The performance of any organization is greatly affected by the idea of strategic program management through such concepts as program and project differences, the effectiveness of management and program implementation, and the quality of report evaluation and program leadership. More specifically, organizations use program management to realize their business objectives, because program management allows creating the background for proper strategic development. Drawing from this, program management should be a carefully developed basic idea for any organization. The case of Foundation Schools illustrates how a problem of inefficient program management can be identified and solved.
Issue and Opportunity Identification
Foundation Schools is the world’s leading provider of services for children with special needs. On its way towards expansion and profit development, Foundation Schools works according to its strategic goals which, however, are complicated by considerable issues.
First, the Board of Directors and Management of Foundation Schools see its development in different ways, which makes them assess the time needed for report preparation differently.
Second, Foundation Schools lacks understanding of differences between management projects and programs, which leads to rather controversial Board Meeting discussions.
Third, program leadership is unclear in Foundation Schools as directions are given interchangeably by various layers of organizational structure to each other. Such a situation allows outlining the following set of issues and opportunities for Foundation Schools:
Table 1. Issues and Opportunities Identification
|Issues||Opportunities||Reference to Specific Course Concept|
|Absence of a uniform properly structured program management plan||Provide joint commitment of all departments towards reaching the uniform goals of Foundation Schools||Effective program management is critically important for developing a uniform program management plan (Larson, p. 22);|
|Lack of understanding of program and project differences||Educate the management team and Board of Directors||Programs and projects are different in their essence as programs are based on recurring activities, while projects are one-time actions that often can contradict strategic development goals of a company (Larson, p. 20);|
|Lack of uniformity in ideas regarding program implementation||Ensure joint approach towards the program implementation through a dedicated team method||Organizing a program as a dedicated team is often the best option for program success (Larson, p. 23)|
|Inefficient process of evaluating reports||Implement objective report evaluation policies by involving outside assessors||Reports display short-term program results and their efficient evaluation allows monitoring the progress and making necessary corrections (Rabin, p. 531);|
|Unclear program leadership and lack of management autonomy||Distribute duties, present decision-making power to managers of all levels||The degree of authority and autonomy program managers have is proportionate to the success chances of the whole program (Larson, p. 34)|
Stakeholder Perspectives/Ethical Dilemmas
Table 2. Stakeholder Perspectives and Ethical Dilemmas
|Stakeholder Groups with Competing Values||Their Interests, Rights, and Values||The Ethical Dilemma Based on the Competing Values|
|Community v Board of Directors||Community’s right for education and Board’s value of making a profit||Both stakeholders’ values and rights are fair; the dilemma is to retrieve profit but not to harm educational services by this value|
|Board of Directors v Teachers||Board sees software implementation as a way to increase effectiveness, while teachers stick to traditional one-on-one methods||Fair values and rights of both sides; teachers achieve desired efficiency by their methods, Board needs better efficiency|
|Students v Board of Directors||Students’ need for education and the Board’s idea to increase tuition fee||Raising fees, Board can deprive some students of educational options; an increase of students attracted by stable fees might undermine the business nature of Foundation Schools|
The above table reveals the ethical dilemmas that accompany the problem observed in Foundation Schools. The solution selected for this problem does not explicitly address any of the dilemmas, but it helps to resolve all of them. The end-state goals of Foundation Schools are focused on resolving those dilemmas, and the solution helps to achieve those goals.
More specifically, the idea of Foundation Schools’ expansion to other cities and states is integrally connected with improved service quality, which resolves the community dilemma. The increased investment allows the organization to reduce the pressure on teachers regarding software use, and this way another ethical dilemma is solved without harm to any of the parties. Finally, students will get improved quality of education for slightly increased fees, and the proportion of price and quality will be beneficial for both students and Foundation Schools.
The “Right” Problem: Foundation Schools’ Objectives and Means to Achieve Them
Foundation Schools aspires to become a nationwide organization, which requires additional funding but promises a considerable profit increase. To achieve this goal, Foundation Schools need to realize its opportunities (Table 1) and effectively apply such vital program management concepts as program and project differences, the establishment of effective management, developing a policy for program implementation and evaluating reports, and determining the sources of program leadership (Brandenburg et al., p. 91; Larson, p. 23). In other words, to solve its major problem Foundation Schools should realize the range of opportunities it has.
Accordingly, if the mentioned opportunities are realized and the organization’s problem is solved, the Foundation Schools will become a nationwide provider of educational services for children with special needs. Branches of Foundation Schools will be observed in a large number of states, student populations will increase at least 10% per year, and so will the profit levels.
Moreover, Foundation Schools’ organizational structure will be improved, which will be manifested in joint approaches to solving problems, a better understanding of program management concepts, and exercising the dedicated team approach in all activities. The success measurement criteria will be the profit of Foundation Schools, its public image, and the speed of solving other issues by the organization.
Alternative Solutions and Benchmarking Validation
Based on the research data, alternative solutions can be formulated for dealing with Foundation Schools’ issues (Sanghera, pp. 22 – 23):
- Absence of a uniform properly structured program management plan – study competitors’ policies in this respect and use positive experiences;
- Lack of understanding of program and project differences – comparatively analyze program and project adjustment policies by other companies;
- Lack of uniformity in ideas regarding program implementation – make management interested in joint goal accomplishment;
- Inefficient process of evaluating reports – design a department charged with report development and evaluation;
- Unclear program leadership and lack of management autonomy – modify the organizational structure and implement collective leadership.
At the same time, the findings of benchmarking research regarding Foundation Schools and their major competitors, i. e. Aspen Education Group and Guilford Day School reveal that there is one more point for Foundation Schools to focus on (Davis, p. 137; Sanghera, p. 151).
In more detail, Aspen Education Group and Guilford Day School offer a far wider range of services to their students and applicants. This allows them to develop customer bases and increase profit. To put it simply, the competitors accumulate profit from various spheres of special needs education (Davis, p. 139).
So, Foundation Schools can use these benchmarking findings to succeed, as its competitors had positive experiences associated with services diversification. Accordingly, the sole solution that can be recommended to Foundation Schools is to diversify its services as a way to attract more customers and investors.
Offering therapeutic procedures, boarding schools, weight loss camps, and community summer programs will help Foundation Schools develop in another state, allow increase student population, and facilitate the growth of investments and profits (Davis, p. 137; Sanghera, p. 151).
Evaluation of Alternatives
Analysis of Alternative Solutions
Drawing from the scenario and the above considerations, the goal of developing new schools is ranked the highest among Foundation Schools. Such an approach is explained by the fact that developing schools in other cities and states will allow the organization to widen its student populations, raise new income, attract new investments, and improve services, i. e. achieve all other goals. Thus, the highest-ranking goal is perceived as the most important task for Foundation Schools.
Table 3. Analysis of Alternative Solutions
|Goals||Develop new schools||Increase profitability||Increase student populations||Attract investments||Improve services||Final Rating|
|A & D||3||5||2||5||5||4|
|B & D||1||4||3||4||4||3.2|
|A, B, D||4||5||4||5||5||4.6|
Narrowed List of Alternatives
The above discussion (Table 3) allows selecting the three best alternative solutions for Foundation Schools. Starting from the least-applicable of them, Foundation Schools can resort to studying the competition and the policies its competitors use to handle similar problems.
The next alternative recommended for Foundation Schools is to implement collective leadership and grant considerable autonomy to management regarding the decision-making (Rabin et al, p. 128).
However, the best alternative solution is found among secondary alternatives. It includes points A, B, and D of primary solutions and has the highest average rating among all alternatives discussed as it combines the methods reported to be the most effective ones (Sanghera, p. 283).
Risk Assessment and Mitigation
Table 4. Risk Assessment and Mitigation
|Alternative||Risk and Probability||Consequence and Severity||Mitigation Techniques and Strategies|
|Make management interested in joint goal accomplishment|| ||Severe consequence: undermined organizational culture; inefficient management performance.|| |
|Design a department for report evaluation|| ||The alternative bears no risks; it is considered relatively ineffective due to its small effect on the overall company’s performance in goal achievement.|| |
Table 4 illustrates the potential risks and mitigation strategies of the two alternatives, whose applicability in Foundation Schools situation is viewed as relatively low. Designing a department for report evaluation is an alternative bearing no obvious risks, and its being in this group is only due to its low efficiency compared to other alternatives. At the same time, making management interested in joint goal achievement is a rather risky alternative as it might result in ignorance of Foundation Schools’ goals in favor of personal benefits.
Benchmarking research allows arguing that a balanced reward–punishment approach to management motivation is the most effective policy, as examples of Aspen Education Group and Guilford Day School reveal (Davis, p. 138). This approach is implemented only in cases of over-or under-performance of management and makes the latter aware of the need to carry out qualified work.
Selecting the Optimal Solution
The above discussion reveals that there cannot be a single solution for the problem that Foundation Schools experiences at the moment. Accordingly, Table 5 presents a comparative analysis of pros and cons displayed by various alternatives discussed in this paper before to synthesize a comprehensive and optimal problem solution:
Table 5. Pros and Cons of Alternative Solutions
|Study competitors’ policies|| || |
|Make management interested in joint goal accomplishment|| || |
|Design a department for report evaluation|| || |
|Implement collective leadership|| || |
The above table reveals that every alternative has its pros and cons, but a comprehensive solution for Foundation Schools can only combine the best points from all the alternatives (Brandenburg et al., p. 93). Accordingly, the optimal solution will involve going from specific points to more general ones.
First, Foundation Schools should change the organizational structure to provide grounds for collective leadership and management autonomy. This will allow motivating management and bringing clarity into goal achievement policies adopted by Foundation Schools (Rabin et al., p. 42). As soon as these steps are completed, the organization should study the program management policies used by its competitors. This step will provide insight into successful experiences of other companies and will create the background for Foundation Schools’ development.
Finally, the services’ diversification, recommended to Foundation Schools as a result of benchmarking research, should be implemented next. The complex of all the listed steps is expected to attract new students and powerful investors (Davis, p. 143). As a result, Foundation Schools will have necessary funds for expansion to other cities and states. The quality of services will grow in the conditions of strong competition, while the higher profits will be retrieved by Foundation Schools from increased volumes of its high quality services.
Developing an Implementation Plan
Accordingly, after the optimal solution is developed, its implementation plan can be formulated as follows:
Table 6. Optimal Solution Implementation Plan
|Action Item Deliverable||Timeline||Who is Responsible|
| ||1 week||Andy Antonio|
| ||1 week||Jane Kirkpatrick|
| ||2 months||John Thomas|
| ||1 month||Andy Antonio|
| ||1 week||John Thomas|
| ||3 months||Andy Antonio, Jeff White|
| ||1 month||Andy Antonio, Jeff White|
| ||6 months||John Thomas, Andy Antonio, Jeff White|
| ||1 week||Jane Kirkpatrick|
| ||1 month||Cindy Richards, John Thomas|
The above presented implementation plan can be called “turning of paper goals into real-time results” (Brandenburg et al., p. 93). This plan can be assessed as Tier II of the Implementation Strategy, while Tier I is the preliminary research and plan development (Brandenburg et al., p. 91). Accordingly, before the plan is implemented, Foundation Schools will need to realize their current positions, assess funds and resources, and relate the findings to their goals. Only reliable resource allocation will allow Foundation Schools to move on to actual implementation plan of the program management.
Evaluation of Results
Table 7. Evaluation of Results
|Schools in numerous cities and states of USA||Number of schools in cities other than the ones where Foundation Schools have branches and states other than California||1 school in every new city; at least 20 cities in at least 5 states.|
|Increased profitability||Net revenue||Increase of at least 10%|
|Increased student population||Number of students in each school||Increase of at least 10%|
|Increased investments||Amounts of investments into to Foundation Schools||Increase of at least 10%|
|Improved services quality||Student satisfaction levels (measured by surveys), after school student performance||At least 60% of successful students|
The above table reveals how the success of the selected solution will be measured. In bulk, the metrics applied are quantitative, although levels of student satisfaction will be measured qualitatively. A rather modest increase of 10% in the majority of metrics will be considered success of the solution.
So, the whole above presented discussion can be concluded by the statement that there is hardly a single solution that can be applied to issues of program management inefficiency. If such a solution exists, it is always a comprehensive combination of several alternatives and approaches to program management in all its aspects. The analysis of the case of Foundation Schools allows seeing that a way from specific internal organizational issues towards more generalized external problems is the most applicable solution of issues observed in the area of program management.
Brandenburg, S. G. et al. (2006). Strategic Management of Human Resources in Construction.Journal of Management in Engineering, 22(2), 89 – 96.
Larson, E. (2007). Project management structures. In Morris, P. and Pinto, J (Eds.), The Wiley Guide to Project Organization and Project Management Competencies (pp. 20 – 39). John Wiley and Sons.
Davis, B. (2001). Changing resource and organizational patterns: the challenge of resourcing education in the 21st century. Journal of Educational Change, 2(3), 135 – 159.
Rabin, J. et al. (2000). Handbook of strategic management. CRC Press.
Sanghera, P. (2008). Fundamentals of Effective Program Management: A Process Approach Based on the Global Standard. J. Ross Publishing.