Development Cooperation Handbook/Designing and Managing Programmes/Programme Activity Sectors

A programme is the response by an organization to the need of concretizing its mission into a series of actions. It is a framework containing planned activities (project) directed towards a common (overall) goal. A cooperation programme goal represents the meeting ground between the organizations mandate and the needs (including the need to recognize and exercise their rights) of the people for whom the organizations works.

Sector of activity: Characteristics


Beyond explaining the status of the organization and the strength of the founders, this section of the project/program plan must demonstrate that the authors have a strong grasp on the sector of activity in which the organization operates. managers must understand the size of their chosen sector of activity, the geographic size and scope, the history, progress, etc. Nothing can destroy a project/program plan faster than an sector of activity section that shows a shallow understanding of the playing field in which the project/program operates. Readers want to see the strengths of the sector of activity, the areas of opportunity, the challenges, and the potential for the organization to succeed. Therefore, the following are key questions that should be addressed:

  • What sector of activity does the project/program operate in? What is the current state of that sector of activity?
  • What are the total sales, profits, margins, etc, for the chosen sector of activity?
  • What are the major characteristics of the sector of activity? At what point in the product life cycle is the sector of activity?
  • What are the barriers to entry into the sector of activity? Will other new competitors emerge?
  • Over the last three years, what has the overall performance of the sector of activity been? Is the sector of activity in good health overall?

Each of these questions will help the reader understand the sector of activity dynamics facing the organization. By the end of this sub header, the managers should have demonstrated a strong understanding of the sector of activity and the role the organization will have within it. In addition, the reader should have a strong understanding of the health of the sector of activity, the market size and potential, and the opportunities and threats facing the organization.

Sector of activity Participants


Each sector of activity is made unique not only by the product or service that lies at its core, but also by the organizations that compose the sector of activity. Some industries are dominated by one or two players who hold substantial power in setting prices, products, etc. Other industries are more egalitarian, with many small players fighting each other for market share. Some industries face fierce internal competition, with major players striving to eliminate other players. Other industries are almost congenial, with organizations embracing what many term as coopetition. In the section about sector of activity participants, the authors of the project/program plan can characterize the dynamics of the players within the chosen sector of activity. It is important for the manager to highlight the key sector of activity players, their historical stance with competitors, the main effective threat, the weakest competitor, and other dynamics that frame the environment within which the organization will operate. The following are questions that should be answered within this sub header:

  • Who are the major sector of activity participants (competitors, suppliers, major customers, distributors, etc)?
  • Which competitors are the strongest? Which are the weakest? What products or services do each of these competitors provide?
  • Which sector of activity participants will be direct competition for the organization? Historically, how has the sector of activity reacted to new entrants?
  • Is there one competitor who is critical for the success of the project/program? Could the organization be eliminated by a effective response?

By understanding the effective dynamics within the sector of activity, managers can demonstrate that they are prepared to meet the challenges that entering a new sector of activity will create.


In addition to understanding the sector of activity and its major players, managers must also understand the forces that are affecting change both from within the sector of activity and without. Industries, like organizations and products, have distinct life cycles. And sector of activity can be just emerging into the marketplace, or it can be in decline and approaching obsolescence. A project/program plan must illustrate that the managers understand the strength of the sector of activity, where it’s headed, and what opportunities that offers to the organization. However, predicting where an sector of activity is headed is not an easy task. Educated guesses are realistically, the best anyone can do. The key is for managers to show that their guesses are very well educated and based in strong research. In addition, many managers choose to list several trends affecting the sector of activity and highlight a variety of paths the sector of activity could take. In doing so, they demonstrate that they are prepared for multiple eventualities. Some key questions for this sub header include:

  • Where is the sector of activity expected to be in 5 years? 10 years?
  • How will the organization’s share of the market increase or decrease with these changes?
  • Is entering the sector of activity becoming easier of harder to do?
  • Is the product or service at the heart of the sector of activity something that is become more or less important to consumers?
  • Are there any societal factors that are affecting the sector of activity? How are these projected to change or evolve?
  • Are there any new technologies that threaten the sector of activity? What is their expected rate of adoption?

Each of these questions can help the reader to better understand the dynamic environment that the organization will be entering.

Common Mistakes


Each of these sub headers is a crucial part of the Organization & sector of activity section of any project/program plan. However, even when answering these questions, many managers still make several common mistakes that reduce the effectiveness of their plan. These mistakes include the following:

  • Providing too much detail and personal opinions about the organization – managers are often very proud of the tasks they have accomplished thus far. Therefore, they often make the mistake of focusing too heavily on the background of the organization, embellishing the history to make the organization attractive. They should spend time talking about the milestones the organization has met or the organization’s potential in the marketplace.
  • Not demonstrating well-round knowledge of the sector of activity – Often managers write a project/program plan that outlines the sector of activity, but provides little evidence of a true understanding of the major factors that are affecting the organization. Particularly obvious is a lack of understanding of the key sector of activity players and their potential influence or response to the organization.
  • “Fly-by-night” – A project/program plan that provides inadequate information about the organization and the sector of activity can appear to be a flimsy, poorly thought out project/program concept. This makes potential investors, advisors, or employees wary that the organization has what it takes to compete.
  • Lack of direction and commitment – If the Organization & sector of activity section of the project/program plan is dull or lacks in enthusiasm and drive, it can appear that the managers lack the direction and commitment to see the project/program succeed. This is the place where the manager must establish their conviction that their project/program concept has the strength to succeed.
  • Poor or inadequate knowledge – It is all too apparent if an manager has not “done his homework.” By not providing simple information like the sector of activity size, major players, etc, an manager is showing that they do not have adequate information to lead the organization.



  Programme plan
  Guideline: How to manage programmes for a learning organization that is projectized and employee empowering.

See also


  Issue 8 ⇒ How to design and manage successful cooperation programmes?

In other sections of this handbook
  Organizational Types
  Organizational Structure
  Organizational Culture
  The projectized organization
  The learning organization
  The employee empowering organization
  The Organization’s mission
  The Organization’s vision

  Designing and Managing Projects
  The 3 level hierarchy of programme objectives
  Project Managers and programme Managers