Strategic Alignment

10 Useful Tips for Program Managers, Be You Old or New

The role of program managers is important and can be rewarding if they do it well. It has its fair share of challenges, so you require to follow certain standards to mitigate them. In this article at the Balance Careers, Elizabeth Harrin discusses 10 useful tips for program managers, be they old or new.

How Program Managers Could Ace the Job

Program managers are often confused with project managers. There are a lot of misconceptions around the job of program managers that people somehow forget to clarify. In the process, they feel obliged to do those tasks. Following are some useful tips for all program managers:

  1. Not Exactly Project Management: Project management is about work management, task delegation, resource allocation, monitoring procedures, and enabling timely deliveries. Program management has a broader spectrum. Program managers manage more than one project simultaneously. All the projects together form a program that the organization expects to get some value from.
  2. Expecting the Unexpected: Program managers usually have a high-level vision statement at the project initiation phase. The direction and the product evolve as you move along.
  3. Avoiding Burnout: Programs can extend and seem endless, so program managers should not expect teams to have top productivity every day. Disperse the high-priority deliverables with the low-priority ones to give some breathing space.
  4. Managing Speed of Work: When programs stretch over multiple years, the speed of deliverables can waver. However, program managers must ensure they prioritize the high-value deliverables to showcase tangible outputs to clients. Shorter deliveries with high success rates keep team motivation stable.
  5. Training to Succeed: Programs can make organizations market pioneers with their innovative projects. However, your resources might lack skills in newer technologies and technical languages. Hire where you need and train existing professionals whenever possible.
  6. More Complicated Governance: Governance is more taxing for program managers as programs are expected to transform businesses. You must deal with higher level managers and steering committee to effect changes.
  7. Difficulty in Planning: While project managers work out a plan based on their projects, program managers must plan for all the projects. You must identify project interdependencies like overlapping resources. Use tools like Gantt chart to track projects in real-time.
  8. Detailed Planning Is Not a Job Requirement: Let project managers do the detailed planning of their projects. Keep high-level visibility of all the projects through dedicated tools. It should be enough for you to identify challenges that could impact the program’s progress.
  9. Delegating Tasks: Program managers usually have a team of project managers and a program management office under them. Distribute responsibilities and have backups or substitutes for seamless program management activities.
  10. Managing Difficult Stakeholders: You would be dealing with several stakeholders and some of them are going to be difficult. Try to even out and mitigate disruptions when you see a possibility brewing up.

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