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Program Managers, Next Generation

Program Managers: The Next Gen Business Strategists

By Dr. Al Zeitoun
August 29, 2022

A program is generally defined as a grouping of projects that can be managed consecutively or concurrently; or a combination of both. Most programs, because of their strategic nature and impact on the success of the organization, are much longer in duration and are susceptible to more challenges, risks, and a possible negative impact on the business.

Program Managers must have the qualities to handle this increased complexity resulting from the interactions of the many program components and the strategic nature of these initiatives. In the future, Program Managers are going to take on the role of Business Strategists. There are a set of qualities necessary to prepare and polish these leaders in order to develop them to play that maturing role and to create the impact that we aspire to achieve strategically.

Program Managers: 4 Quality Groupings
  • Focus Qualities: The line-of-sight establishment and its continual refreshing is critical for ensuring teams – and teams of teams – are always able to prioritize and turn their attention to what strategically matters. This is the critical thread between value and the outcomes of the program and its components.

  • Forecasting Qualities: The importance of this centers around the use of data, coupled with mature risk management practices to foresee opportunities and obstacles, while building the proactive culture needed for the success of strategic programs.

  • Systems Qualities: This future strategist has a strong holistic view and can create the right distance necessary to see all the elements of a given system end-to-end. Programs are complex systems of processes, components, stakeholders, digital enablers, markets, and a long list of environmental factors. This future leader must have the integrated foresight to tie the elements of the system to correct customer requirements and verification of meaningful program deliverables.

  • Transformational Qualities: Some large programs may clearly drive external or internal strategic changes that could affect business models, ways of working, and behaviors. The transformational leader prepares the organization for the implications of these changes. The change could be disruptive and require the Program Manager to excel in using strong Emotional Intelligence qualities to properly connect and balance humans and technology; and to expedite the achievement of critical transformational results.

Program Managers must continually ensure that program performance is synchronized with the strategic objectives and closely supported by the key stakeholders. This requires continuous and intentional communications on what matters most and the ability to apply objective analyses of resulting consequences.

The current trends in programs and projects indicate that this strategic leader will work very closely with the customer to envision, co-create, and reach a joint definition of an initiative’s success. This future leader has an important task to work with the customer and/or key users of the programs’ outcomes to agree on the fitting value-driven metrics.

Programs are very difficult to manage when there is a lack of alignment or various views of success. Developing and having the Business Strategist (tomorrow’s Program Manager) will facilitate the reestablishment of this alignment. Programs are our strategic vehicles for the crisp focus on a sustainable business value creation, and the Business Strategist will hold the keys.

Consultant and Trainer, International Institute for Learning

In his current role with Siemens DISW, Dr. Zeitoun is responsible for driving the global program management practices, master plan governance, and enable strategy transformation priorities.

Dr. Zeitoun’s prior roles include Executive Director for Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation in Abu Dhabi where he led the transformation of capabilities to support the operational readiness of their $40 billion nuclear power plant across four facilities. He was Senior Transformation Executive & Strategic Portfolio Solutions expert at Booz Allen Hamilton in the U.S, where he envisioned and customized a digitally enabled EPMO to support their billion-dollar strategic initiatives. He also led the firm’s Middle East and North Africa Portfolio Management and Agile Governance Solutions.

Disclaimer: The ideas, views, and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of International Institute for Learning or any entities they represent.

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