PMI® Switzerland Chapter

Level Up - Transitioning from Project Manager to Program Manager

Level Up - Transitioning from Project Manager to Program Manager

Author: Edul Nakra, PMP

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Speaker: James Greene – founding member and former President of PMI Switzerland

In this very interesting online session James Greene described his journey from Project Management to Program Management, and alonShape, arrowDescription automatically generatedg the way shared key pointers and lessons learned through his experience working in various capacities and industries on this journey.

Project Management has multiple dimensions including planning, organizing, motivating, and controlling resources to achieve specific goals – in a sense more tactical in nature.

When it comes to Program Management things get a bit “fuzzy” – it has a broader scope, a longer term/strategic view, and is not quite as focused. In general, you find yourself working with less information. 

They both however are temporary, have a business case, are business strategy aligned, and deliver organizational change.  

 

James then went on to cover various initiatives he had managed between 2010-2014, including IT Infrastructure, Organizational and Technical integration following a merger, and then a divestiture. 

He highlighted that there are challenges involved when a Project is not a stand-alone one, but rather part of a Program – these include securing resources, resistance to change, parallelization of many activities, and potential cultural differences due to a larger and in many cases global nature of Programs.

When it comes to making the transition from Project Management to Program Management, James mentioned that it was analogous to going from being a pilot sitting in the plane taking the plane from one destination to the next, to being the controller in the control tower – not just responsible for an individual flight but for all the flights at your airport.

It is a different way of looking at things, the tools, and the way of working. In a Program Management role, you find yourself more concerned with change management and dependencies between the projects.

He then went on to providing some advice and things to remember for those looking to make the transition:

  1. You are no longer managing a project – you are managing Project Managers (and not their teams). This requires a different leadership style than managing a Project.
  2. Program planning is more esoteric than project planning. There are a lot of unknowns, and it involves more strategic thinking.
  3. Risk Management needs to be taken to a higher level (these are not the same as project risks), and Change and Quality management becomes much more important given the complexities of having multiple projects running in parallel.
  4. Dependencies need to be managed well, and monitored and controlled effectively.
  5. Clear and concise communications are critical. Communicate up, down and in an efficient manner - listen to people.

Finally, James covered different methods and tools he has used to manage Programs, and presented some Dos and Don’ts for Program Managers:

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 To conclude, James took questions where attendees got the opportunity to draw from his experience, ending an extremely useful and informative session.

 

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