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Does Sr. Management need to know? Program vs Project Management

One of my favorite topics in organizational management is organizational structure and it seems little do people realize that organizational hierarchy/structural planning are key valuable components that are inter-linked with the functions of strategic planning and implementation along with the over arching  vision, mission, purposes and goals of an organization. In practice however we see many organizations creating titles and roles on the fly or whim or by the seat of their pants in decision making. I heard once that in a organization that the President had a bright idea of expanding the senior management positions to 12 Vice Presidents (on the fly) out of nowhere, a decision from the hip without knowledge of structures (I am sure he as some knowledge of structure) or following the costing and science behind it.

In relation however at first I want to concentrate on the idea of how program management is different from project management. To outline the differences we first need to know the definition of Project management:

Project management consists activities of  planning, organizing, directing, and controlling of company resources (like time, financial capital, human capital) to achieve a the goals of a project and its implementation for a given period of time and thereafter those resources being dismantled after the project is done.

It is clear from the definition that project management is concerned with allocation, utilization and direction to members on a team to achieve the objectives of the project as lay out in the project charter under the constraints and adherence to budgets, schedules and resources.

However Program management or in the life of the program manager/director the major responsibility is to ensure that the work effort achieves the outcome specified in the organization and the implementation of the IT strategies. Since this blog has a concentration of it in the background I will use the term 'IT strategies'. So the way I see the program manager's roles is like a guy who bridges the vision from senior management and stakeholders and tells the team members and project managers of how to realize or accommodate this vision. The role is not just accommodating, it will mean maintaining and it will mean enhancing. Those Program managers received periodic summary of reports and briefings of funding consumption and have to approve budgets their main concentration if a deviation has occurred from the overall strategic vision.  Though it seems the roles of program management and project management have almost parallel functions of planning, organizing, directing and controlling they are again at different levels in the organizational structure. The program manager job seems to be on going and never ending, the project manager on the other hand has a start date and an end date. Objectives at hand may be more defined whereas for the program manager they are broadly defined.
I took these two examples to work my way up, as you go higher up in the organization structure the definitions, functions, strategizing and envisioning though they become broader, yet the top owner (stakeholders or senior management) not knowing what all the details are for all the activities, should still have the fair idea as to what is entailed in those activities and make change decisions or allow participative decision making that eventually empower him/her in the organization. 


Sam Kurien 


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