Program Management Fundamentals

Program management has become a core discipline of today's information-era businesses.  It is the system by which a business gains leverage; the compounding effect of efficiencies and control of project work that would otherwise be unavailable by managing projects independently.

Whether running a small business, or a global multinational, program management—by way of its assorted utilities—is the universal system that a business' managers use to plan, prioritize, coordinate, control, and depend upon to make sound strategic and tactical decisions.

Like any specialty skill, the project and program management disciplines have been developed, refined, and even made scientific.  There are tools, techniques, skills, and sub-specialties of all sorts (such as PRINCE2, Six Sigma, and Agile to name a few).  But, for those stepping into a program management role or for businesses wanting to advance their program management competence, knowing where to focus can be an overwhelming undertaking.

The role of the program manager is of critical importance to today’s business.  It is through their effort and ability that a business develops and advances its capability to do more and better work, month over month and product/service release over release.  Before delving into Gantt charts, work breakdown structures, phases, swim lanes, and all the other techniques of surgical precision for project planning, it is important to understand and align with the strategic function of a program manager, which is to drive results by doing the following:

Plan the Path

  • Identify and account for as many variables and challenges as is realistic given project scope, quality, and time constraints.

  • Set up the transition from plan to execution.

  • Set expectations.

Survey the Path

  • Monitor progress of actual progress/performance against the plan.

  • Account for shifting project inputs and business environment variables once projects are underway.

  • Communicate across stakeholders and continually set and adjust expectations.

Course Correct

  • Coordinate project plan adjustments to ensure effective execution.

  • Communicate necessary changes and reset expectations as needed.

  • Overcome roadblocks and challenges.


  • Produce the result communicated and expected.

  • Learn from the overall process and prepare to implement improvements in the next program.