Aligning Workstreams for An In-Flight Program

Lida Peat
May 14, 2024
May 14, 2024
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Aligning Workstreams for An In-Flight Program

Aligning multiple workstreams on an in-flight program can feel like taking over a ship in the middle of a hurricane, with each workstream crashing towards its siloed goals and milestones.

Within a large transformational program, various workstreams frequently require mid-program plan reassessment. Operating in isolation or without a clear understanding of the bigger picture can result in delays, conflicts, and unsatisfactory outcomes. For smoother sailing, it’s crucial to ensure everyone is on the same page, working towards a common objective, and understanding each other’s needs and dependencies. Aligned workstreams can correctly facilitate proper activity sequencing, minimize duplicate efforts, and expedite progress toward program objectives.

One of the best approaches to achieve re-alignment is with intensive planning sessions. At CollectiveInsights, we call them “Walk-the-Walls” (WTWs).

What is a Walk-the-Wall (WTW)?

A highly effective intensive planning workshop where workstreams post their key milestones and anchor dates to a digital or physical wall. During their milestone presentation (or “walks”) workstreams present their timeline, key milestones, roles, responsibilities, dependencies, and any other high-level items. By visually identifying problem areas within the timeline, workstreams can easily collaborate to ensure seamless program integration. This approach has been demonstrated to align workstreams to crucial program milestones, leading to successful transformation.


A Walk-The-Wall Provides an Outlet for Workstreams To:

Negotiate milestones among workstreams

Collaborate to understand the dependencies between projects

Synchronize to ensure all workstreams speak the same language

Confirm critical resourcing within and across projects

Clarify key program and project risks, issues, actions, and decisions


Identification of Milestones & Key Activities

Before bringing everyone together for a face-to-face realignment workshop (physically or digitally), it is important to meet with workstream leaders to decide on high-level milestones and anchor dates that will affect the entire program. During a Walk-the-Wall (WTW) planning session these are used by workstreams to present their metrics and timeframe to the program. They are presented as cards that are posted or “walked”to the time-framed wall.


Collaborate To Understand the Dependencies Between Projects

In-flight siloed workstreams tend to focus on their own goals without fully understanding the impacts they may have on the overall program. Planning and executing WTW sessions bring together representatives from each workstream head-on. They offer a forum for clarifying the program’s objectives, milestones, and success criteria. Creating a shared understanding helps each workstream align its goals with the overarching program strategy.


Synchronize To Ensure All Workstreams Speak the Same Language

Understanding workstream terminology and clarifying essential program language enhances cross-functional collaboration. After preparation for the WTW session is complete (before the actual workshop), workstreams should have a common understanding of the program’s high-level key milestone language (i.e. pre-planning, end-user testing, and go-live). However, during the workstream’s presentation, they may use jargon that is unfamiliar to the rest of the program’s stakeholders. All workstreams need to align and get clarity on all terminology. Depending on the extent of terminology confusion, creating a centralized glossary of all terminology may be necessary.


Confirm Critical Resourcing Within and Across Projects

Proper resource planning can make or break a program’s success. During a WTW, each work stream presents its timeline, key milestones, roles, responsibilities, dependencies, and any other high-level items previously agreed upon. This allows for transparency to critical resourcing impacts throughout the program. It is common for siloed work streams to work continuously understaffed until they reach a critical breaking point. Some work streams may not be aware that they are functioning understaffed because it is commonplace for prolonged timeframes or feel they can take on extra work to save the budget. Many realize during their WTW preparations that they are completely missing resources for key milestones. Working understaffed can cause issues and can lead to significant risks to the overall program’s success. The sooner you understand where you need to allocate immediate and future resources the smoother your planning, budgeting, and overall program execution will be.


Clarify Key Program and Project Risks, Issues, Actions, And Decisions

Although Walk-the-Wall workshops should be limited to an agenda, acknowledging all risks (and documenting them accordingly) is the next step to aligning and having a successful program implementation. These sessions allow for the identification and mitigation of risks that may impact the program's success. By bringing stakeholders together, uncertainties and misalignments are addressed in real-time, fostering strong team relationships. This proactive approach enables more efficient problem-solving and quicker resolutions when challenges arise during the program.


Key Elements of a Highly Effective Walk-the-Wall Planning Session:

To conduct a successful WTW workshop, consider the following key elements:

  1. Clear Objectives: Before the session, be sure to define and regularly communicate the workshop’s objectives and the outcomes you hope to achieve. Make it clear that the purpose is to align workstreams and foster collaboration.
  2. Pre-session Preparation: Identify input and pre-work needed for a successful session. Including key milestones, anchor dates, and dependencies. Ensure that all participants are well-prepared with relevant information, data, and updates on their respective workstreams.
  3. Facilitation: Appoint experienced impartial facilitators to lead the session, ensuring that it stays focused and productive. Note: the most effective sessions are in person.
  4. Agenda: Developing a structured agenda creates house rules and facilitates efficiency. An effective agenda should cover key topics, workstream presentation order, and breaks for open discussions, Q&A, and brainstorming.
  5. Documentation: Assign specific individuals to document key decisions, action items, and next steps. This documentation will serve as a valuable reference point throughout the program.
  6. Follow-up Mechanisms: Establish clear follow-up mechanisms (i.e. parking lot tracker) to ensure that action items are tracked, and progress is monitored.



Achieving alignment among multiple workstreams in an in-flight program is not just a nice to have; it's a necessity for program success. Walk-the-Wall workshops serve as a powerful tool to bring workstreams together, foster collaboration, and ensure that everyone is rowing in the same direction. By investing time and effort in these sessions, you can optimize your chances of meeting and exceeding the program's objectives.