I have designed, implemented, and evaluated complex grant programs for more than 25 years and I am endlessly surprised when well intended professionals fail to reach successful program outcomes. These disappointments have included a failure to change behavior and institutions; missed opportunities to expend allocated funds; inability to implement a system change; and a failure to document outcomes. Basic mistakes in planning, implementing, and monitoring programs can lead to failure and missed opportunities. However, an inspired, detailed, and careful approach to program management can lead to successful outcomes.
Based on my extensive experience monitoring and evaluating a range of federally funded programs, I offer the following recommendations for achieving inspired program management:
- At the beginning of program design, you must be able to answer the following questions – Why will this program work, how will it work, what outcomes can be achieved, and who cares?
- Develop measurable, feasible, and meaningful program objectives. Your objectives are the foundation of successful program management.
- Know your funding timelines and grant requirements. Do not overcommit to objectives that cannot be achieved with your level of funding, timelines, or available expertise.
- Train yourself to be skeptical when assessing program feasibility and provide extensive details on how your program will work. Document your decision pathway so you can explain your planning to your leadership.
- When using a previously implemented program, determine how the program must be changed to address your unique environment.
- Always beta test your program initiatives, make adjustments, and re-test before full program implementation.
- Evaluation of your program should be established during the design phase and integrated into all program phases. Do not underestimate the staff time and other resources required for effective program evaluation. Consider allocating approximately 15-20% of our total budget to evaluation. This includes staff resources.
- Know your cultural environment and use local experts and informants to increase your knowledge. When implementing programs, you must know the cultural beliefs, social barriers, and government restrictions before designing your program.
Consider using these recommendations to improve your program management.