The leader of a strategic initiative must develop relationships with numerous stakeholders and numerous projects; thus, the strategic initiative leader functions as a program manager. There are several important competencies, and I refer the reader to this article, The #1 Success Factor: A Capable Program Manager. Those competencies are expressed through this job description,
The job of the program manager is to look outward and upward, conveying messages to stakeholders about the stakeholder receiving benefits. The program offers these benefits in exchange for the stakeholder’s commitment to the program.
There several nuanced points to consider in this succinct job description.
The Program Manager is a Strategic Thinker
In looking up and out, the program manager is focusing on the needs of the executives in their organization (looking upwards) and external stakeholders (looking outwards). This strategic perspective helps to identify environmental variables (such as those identified by PESTLE) and increases the focus on outcomes and closing performance gaps.
The idea that Program Managers are strategic thinkers was a motivating idea for my book, How to Think Strategically. Sharpen Your Mind. Develop Your Competency. Contribute to Success. The book is available at all major booksellers.
The Program Manager Designs and Conveys Compelling Messages
Undoubtedly, communications is the single greatest driver and requirement of strategic initiative leadership. The program manager needs the ability to advocate for a strategy, and the ability to listen and understand stakeholder concerns.
Stories are powerful tool for communicating strategy; thus, I identified the program manager’s role of Chief Storyteller. The program manager is,
telling stories to stakeholders about stakeholders receiving benefits in exchange for their commitment.
The Program Manager Secures Stakeholder Commitment with Benefits
Getting alignment and “buy in” is high on anyone’s list of factors needed for execution of strategy. There is a simple transaction that is taking place: benefits (good experiences) are being exchanged for commitment (the willingness to invest in the face of uncertain outcomes). It takes considerable work to craft a good benefits statement, and I suggest reviewing my series of articles on benefits propositions for “how to’s” and examples.
The Program Manager Integrates to Deliver Value
Programs are collections of projects. Project managers have an important role; they create the deliverables — and that is some heavy lifting! The deliverables should be considered as “features” that the stakeholders experience as benefits.
The reason for a program is synergy: providing benefits greater than the sum of the individual projects. Program creates value by parsing and/or combining deliverables in such a way to create a stream of incremental benefits.
The program manager spends considerable time with the internal and external stakeholders and with project managers/teams to “architect” the projects into a coherent, integrated strategy for benefits delivery.
The Ultimate Program Manager
The folks at Project Manager dot com have developed a new resource, the Ultimate Guide to Program Management. The authors equate program management as multi-project management. They write that program management is “process of managing several projects simultaneously” The goal is “to streamline organization and productivity” and “make all projects more efficient for long-term stability.”
The multi-project approach to program management is certainly a good way to introduce an organization to the topic. With some scalable processes in place, you can then get to the essential practices of program management, which is benefits realization and strategic impact.
Do you agree with this description of the roles of a program manager?