Often, Program Managers expect that each of the team members understands the inputs and outputs to their process and who they are handing off to as the downstream process. Even though that is a logical assumption, it simply doesn’t work that way. If everybody knew what they needed to do, for whom and by when, there would be no need for Program Managers. Yes, the existence of Program Managers has permitted cross functional team members to turn off their brain to the cross functional interaction, in some cases. Such is the nature of the profession. Program Managers must embrace this reality, set reasonable expectations and facilitate the “white space” between the obvious tasks.
There is only one way that all of this happens successfully: If the organization holds Program Managers accountable for outcomes rather than tracking and reporting, which often takes on the appearance of tattle-tailing without accountability. Program Managers must be given the authority that matches their accountability. They must also identify all gaps and expect tools, training and resources to be provided by the organization as they identified as necessary to execute the program. With that as the backstop, the qualified Program Manager can use “soft skills”, the courage to decide, the wisdom to prioritize and the respect for the critical path to lead a cross functional team to the finish line. So, it is important to understand that Program Management is not a passive score keeping role. It is someone who leads from the front with the respect of a team that is desperate to be led.