Program Management Without Authority: How to Be a Successful Type 2 PM

Greg is a Program Manager for Citibank's Global Program Management Office and a current Doctor of Business Administration student at the University of Florida.

I know there have been multiple articles addressing working as a program or project manager when you lack authority. Many of them focus on communication, team building or management style. These are all effective strategies for compensating in environments, but at the end of the day, the one critical element I believe is the most powerful is your ability to achieve influence.

As a current program manager, I have often heard the phrase “credible challenge.” I have heard that phrase used when referring to programs where a program manager has no authority within the program and is likely being used to offer some sort of psychological benefit.

Depending on your industry, expertise or job description, you may or may not be familiar with continually operating in an environment where the teams you support feel no real obligation to report to you without clear and direct guidance from the program sponsor or director. In situations like these, you must show the value you bring to a program in order to get buy-in from other team members. Just because you have been assigned as the PM, don’t assume you have already achieved a legitimate position within a team. I have seen program managers get assigned with no authority; they become nothing more than a spreadsheet manager and a reports writer.

Program managers leading programs or projects where they yield no …

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"It is better to deserve honors and not have them than to have them and not to deserve them."

- Mark Twain