Building an Effective Program Manager/Project Manager Relationship

Andy Jordan is President of Roffensian Consulting S.A., a Roatan, Honduras-based management consulting firm with a comprehensive project management practice. Andy always appreciates feedback and discussion on the issues raised in his articles and can be reached at Andy's new book Risk Management for Project Driven Organizations is now available.

Project managers are used to dealing with sponsors, customers, team members and other stakeholders, and they know how to leverage those relationships as effectively as possible. While there may be variations across departments and organizations, project managers are also used to dealing with PMOs and can ensure that those relationships are productive and mutually beneficial. However, when project managers have to work with program managers, there is often less experience to rely on. Relationships have to be built “on the fly”--and that can be problematic.

Even if a project manager has worked on a program in the past, the inconsistent approach to formal program management that many organizations have in place is likely to mean that the program element was little more than an additional level of reporting and governance. If a program manager was appointed to a previous initiative, the lack of consistent program management approaches in most organizations will likely mean that there is no ability to leverage that previous experience on the current program. So how do project and program managers ensure that they work together effectively? That’s what I want to look at in this article.

Understand roles and interactions
When relationships experience difficulties, the problems are often caused by misunderstandings--so the first step is always to ensure …

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There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.

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