Leadership in Program Management
It is crucial to understand that the leadership style for program manage-
ment will quite oen dier from the style a CEO or project manager may
use. A program manager is responsible for a long-term vision leveraging
many projects that together achieve a set of benets not possible from a
single project. erefore the program manager must have plans for start-
ing new projects, transitioning projects to operational teams, managing
a longer-term budget, and accepting the responsibility of communicat-
ing with all stakeholders from every project as well as those specically
focused on the program. Additionally, the program manager must con-
stantly ensure that the benets of the program are understood by and
communicated to all, and identify when these benets are achieved. And
whereas a project will oen last only six to nine months, a program may
very well be a multiyear event that has an ongoing impact on stakeholders
with intermittent benets being realized.
One of my favorite programs was the conversion of a very busy road into a
freeway. e program manager assigned had over een intersections that
needed to be converted from stoplights to overpasses. e long-term ben-
ets were simple: trac would move faster and decrease commuting time
for the average person, and speeds would be raised from thirty-ve miles
per hour to y-ve miles per hour as the road was converted to a freeway.
e stakeholder community for this program was the millions who
used this road every day, the government agencies who were paying for
the eort, and the contractors hired to build the overpasses. e budget
was established based on both the cost of the overpasses and the cost of
communicating with such a wide base of stakeholders.
Initially, the program manager built a website to communicate the
long-term vision, demonstrate the current delays in hours/minutes to tra-
verse the road at various times, and display the schedule for conversion of
120 • Program Management Leadership
intersections. In this website he warned that the impact to the average com-
muter would be kept to a minimum as he had requested all bridge work to
be done in the evenings, but he also consistently reminded the commuters
of the long-term advantages and schedules for each intersection.
As the program progressed, the website was consistently updated with
progress as well as any delays encountered and the strategies in play to
overcome the delays. e road was depicted in red, yellow, and green based
on the trac patterns, and through the real-time use of cameras was accu-
rately depicting travel time. As each intersection was completed, the web-
site was updated with celebratory information, a ribbon-cutting event took
place, local newspapers were informed, and town hall meetings were held.
What should have been a truly painful program with constant complaints
by average commuters had turned into a very successful eort that main-
tained ongoing communication and celebrated success. At the completion
of the eort, the cost overruns were minimal because the program had
been so successful with the stakeholder community that it overwhelmed
the government with letters of congratulations and positive feedback.
Imagine celebrating road construction—not a very common outcome.
You have just been assigned as a program manager for a new privately
owned cellular rm. Your program will aect many, if not all, aspects of
the rm and will require interaction from all departments such as nance,
legal, human resources, investments, sales, and information technology.
e program will be to develop, test, market, and sell a new product for
Although you interviewed with the CEO, CFO, COO, CTO, and board
of directors, you have not yet met with the individual project managers
or the teams that will work on the delivery of the new product. e CEO
informs you that you have absolute discretion over the team and that he
personally knew of a number of resources that had outlived their useful-
ness at the rm. He grants you the right to terminate sta on an as needed
basis. In addition, he expresses his desire to retire from the rm once they
have become protable again.
e CFO explains that the budget has to be constrained because the
rm has been rapidly losing market share and is heading toward becoming