Mentor Relationships


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Program process strategy is not about taking boilerplate plan, process, and structure templates and implementing them. It is about understanding the organizational context and making conscious decisions about what processes (detail, depth, breadth) are required in that context on the basis of the program goals.

Our Guide to Executing the Keys of Program Process Strategy:

Part 1 of 6: Creating Program Culture
Part 2 of 6: How Mentoring Relationships Will Be Established
Part 3 of 6: How Project Managers Are Assigned
Part 4 of 6: How Project Management Administrative Functions Are Assigned
Part 5 of 6: How to Grow Organizational Capabilities by Increasing the Capabilities of Project Managers
Part 6 or 6: How to Balance Process and People

Part 2 of 6: How Mentoring Relationships Will Be Established

It is easy for program managers to be consumed with the urgent and the tactical. However, at the program level, you also need to devote significant time to the strategic. That is, every program manager has to develop strategies for the business growth and health of his or her program. The strategies we are discussing are for the program’s internal stability and strength. The decisions that follow the strategies should not be characterized by mere chance.

Mentoring is a process that requires a conscious decision on the part of the program manager and should not be left to chance. Mentoring works well when it is appropriately tied to the evaluation system or performance goals for project managers. If people are not being assessed, graded, or rewarded for mentoring, you cannot expect mentoring to occur. Therefore, establish mentoring agreements. An astute program manager knows who is mentoring each one of his or her project managers and key staff personnel.

Clearly define the relationship agreement between the mentor and the mentee. People often mistakenly assume that the mentor serves as the advisor for everything. Although there is nothing inherently wrong with this assumption, often people need mentors (and people can serve as mentors) only for very specific purposes. For example, a senior project manager may serve as a mentor for managing risks to several junior-level project managers. Their mentoring relationship may or may not include more than this, but the topic of managing risks is defined in the mentoring agreement. Conversely, a junior-level or new project manager may serve as the mentor for a senior project manager on a new software application. The point here is that no one is perfect and everyone should have the opportunity to learn from others.

It is up to the program manager to jump-start and facilitate the mentoring process. You maximize the mentoring relationship when you have a mentoring process in place and give it some focus. Be sure that all the mentors are rewarded and recognized. Whenever you are documenting performance, writing award nominations, or justifying a promotion, include a sentence or two on the mentoring the individual has accomplished to reinforce this behavior.

Mentoring relationships can cross organizational boundaries, and a program manager does not have to limit his or her selection of mentors to the program if wider opportunities are available. If the organization has several program managers, establish agreements to have other program managers mentor your project managers, and you in turn can mentor one or more of theirs.

Mentoring fosters teamwork through the establishment of more and stronger relationship bonds. The consequences of not having a strategy for mentoring are significant and include slow growth—or lack of growth—of organizational capability. An experienced program manager knows that the answer is not more people but more capable people. Mentoring increases the capability of the entire program.

Once your team has decided on their plan and process, PPM software can help you execute that process. WorkOtter helps you successfully execute your program process strategy for project success. Get a demo of WorkOtter and see how we can make your program management effective.

“The Handbook of Program Management: How to Facilitate Project Success with Optimal Program Management, Second Edition” by James T. Brown is a copyrighted work of McGraw-Hill and McGraw-Hill reserves all rights in and to the Content. ©2014 by McGraw-Hill Education. Purchase the book on Amazon.