from PM to transformation leader (part 3: what can PMs do?)

In the previous two posts (1 & 2), we defined key company wide “transformation programmes” and the issues and pitfalls to be avoided on these. Now is the time to focus on solutions and actions…

I will focus in this post on continuous improvement programmes leading to major changes and transformations. 

The Reengineering and Rebranding transformation programmes should in any case be run as projects or programmes, and if you hear about such an undertaking in your company, please be sure to volunteer to lead or be part of it. They always are great learning opportunities.

so, what can PMs do about continuous improvement “transformation programmes”?

We can apply our skills and experience to transformation ideas, change/transformation projects and programmes:

  1. pro
  2. clarify
  3. simplify
  4. push, action, move, create momentum
  5. communicate
  6. take the lead personally

1. structure

PMs are characteristically organized, structured and detail oriented… We can apply these very skills with great success to transformation initiatives.

We will collect the database about all on going transformations and change ideas for a given domain, organization or division. We will identify and then fill information gaps. We will position/categorize all initiatives into consistent buckets and propose criteria for prioritization of the overall portfolio of ideas together with a simple overall process to manage the portfolio.

For example, define what stages an idea would go through before it eventually becomes a project and delivers benefits to the company. These stages could be: unqualified idea, real opportunity, launched initiative/project, draft deliverables, final deliverables.

Doesn’t this sound familiar to the ears of PMs?

2. clarify


From experience, I can tell that you will find many transformation/change initiatives and ideas where ownership is not well defined nor accepted, where people are vague about what the deliverables will be and even vaguer about when they will be ready.

We will spend time ensuring that each initiative in the portfolio of potential transformations is clearly defined, ownership accepted, deliverables understood and target dates agreed by the people who will work on them.

Each change idea will be treated as a small project with clear deliverables, ownership and target timing. Also, metrics to measure the impact of the change shall be defined and current performance data gathered. A spreadsheet with the following columns will get you started: identifier, category, priority, name, owner, status, expected deliverables, next steps, target dates for draft and final deliverables.

3. simplify

Because many ideas appear to be brilliant, justified, attractive… You will inevitably have too many proposals for the resources available to work on them. Additionally, if all were run in parallel, they could generate far more changes than the organization can absorb at once.

So, you will attempt to give sense to the portfolio through prioritization and alignment on overall company and organizational objectives. The first pass should prune the portfolio of ideas, keeping only juiciest ones; the second pass will look at staging these over time depending on urgency and resources.

There are only so many resources able to lead some of the difficult initiatives your company may want to undertake. Another area to simplify is the process for getting new ideas into the pipeline and reviewing them in a structured manner. This should facilitate introducing and reviewing new suggestions.

4. push, action, move, create momentum


running business man

You will need to ensure that

  • all initiatives are progressing per the agreed timelines
  • their owners remain committed
  • more people want to join and have their change or transformation ideas added to the portfolio

These are things you are used to doing as PMs for your programmes and projects.

5. communicate

A PM’s job is often said to be 80% about communications. A key difficulty is that you may have over a few dozen tasks running in parallel, and all could be addressing different aspects of the business. Yet, your message needs to remain simple and targeted for your audience. Aligning your project portfolio with corporate or organizational strategy will also greatly facilitate communications.

For example, if the big themes of your company are customer satisfaction, profitability, and people development, you may want to organize your portfolio of changes around these themes. This will facilitate communications and appropriation as people will be able to relate the changes to a model they are familiar with.

6. organize

Set up a “transformation programme” board that meets regularly and includes all key players. High level visibility encourages contributors to progress their initiatives as agreed. It provides a forum to review and improve deliverables, and it strengthens momentum to keep things moving.

do not wait, act: take the lead! And benefit from doing so

Current tough business conditions favor a desire throughout the enterprise to support or at least understand the need for changes. I would be most surprised if no major changes were happening at this very moment in your own environment and organizations.

I sincerely hope that this post will have given you the will to consider such changes with a new eye and with the view of a Programme/Project director or Project Portfolio Manager.

You have the skills to become a leader of transformation in your business or organization.

go for it!



Propose a new and structured approach to manage transformation and change initiatives and you run great chances to be listened to.

Additionally, I’m convinced that it is a win-win. Along the journey, you will personally acquire and/or reinforce critical and valued skills. You will then exploit these in many other situations: leadership, change management, prioritization, business alignment, big picture view, communications, networking…

Have you been pulled into such programmes voluntarily or not? What’s your experience? What advices would you like to offer?


Michel Operto

I've been leading IT projects for more than 20 years at telecom and computer manufacturers: Thomson Sintra, Digital Equipment, NCR, Nortel Networks, Orange Business. My passion is Project Management and leadership and I run a blog on the PM best practices at