Just like Tom Smykowski throwing up his hands and screaming, “I’m a people person!” after failing to succinctly define his job to the ‘two Bobs’ in the movie “Office Space” so has Project and Program Management become a catch-all name. The perception of it has become diluted, far from the dynamic and forward pushing discipline that it is meant to be. The Project Management Institute (PMI) defines Project Management as, “the application of knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to a broad range of activities to meet the requirements of a particular project." This definition is good but underestimates the dynamics of leadership that the project manager (PM) can offer within, as well as outside of, the project’s day-to-day management.
In today’s fast-paced work, PMs must be able to help lead the definition of the project, the requirements needed for that project and the methodology used to manage it. A project manager is not a person ticking off tasks in a project plan but a leader that is driven to optimize what the stakeholder(s) wants, achieve a successful outcome, and do so efficiently. Today’s PM is consultative, managerial, a driver, and a governance facilitator.
Consultative – Although Program and Project Management are two distinct disciplines, the one trait they share is the provision of consulting early in the genesis of a project or program. In fact, in the Project Management Journal article, “Stakeholder Dynamics During the Project Front-End: The Case of Nuclear Waste Repository Projects” the authors found a tangible positive effect between early interaction with the stakeholders and the success of the project. Whether it is defining the scope, timeline, budget or what project methodology to use, engaging a PM into the planning phase can ensure that the project or program is set up to succeed. An engaged PM can use the breath of their experience, results of past projects, and best-in-class industry insight to best advise how a project should be setup and managed.
A consultative PM is not there just to check boxes and run meetings. They engage and deliberate with the stakeholder(s) about the business goals of the planned initiative, facilitate the gathering of actionable requirements, and determine the crucial inputs that are the needed to deliver desired outcomes. A consultative PM advises the organization to improve the way the project/program is run in order to influence the cost, time, and scope factors which will result in success.
Managerial – A PM’s leadership capabilities provide the client project sponsor and stakeholders with a proxy member of their management team who has the commitment and accountability to lead the project to success. The PM provides line management skills to ensure that business goals are met and exceeded: setting the pace of work, leading by example, staying in close alignment with stakeholders, and providing insight as to the status of the project/program through reporting.
Driver – The PM is a driver of the business vision of the initiative which they are managing. They guide project activities toward the overall business goal of the stakeholders and prioritize requirements in order to achieve them. This does not involve constant statusing of project team members about meeting their milestone, sprint or deployment dates. Rather, it involves engaging their team, removing roadblocks, and setting expectations.
Governance Facilitator - Client initiatives typically involve a diverse set of stakeholders. A key value which the PM provides is to facilitate decision-making among stakeholders with various perspectives and opinions. Creation of a forum for consensus decision-making is key to establishing a common, achievable goal for the project. Facilitating a governance dialog during changes to project scope, budget, and schedule allow the project to stay aligned with stakeholder expectations and meet business goals.
In summary, these four aspects of Program and Project Management defined help demonstrate their value to client stakeholders by assuring that the vision of change, enhancement, and new functionality is successfully deployed and the business goals are met.