important to identify the root causes, learn from the experience, and take corrective action to prevent future failures. To handle failure effectively, it is important to have a proactive approach and be willing to take risks and try new things. It is also important to have a culture of continuous learning and improvement, and to encourage team members to embrace failure as an opportunity to learn and grow.
When I had suffered a failure on a project early in my career, I questioned if I was meant for this career. However, my mentor at the time encouraged me to reflect on the experience and consider how I could have approached things differently. They then had me apply this learning to my next project – which resulted in a much more successful outcome. Now, following each major milestone in a program, I conduct a postmortem to evaluate if I need to alter my execution method for continuous learning.
Report out openly and honestly: As a program manager, it is important to regularly report on the progress and status of your program to stakeholders, including team members, upper management, and clients. This helps to keep everyone informed and ensures that the program is on track to meet its goals and objectives. There are a variety of tools and techniques that can be used to report status, including project management software, status reports, and presentation software – the tool itself is not that important, what is important is that the stakeholders of your program are aware of progress. When failure occurs, it is important to communicate openly and honestly with team members about the challenges and setbacks that the team is facing. This can help to build trust and maintain team morale, even in the face of setbacks.
Understand how to hold team members accountable: As a program manager, it is also important to hold team members accountable for their work and ensure that they are meeting their commitments and deadlines. This could involve setting clear expectations and goals, tracking progress and performance, and providing feedback and support as needed. There are a variety of tools and techniques that can be used to hold team members accountable, including performance management software, regular check-ins, and performance reviews. It is important to understand how to use these tools effectively to ensure that team members are meeting their commitments and contributing to the success of the program.
Take corrective action: Once you have identified the root causes of failure and learned from experience, it is important to take corrective action to prevent similar failures in the future. This may involve implementing new processes, procedures, or tools, or providing additional training or support to team members. By taking corrective action, you can help to reduce the risk of future failures and improve the chances of success for your program.
Communicate effectively with technical team members: As a program manager, you may often be working with technical team members who have specialized knowledge and expertise. To effectively communicate with these team members, you need to be able to understand and speak their language. This may involve learning technical jargon and concepts, or working with technical experts to translate technical information into terms that are easier for non-technical team members to understand. In the event of setback or failure this skill helps speed up the root cause process.
Understand how to maintain team morale: When setbacks and failures occur, it is important to maintain team morale and ensure that team members remain motivated and engaged. This can be challenging, but there are a variety of strategies that can help to maintain team morale, including:
- Communicating openly and honestly with team members about the challenges and setbacks that the team is facing
- Providing support and resources to help team members overcome these challenges
- Encouraging team members to take ownership of their work and to take risks and try new things
- Providing opportunities for team members to learn and grow
- Recognizing and celebrating successes and accomplishments, no matter how small
By following these tips and tricks and fostering a culture of continuous learning and improvement, you can effectively deal with failure as a program manager and turn setbacks into opportunities for growth and success.