Anatomy of an Effective Program Manager

PMI East Tennessee Chapter

Gary is an experienced project and program professional, and an avid contributor and volunteer with the Project Management Institute.

Within many organizations, the discipline of program management is fairly new. In others, there is a struggle to draw the lines of demarcation between project and program management, and therefore the differences between the roles of project manager and program manager are not clearly defined.

Making these distinctions is crucial; although projects and programs function interdependently within an organization, approaches for managing them diverge from one another. Projects are largely autonomous and each has an end goal, the outcome of which does not have a significant influence on other organizational activities.

In contrast, programs fall into the realm of the “big picture” and involve “interrelated projects that somehow have to work in a collaborative way to realize a positive and common outcome.”[1] Program managers, rather than working within a relatively insular project team, must deal with clients and other stakeholders, which requires them to be skilled in the areas of strategy definition, communications and management of those stakeholders. And, almost counterintuitively, program managers must avoid becoming overly involved at the micro level, a distraction that could cause them to lose sight of broader, organization-level goals.

All of that being the case, what qualities define an exceptional program manager? In relatively immature …

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