Presenting a Unified PM Front

In a prior post, we introduced the topic of Leading Projects with Multiple Project Managers. It is now time to take this discussion to the next level.

As we do so, it is appropriate to share the definitions (from PMI) of 2 key terms:

  • Project: A temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service or result. Projects are temporary and close-down on the completion of the work they were chartered to deliver.
  • Program: A group of related projects managed in a coordinated manner to obtain benefits not available from managing them individually. 

The first step we addressed in the prior article was ensuring clear roles and responsibilities are defined. What follows are guidelines in this regard as well as approaches to addressing each, all of which are designed to present a unified PM front to our project team and stakeholders.

Note: Program Managers often perform as Project Leader on work streams for which a Project Leader is not assigned.

Let’s now cover strategies and tips that can help to ensure the above guidelines are realized.

Program Leadership Checkpoints

The primary step to take is holding frequent (at least weekly, if not daily) program leadership checkpoints (15-30 minutes max) which consists of ONLY the Program Manager and the respective Project Leaders involved in the program. To be clear, during the early stages of the project, weekly meetings may suffice. As things heat up, especially approaching launch, it will become imperative to hold these leadership checkpoints on a more frequent (up to a daily) basis.

The goals of the meeting include:

  • Coordinating the upcoming day and/or week.
  • Covering key topics (critical updates, new issues, risks or recommendations) requiring project leadership attention and consideration prior to involving the broader team(s).
  • Providing a [safe] sounding board for one-another, relative to matters impacting the program or individual projects.
  • Agree on what information will cascade down from the Program Manager to Project Leader(s), and what information rolls-up from the Project Leader(s) to the Program Manager. For example, information to:
    • Cascade down from the Program Manager to the Project Leader(s) would be top-level milestones to be achieved
    • Roll-up from the Project Leader(s) to the Program Manager would be confirmation of the above milestones and/or identification of issues, risks or potential impacts to those milestones.

General Guidelines

While program leadership checkpoints will go a LONG way towards coordination, no sooner is the meeting over than new items come up, which “may” require immediate attention. This could include: critical updates, new issues, risks and/or recommendations that represent a significant impact to the project. It remains imperative in these situations to consider project leadership as the very first person(s) to reach out to before sharing information more broadly.

Finally, a few points relating to the mind-set we PM’s must have with regards to one-another:

  • Above all, we MUST present a unified front to all stakeholders and audiences. While it can take new teams a bit of time to go through the forming, storming, norming and performing stages, the team must not observe any challenges in and between project leadership.
  • ALWAYS give each other the benefit of the doubt.
  • Demonstrate 100% 1,000% trust.
  • Be vulnerable to one-another. It is ok, none of us are perfect (far from it)!
  • Build each other up as the expert in their respective space and duties.
  • Back each other up, never letting the other fall. And, if they do fall, pick them back up, dust them off and help them get pointed in the right direction.
  • NEVER catch each other off guard.
  • Realize, it is OK to update or correct one-another in a public forum if doing so in a way that clearly demonstrates teamwork (and ALL the guidelines above) vs. being at odds with one-another.
  • There are no absolutes so assume the best, be flexible and courteous!

In summary, we MUST realize that if we are PM’ing a program with multiple project leaders there is more than enough work for everyone. By coordinating our work and behaviors in a way that clearly demonstrates a unified PM front, we’ll have gone a tremendous way in getting and keeping the overall team in alignment.

In closing, if you are looking to improve PM effectiveness in yourself, or organization, feel free to reach out so that we can discuss how I can help.

Click here to return to our topical index of articles on High Performance Project Management.

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