Throughout my career, I’ve had the opportunity to work in various roles. Without a doubt, managing a multi-faceted program is one of the most intense.
Overcoming the challenges that come with managing interdependencies while simultaneously maintaining focus on achieving the business objectives takes more than just tactical skills like project planning, action item tracking, and managing a budget.
The key to success behind managing a portfolio of projects includes 3 key things:
- Building Relationships
- Maintaining Focus
- Driving Program Governance.
1. Building Relationships
The most important aspect of a program’s success is building strong relationships with the customer and internal and extended project teams by exemplifying integrity, trust, and keeping an open channel of communication.
Listen to the customer to better understand business objectives and success criteria to work towards a common goal and achieve the program’s overall objectives.
Schedule frequent one-on-ones with your customer to create a safe space to have a collaborative, honest discussion about program challenges and risks and identify next steps, as partners.
Furthermore, work with the internal team to resolve roadblocks and celebrate program successes together, no matter how small they might seem at the time to keep morale high and the team feeling productive – the program’s execution is reliant on a well-cared-for team.
2. Maintaining Focus
To keep the focus on program objectives, you must first understand what they are.
It consists of asking these questions:
- What are the business objectives the program was commissioned to achieve?
- What is the return on investment for the customer and what does the program mean to the key stakeholders?
- How has success been defined and what does the program team need to deliver for the program to be successful?
A good program manager ensures the best practices are being followed and doesn’t hesitate to ask questions for the understanding of critical project components.
By actively participating in business and requirement discussions, and taking interest in solution design, you will better understand as a program manager how to oversee critical activities and identify key areas of focus to help the team identify the best methods for reaching business goals; not just meet a current need but support the long-term goals across the program.
3. Driving Program Governance
When we hear the word “governance” the first thing that comes to mind is a monthly or quarterly meeting with executive stakeholders to share the progress that has been made since the last meeting.
To avoid the impediment of progress waiting for a governance meeting, regularly scheduled checkpoints with accountable program team members can be scheduled to provide timely oversight on program outcomes, clarify direction when needed and provide alignment on the overall program status communicated to key stakeholders.
These regular checkpoints determine when executive stakeholder engagement is required beyond the standard governance meeting and allows the team to react to program needs quickly and collaboratively to agree on how status should be communicated upward.
Through relationships, focus, and governance, a program manager continuously assesses progress against established business objectives, provides and validates a program’s direction, and works with the program team to execute deliverables to meet the defined success criteria.
The program manager is the link between business strategy and program execution; a leader who works diligently to remove barriers, anticipate problems, focuses on quality, and relies on the program team’s expertise to deliver a successful program.