The Top 10 Program Management Buzzwords

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Let’s face it, Program Managers have a very unique skill set. They are the representatives for the project, they are the pulse of the business and they are eyes of the future. It is a tricky position to hold in a lot of organisations. The role requires effective co-ordination of the projects and management of their inter-dependencies but the program manager may not be responsible for the success of the project. Does this sound familiar and from a program management perspective it is very often like having your hands on the crystal ball but not always seeing what is inside it. What do I mean by this, you have the oversight of any risks and issues arising but it is not necessarily the role of the program manager to resolve but more be a guide.

So as a Program Manager, what do organisations expect from you? Yes, to be the guide to the business, but program management also includes the co-ordination of the new capability for the business to enable effective change and realisation of projected benefits.

In most cases, the program manager will work creating and maintaining focus, enthusiasm and momentum for the business, the steering / governance group and the projects. To effectively manage the governance of the program, there is a need to develop and maintain the environment to support each individual project within it and this is often through an effective program management office.

So, to do this, what do we thing are the Top 10 Program Management Skills of Buzzwords that you need to be successful in the role? Well here we go and as always, this is not a list of the best or worst but a list that can make a difference in the boardroom or meeting environment:

  1. Client Relations: – Program managers are key members of the business management team. They also take other job titles, including key accounts manager and client services manager. Their role is to manage and protect the relationship between the organisation and it’s the clients of the projects.
  2. Coaching: – More and more job specifications that look for the program manager, focus on the role as a coach and the ability to facilitate. Again, this is not the project itself but the ability to get the best out of the project managers and those that surround the program.
  3. Conflict Resolution: – In the day-to-day interactions of virtually anyone in the modern world, there will invariably be conflicts that one needs to contend with. The program world is no different and members working on the same team to achieve the same goal don’t always have ideas that stay in sync. Differences will arise and while most of those can be dealt with easily and professionally, there will be times where team members cannot resolve their problems as quickly as one would have hoped. The program manager needs to be vigilant and aware so they can become the voice of reason and not the voice of contention
  4. Goal Setting: – Setting goals for enterprise-wide initiative requires constant input from key stakeholders, and should be set at the same time the strategic objectives are determined. As a program manager, do try to set numerical targets, whenever possible, quantifying as much as you can. Be careful as the objective is to transfer these gaols to realistic project objectives.
  5. Listening: – This is one of the most challenging interpersonal skills to develop as it is based on been an observer and relationship builder rather than a doer. To be a good listener is wholly different from thinking that you are a good speaker. This is not an easy skill for a program manager, as good listening is more art than skill. It requires to let other people (i.e. project managers) talk and engage and not to interject but to observe and focus on the key points.
  6. Organisational Agility: – This is the way we translate strategy into business success, using a proven project and program based approach. This require a proven program governance to provide a decision-making framework that is logical and structure in way that provides consistency. The program should be in a position to govern project and program investment and provide a proven decision-making framework. In this way, an organisation will have a structured approach to conducting both its business as usual (operational) activities and its temporary (project) activities.
  7. Prioritising: – The effective prioritisation is critical for the program manager to define and understand the program tasks that are vital for the coordination of project completion. Program managers are there to handle multiple initiatives and they need to prioritise based on business drivers, project criticality and client values
  8. Recommendations: – Whether it is change, results or even a capability assessment, the program manager must be able to entertain and provide recommendations of varying degrees to the stakeholder community. Let’s take an example of a change, the program manager is to the fore in understand the impacts but assessing the recommendation or options on how to move forward.
  9. Strategy: – Programs are intended to accomplish a business objective. This requires individuals who can manage the overall vision and execute on a strategic initiative. Project managers execute on parts within a program roadmap. While program managers may or may not have the actual title, they are often considered leaders who are distributed to take on these management roles and responsibilities.
  10. Transferable: – So are the skills of the program management transferable across the organisation and across the businesses. Yes, these are and they have to be as the role of the program management is continually transient

So are these buzzwords or elements of program management? They are most likely both and while they lack any element of technicality, they are certainly driven at program management leadership skills. I wish you well on you program management journey.


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