Program Management – What is it all about?

I was talking to a friend of mine (who is a project manager) and he asked me how is the role of a Program manager different from a Project manager’s role? We discussed it and i thought of consolidating my notes from various sources which I collected during my role transition preparation and post.

PMI’s Standard for Program management defines it as

Program: “A group of related projects managed in a coordinated way to obtain benefits and control not available from managing them individually“.

Program Management“It is the centralized management of a program to achieve the program’s strategic benefits and objectives”.

Enterprise Programme Management: Delivering Value defines it as

We define enterprise program management as the capability to lead and manage resources, knowledge and skills in the effective deployment of multiple projects designed collectively to deliver enhanced value

Program management provides assistance to:

1.    Ensure alignment of activities across multiple projects

2.    Optimize the use of resources

3.    Communicate with and involve people, both within and outside the program

4.    Drive the achievement of strategic objectives, and the delivery of benefits.

Program Management System

1.    Assists in the coordination of resources, timescales and scope across project teams

2.    Facilitates the effective deployment and sharing of skills and knowledge across the program

3.    Tracks and manages issues, risks, delivery of benefits and alignment to program objectives

4.    Provides executive management with a ‘dashboard’ on programme progress

5.    Provides programme management with the information and levers that they need to effectively manage program’s.

The Handbook of Program management defines the Role of a Program Manager as

Program manager’s role varies from managing multiple projects to managing multiple projects with operational responsibilities.

Typically, a program manager is subjected to all the complexities and stresses of a project manager, plus is required to manage on-going operations while meeting business goal targets for the month, quarter, or year. The program manager often has to strike a balance between the amount of resources spent on operations and the amount of resources spent on development and new projects.

A program manager needs to have an ingrained sense of organizational mission, must lead and have the presence of a leader, must have a vision and strategy for long-term organizational improvement, must be a relationship builder, and must have the experience and ability to assess people and situations beyond their appearances.

Program manager is

  1. Ultimately accountable for delivery of the business objectives.
  2. Accountable for profit or cost targets linked to business strategy.
  3. Accountable for policies that defines how the work is accomplished as it will have an impact on the business and cost targets.
  4. Accountable for establishing a culture that allows his or her project managers to be successful. The program manager must create, manage, and continually improve the culture that enables successful projects.
  5. Accountable for providing clarity and clearing chaos.

Program management decisions are both tactical and strategic in nature. The strategy aspects of these decisions must consider multidimensional impacts beyond the near-term delivery dates of the project.

Attributes of the Effective Program Manager

  • Being a program manager requires a greater skill set and more diverse background than being a project manager.
  • The most significant difference between project manager responsibility and program manager responsibility is the requirement for the program manager to establish a culture of success.
  • Self-regulation takes time to create, but it is the ultimate definition of presence. With self-regulation, the organization acts and performs just like the program manager would want it to even if he or she is not present.
  • Leadership is based on a relationship of trust, and program managers must consistently develop and use relationship capital.
  • The ability to accomplish objectives through others is directly correlated to the strength of the relationships or the relationship capital the program manager has developed.
  • Consistency in style, management techniques, and leadership traits are important anchors for any organization and contribute to a stable work environment.
  • Effective questioning starts with being perceptive and in touch with the organization—having a feel for the organization above and beyond what charts and graphs provide.
  • As program manager you want to establish a “self-regulating” culture where your team answers your questions before you ask them.
  • Decisions should be made quickly and at the appropriate level through the establishment of clear lines of accountability and escalation processes.
  • Long-term program success is dependent on the continued growth and development of program personnel.

Summary: A program manager is a Business Owner who owns the profit and loss of the group/program which he/she manages. It is more of a mind-set transformation from a project manager’s role. He / She is responsible for the overall accountability of the management of multiple projects, deliverable and budgets

As a Project manager, it is very important to solve people problems. Even as a Program manager it is very important, but the responsibilities are more than that. It is very important to empower the project managers in the program/group to handle such issues so that as a program manager one can handle the prime responsibilities of a program manager.

The success of a project manager is defined by how one executes the project and delivers the project within the triple constraints. The program manager also is judged on these three elements but at a level that is cumulative for all the projects and operations within the program. This aggregation of responsibilities for a variety of projects and operations means the program manager must make frequent trade-offs between business targets and project/operational performance.

As a Program manager, one will be responsible for the successful delivery of the Projects, creating a culture which enables project managers to deliver successfully, customer satisfaction, resource management (managing resources, recruitment, retaining employees, attrition, and employee satisfaction), risk management at a program/group level, responsible for the profit and loss, business development, meeting business and cost targets.

Books Referenced:

The Handbook of program management – How to facilitate project success with optimal program management

Enterprise Programme Management—Delivering Value

The Standard for Program Management


1 thought on “Program Management – What is it all about?

  1. Pingback: EDUC-6115-5 Learning Theories and Instruction Week 2 « drbelton01

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