Start with why
The first step in developing a program is determining the why. Without a why, your program won’t have the foundation it needs to be successful. There might be a few different reasons or “whys” that you can think of when it related to the program you are trying to build—maybe you have funds that need to be deployed, maybe there is change you want to make within your organization, or a problem you’ve encountered that you want to solve. Having multiple reasons is great, it probably means that the program you are working to create will add a lot of value, but it’s important to pick only one. Having that north star why, will really help you understand what success is, and how to achieve it.
Define the problem
Once you have identified your why—get in the weeds. Most whys center around some sort of problem and the next step to develop a program is to understand that problem as best you can. Do research, talk to the people who are directly experiencing the problem, and learn as much as you can. The more learning you do about the problem before you start building the solution, the fewer problems you will run into in the solution-building phase. Sometimes you might have a better understanding of the future state you want to work for than you do of the problem you are working to solve—if that’s the case for you, flip steps 2 & 3.
Detail the future
Once your program is complete, what do you want the world to look like? Without getting into what the program is and how it will work, identify the future you want to see after this program. Do your best to get out of the reality of timelines, budgets, and all of those details—think big picture. What does the ideal reality look like after this program is complete?
Now it’s time to come back down to reality. What is your budget? When are your deadlines? Who is working on this and how much time can they realistically spend on it? This part can sometimes feel like the least fun part of the process but it shouldn’t be. Really understanding your parameters allows you to thrive within it. If you plant a garden with no fence, your crops are much more vulnerable. Sometimes parameters can be really helpful!
The what and how
This is the meat and potatoes of your program. Properly understanding your problem, your ideal future, and the parameters should help you in this stage. In circumstances, with all the information you have, the what and how may be very clear to you. In others, it might seem really daunting. It’s time to whiteboard. Whether your program seems straightforward or complex, a good way to get started is by determining your success criteria or objectives. What are the factors that contribute to the ideal future that you already spent time detailing out? And then with those, what are the steps that you need to take to hit those objectives. This is the most time-consuming part of the process of developing your program - and requires you to get creative. When we work on a program we create OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) and make sure that all of our objectives are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound). Thinking through the nitty-gritty of the what and how will make the execution of the program so much easier, and you’ll be able to tangibly see how you are working against your goals!
Tell Your Story
We believe in the power of storytelling and feel that is an integral part of program development. How can you summarize the program and share what you learned in a meaningful way to help you understand lessons learned for next time, but also share what you’ve learned with others so they can more deeply understand what you are working on?
Developing programs is our bread and butter, and we would love to be a part of your process. If you are interested in working with us—get in touch!