Pedro Serrador presented yesterday at PMI Global Congress North America on how to become a program manager. There are many career advantages to program management – not least that program managers tend to earn more than project managers. So if you want to move into program management, here are Pedro’s tips.
“A program manager adds more value than just project managers,” said Pedro. He said there are eight principles to being a successful program manager, and shared these from Vincent J. Bilardo, Jr.:
- Establish a clear, compelling vision
- Secure sustained support from the top
- Exercise strong management and leadership
- Facilitate open communication
- Develop a strong organisation
- Manage risk
- Implement effective integration
- Create your own success
Moving to a program manager role requires you to deliver the goods, he said. There might also be a case for upgrading your education, and learning from others. Pedro also said that prospective program managers should put themselves in a position where they can lead and mentor others, and especially learn to delegate appropriately. “Show that you are a leader, not just one of ten project managers in the group,” he added. Look for the opportunities that arrive and take them. Finally, act the role, he explained. “If you want to become a program manager, act like a program manager. Start to structure things like programs.” If you act like a program manager, your manager will see that you are capable of operating at that level.
“Often it is beneficial to move around,” he said, when he spoke about how to land that new program management job. That could mean moving to a new initiative or to a new company. He explained that outside CEO’s earn an average of 13% more than internal candidates. However, they fail 34% of the time, compared with only 24% of internal candidates, so there is something to be said for sticking with what you know. “Moving is riskier,” Pedro said.
Pedro had some tips for what to do when you get that first program, or you choose to structure your existing work as a program (even if you don’t yet have the title):
- Structure sub-projects properly
- Make your project managers run things how you would run them
- Don’t micro-manage
- Get strong business and executive level focus
Pedro also said that senior managers spend more time planning their own time. “You help the projects managers get on the right track and then go on to something else,” he said. Factor that into your daily schedule and take the time to plan your day (and your schedule in general). It might seem like it takes a long time but it will be effective.
“A big part of your role is to let the stakeholders know the importance of your program and you need to be able to push to have obstacles removed,” he said. His final piece of advice was to have a 30 second status summary in meetings in case the executive you are presenting to gets called away. “Know to stop at yes,” he added.