Project Manager Assignment


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 3 of 6: How Project Managers Are Assigned

Traditionally, project managers are assigned to a project and are expected to oversee that project from beginning to end. There is nothing wrong with tradition, and this method of assigning project managers does have its advantages, such as continuity and strength of relationships with stakeholders. However, since there are other ways to assign project managers, the program manager must think strategically and pick a method that provides the program with the most benefit from a short- and long-term perspective.

A powerful strategy that is often overlooked is to assign project managers by project phase. In other words, the most senior personnel can be used to kick off the project to ensure a good beginning. Once the requirements are established and baselined, a transition can occur to a more junior project manager capable of maintaining control for a project that has had a good start. This transition has to be formal, with a sign-off among the two project managers. The stakeholders must also be prepared for the transition and may be included in the transition process. Once the transition is complete, the junior project manager may run the project until it is ready to close. Then a switch can be made to a project manager who is more skilled or who specializes in closing projects.

Closing out a project is vital. An experienced program manager should recognize that the skills required to start and organize a project (herd and manage stakeholders) are different from the skills required to manage an established project and the skills needed to close a project.

This phased approach to assigning projects helps the program manager maximize the use of his or her most highly and/or uniquely skilled project managers. Additionally, because of these different skill sets, some project managers have a natural affinity and ability for starting projects and excel at it.

You can take this method of assigning project managers a step further when outsourcing or when global operations are concerned. Depending on the experience balance, an outsourced project manager may serve as the most experienced project manager and can start the project. In the case of global operations, to ensure consistency in operations in different locations, a subset of project managers may start all projects.

In assigning project managers, think about and have a strategy for backing up the project manager. Often organizations without backup personnel suffer serious consequences when a key person leaves the organization, is reassigned, or gets sick. It is not a question of whether you need backup personnel but of when you will need them. In the likely event that backup personnel cannot be assigned, the program manager must insist and make sure that there is adequate documentation for all projects. Additionally, establishing a formal peer review process in which every project manager has an assigned peer within the program and periodically (weekly or monthly or at major milestones) the peer must be individually briefed on the status of the project can minimize the impact when a project manager is lost. Now someone else in the organization is at least familiar with the intimate details of the project.

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.