Andrew McCune
December 05, 2016

ARTICLE: Is it Done Yet?

You know your deliverable and deadline. You have your resources. Is it done yet?

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A repeated question in program management for sure. As with any program, the OpEx program may experience a low first pass yield at milestone review. A very real and consistent issue that may involve resources and execution, but not necessarily the supported organization. In the BTOES Insight Report, 2016, 13.18% of respondents indicated that a lack of/need for resources was a critical challenge facing professionals leading OpEx programs. Part of this challenge may be in part driven by a gap in understanding the relationship between process and program at key lever points (Table 1). 

Certainly, the complimentary relationship comes alive at the purpose, scope, and scale levers. With respect to purpose, recognizing program largely fulfills and completes along an execution path, and is enabled by critical sub-processes is an opportunity. Seeing the alignment to customer and business requirements with overall business strategy sets breadth of effort. Knowing budget, headcount, and their application to volume, capability, and capacity forces thinking through the depth of the effort.

Example, establishing the customer as the supported organization sets up knowing their requirements in order to change and perform in the future state. The customer’s performance targets gives clarity to the volume and pace of project selection, training, execution, and reporting necessary to move ahead. This becomes a series of operating processes in a work stream of activity that results in customer moving- the-needle. Along the way, the processes output the deliverables at milestones of the program.


Lever Point


Continuously operates to deliver value; fulfill a primary mission of organization or program


Start – middle – end to implement a solution, deliver value; fulfill an element of strategy of organization, completes multiple projects and can renew annually

Customer and business requirements


Business requirements, aligned to strategy

Volume, capability, capacity


Budget, headcount, geography

Sequence of activity; cause & effect; Input/output by step; one piece flow; control system


Activity stage – decision gate; input/output by tollgate or milestone; small chunks by volume; governance

Expense, contribution margin impact, variable or fixed cost productivity


Capital expense, operating margin impact, capital efficiency

Delegate, cycle-trend-shift, adjust, contain, root cause, corrective action

Decision Making

Consolidate authority, on-off track, adjust, more-less of, approve or disapprove

Table 1: Compare and Contrast Program and Process at Lever Points

Methods and budgeting are also good lever points. In lieu of solely pushing on activity stage and decision gate review, understanding what comes first, second, and third with attention to cause and effect on completing task or decision is essential. Let’s take this further, set in order the customer requirements, and collapse activity, headcount, and dollars to execute on that order. Now the program’s operating processes can see and predict outcomes at milestone review as well as allocate capital expense into a real productivity run rate number. Is the rate at which we touch the customer,

complete a task, make decision on pace? Is spend rate consistent with budget? The judgement call on run rate to budget leads to decision making.

Clearly, operating the process will call for delegation of decision making to the people who support the customer directly. The on the ground action to select, train, coach, execute, and report will necessitate local decisions. This affects execution leading to an overall assessment at program of on or off track result, and then deciding on what to do about it at a more centralized level. All the while, a close dialogue with the internal customer at the program level as well.

Example, local support team working with customer efforts, combine a series of changes and improvements to core customer processes. The success rate of projects move customer performance needle. Fulfilling customer requirements on performance is value add, and therefore translates into program success because the customer is successful. The investment with program infrastructure has clear line of sight to customer value add, and sets the stage of current state efficiencies of the program. In the event of pull from the customer for more, a clear priorities review and business case can be made around the same or additional investment to drive more value. At this point, we are working key levers between process and program to drive success.

So, the lack of/need for resources being a critical challenge to OpEx program leaders may have a new angle to approach that challenge. Make a business case to change current utilization or justify growth by paying for it with increased internal customer performance and value. Certainly, there are a host of other factors to this notwithstanding buy in from the supported customer. Customer success with existing resources will generate a pull for more, and therein lies the pull for the program in lieu of the push question “is it done yet?”

Andrew S. McCune
Senior Process Consultant, Engagement Director
Strategy Deployment, Operational Excellence, Change Management

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