The Job of the Program Manager is to…..

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?


About Greg Githens

Author, How to Think Strategically (2019) Executive and leadership coach. Experience in driving change in Fortune 500 and mid-size companies through strategic initiatives and business transformation. Seminar leader and facilitator - high-impact results in crafting and delivering strategy, strategic initiatives, program management, innovation, project management, risk, and capturing customer requirements.
This entry was posted in Competencies of Strategic Initiative Leaders, Program & Portfolio Management and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to The Job of the Program Manager is to…..

  1. Pingback: A Concise Guide to the Differences between Programs and Projects | Leading Strategic Initiatives

  2. Pingback: Vice President, Director, Manager of Strategic Initiatives: Position Description Best Practices | Leading Strategic Initiatives

  3. Pingback: Projects, Programs and Portfolios – 3 Common Traps « IT Organization Circa 2017

  4. Pingback: Identify Performance Gaps and Get Out of the Rut of Solutioneering | Leading Strategic Initiatives

  5. Pingback: Strategic Initiative Steering Teams: A Sharp or Dull Blade? | Leading Strategic Initiatives

  6. Pingback: Four Things Strategic Initiative Leaders Need to Know About Requirements | Leading Strategic Initiatives

  7. Pingback: Know The “Follow-The-Money” Story. How was Your Strategic Initiative Funded? | Leading Strategic Initiatives

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s