Communication is the most important competency for Programme Managers as was stated in the first article of this Levin-Ward Competency series. I would go so far as to say it is the baseline for Programme Management.
From my point of view, the Levin-Ward Competency model is a great model and it really covers the key competencies for programme managers. It can also be applied to many other job roles and functions.
Based on the Levin-Ward Competency Model, the key personal competencies for program mangers are:
- Building Relationships
- Thinking Critically
- Embracing Change
I still agree to the list of the competencies and for me, leading is the next most significant competency in line behind communication. It is especially important in programme management.
To really understand the concept of leading, I would like to point out that leading starts with leading yourself. If you lead yourself well and you are the best example for the project and programme team, this can have a huge impact on the project and the people in your team. It is really important that project managers step up, receive independent feedback about yourself leadership from others, and improve. In fact, leadership is a constant journey in self-understanding and changing what doesn’t work. Adaptability to situations and other people’s styles is also crucial. Typically there is always room for improvement regardless what level you think you are.
One more important point before we delve deeper into the topic of leadership has to do with the overall programme organisation setup. As the Programme Manager you really need to have certain levels of authority; this may include being on the Programme Governance Board. Within the Programme Governance Board, usually a Programme Sponsor is appointed, but if the programme setup is wrong or not given, then your job as a leader gets really tough. One first step as the leader would be to set up the proper structure correctly and clarify roles and responsibilities.
To lead a programme, the Programme Manager is responsible for ensuring that all stake-holders understand the Vision. The Vision or the ultimate outcome should be defined in the initial business case during the definition phase of the project. Here, it is all about setting the direction for the whole team to move towards that vision. Interdependencies from the different projects and programme tasks need to be identified and managed. Making decisions and mapping out regular plans is essential to leading the team.
The Programme Manager is ultimately responsible for delivering the programme and its’ benefits. But any issues, risks, problems and daily troubles will become the Programme Manager’s responsibility if they are not solved on the working level directly. You as the Programme Manager need to establish an efficient system that enables the working level to solve problems and issues to a certain extent on their own so that you aren’t bothered unnecessarily by these obstacles. The working level also needs to know when issues need your input as a programme manager and when the issues do not need your input. This frees up the programme manager to tackle those issues significant to them.
Additionally a fully updated cash flow is of the essence to run a programme. If there is not enough money to pay contractors or if there are late payment to contractors, the contractors may stop work (rightfully so) and it can create huge repercussions to the entire programme. Programmes have the nature of having a chain-reaction built in. There are so many links between activities from different contractors that late payment either for urgent materials or labour might trigger such a chain-reaction. These risks are usually identified during the risk analysis at the beginning of the project and during risk management. However, the dynamics of the programme might introduce new interdependencies, which needs very close monitoring, and controlling on a weekly basis.
As a leader, you need to have a “getting the job done” attitude. Ideally you will be able to delegate most of the work to the project managers and the project team so you can monitor and control the project to ensure it is delivered on time. As a leader it is required to follow-up on a daily basis with all the key stakeholders and to sort out issues and make smart decisions in order to move forward.
Leadership is a huge topic, too big to list everything in one blog. Hence, as a project or programme manager, I highly recommend you continue reading and learning. Many project managers claim that they don’t have the time to continue expanding their mental horizons, but if you think of it as an investment in yourself, then you will find and make time to learn more and to become better and better at what you do. It may even save you time and money in the future! So get to reading!