Adoption: the critical ingredient in any change initiative — whether you’re embarking upon a brand-new program initiative or an expansion of an existing one. Without stakeholder adoption, even the best-laid plan is a recipe for, at best, a prolonged rollout headache or, at worst, ultimate project failure.

Even the most experienced program managers struggle with adoption. While the complex ideas around program management strategy make perfect sense to those involved in the day-to-day, they can struggle to communicate this to stakeholders, who are essential to the successful rollout and adoption of the program yet often oblivious to the program’s rationale.

And that’s what it boils down to: The why is often missing in program change initiatives — the clear concise messaging around the purpose of the program to deliver against the strategic objectives of the organization.

Therefore, prior to embarking upon a program-change initiative, it is necessary to build a very concise problem statement, which clearly explains and, more importantly, quantifies the rationale behind the initiative.

This problem statement forms the very backbone of the entire initiative, from securing executive buy-in through design, through adoption, implementation, monitoring, control and eventual ongoing improvements.

Having worked with many organizations in creating problem statements, I have found it best to keep it concise — it should be one paragraph, two at most. It should provide an overview of the problem, the opportunities that arise from fixing it and the challenges that need to be overcome to achieve the end state. In the storyboard, you should:

  • Define (and quantify) the current performance using known or estimated data together with the impact on the organization, its profitability, market competitiveness and on shareholder value.
  • Define (and quantify) the target performance/future state. Again, use known or estimated data and state the impact on the organization, its profitability, market competitiveness and on shareholder value.
  • Define the root causes of the problem you are looking to fix.
  • Define, at the highest level, what needs to be done and what actions need to be taken to resolve the problem.
  • Finally, outline how the problem will be solved along with key activity to be undertaken.

While that is a lot of information to get into a just one or two paragraphs, it can be done — and it must be done.

Think of it in terms of the mission statement for your organization — every single word counts, and none can be wasted. If a word does not add value in this problem statement, then it should be removed.

Or music. How many times have you heard the simplest song, comprising just a couple of verses and a chorus, but it conjures up an incredible story in your mind?

This is what you are looking to achieve with your problem statement. It will resonate with the executive team, getting their seal of approval for your initiative, and ultimately be the purpose and mission of your entire program strategy.

Most organizations have a nonmandated culture, so if you first secure the sponsorship of the executive team with a well-crafted problem statement, you will have a significantly improved foundation upon which to engage the impacted business in the design and adopted rollout of the program.

SIA Council members looking for assistance in developing a problem statement may reach out to me at the email address below.