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External factors affecting leadership

Stakeholder community

Regardless of the group or individual, a program manager will spend a great deal of time and effort working with external factors taking him or her away from managing the program itself. As mentioned in previous chapters, the creation of a high-performing team requires that the team feel comfortable communicating, innovating, and working with positive conflict resolution strategies. The program and project managers of an effort create this environment and to be truly effective, run interference for any external influences that can hurt the team environment.

Programs have benefits that once realized will affect a community of stakeholders. While a program is made up of projects and non-project-related work, each effort has a specific set of stakeholders affected. Not all projects will have the same individuals in their stakeholder community though there very well might be overlap. However, the program manager is responsible for all stakeholders affected by the program itself. Communication with all stakeholders with a clear, concise message and ensuring that there are open channels for communication is a key success factor for any program. Stakeholders must be aware, and often reminded, of the benefits, the program will deliver as well as potential issues that may arise as the effort progresses. They are also a great source for identifying potential risks and ensuring that expectations are set avoiding issues down the road.

The program manager is responsible for maintaining the open channels of communication but also protecting the team from interference wherever possible. While scope creep is a realistic expectation, every request will not be approved for the program and quite often debates will take place as to cost versus benefit for new asks. An effective program manager will work with these stakeholders and their project managers to handle all of the external influence until the point that the issues or requests are approved for the program. The successful manager will keep their team in the loop on these discussions but will not allow the external negotiations and communications to detract from the team’s effort. Instead, the team needs to be protected to a point where their focus can be maintained and their progress uninterrupted. Negatives from either the stakeholder community or the organization itself should not be allowed to affect the team morale or confidence.

Organizational culture and processes

Leadership builds a team but organizational factors can tear it down much quicker than the time it took to build. Quite often program managers will work toward collocating teams, creating a bubble for the team to work within the organization and facilitate an environment of positive and open relationships for team members. If the organization, or client groups, present a less than positive environment the program manager will work to keep those negative factors away from the team ensuring that successful team development and management can be promoted. Therefore, while a team needs open communication with themselves and to understand the stakeholder needs and requirements, the program manager is there to influence those interactions maintaining a positive environment and decreasing the potential for a negative or hostile environment. Furthermore, the most effective programs and projects follow a methodology such as the PMI program and project standards. While an organization may have internal processes that have to be taken into account in the program, a successful program manager will integrate external processes into their established program and project methodology to meet external needs but allow the team to focus on a well-proven approach to managing a project.

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