Program Management Course

Friday January 04, 2019

I am teaching a new course this spring at Central Michigan University. This course, MSA 607 - Program Management in Complex Organizations, expands on traditional project management. The goal here is to understand how, in larger organizations, projects relate to each other and the organization itself.

The Project Management Institute, the de facto standard bearer for project management, provides three tiers of organization. Stealing a bit from their online lexicon, we can understand those levels better. First, a project is a “temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service, or result.” Temporary is a key element, as projects are frequently defined as having a start date and an end date. I tell my project management students that the course is a project and I usually use a kanban board to management my class.

Up a level is the program, a set of “[r]elated projects, subsidiary programs, and program activities managed in a coordinated manner to obtain benefits not available from managing them individually.” The program collects the projects together. For instance, there may be a program to put together a new website. One project may focus on aesthetic design and another on content. Those two projects are related, but probably would be better off managed separately. This is the level of MSA 607.

The highest level is the portfolio, “[p]rojects, programs, subsidiary portfolios, and operations managed as a group to achieve strategic objectives.” Portfolio management is the strategic-level connection among these various things. An IT director will be a portfolio manager, having a program for the website, one for the ERP system, one for the CRM system, and so on. All of the bits and pieces of IT come together to move the organization forward, and the portfolio is designed to capture that holistic view.

Together, these concepts make it easier to manage large and complex organizations and this is why we want to understand the relationships better. MSA 607’s goals and objectives state that at the end of the course, a student should be able to:

  1. Dissect the elements of the project management process in complex organizations.
  2. Determine strategies for program alignment and meeting objectives.
  3. Propose strategies for deliverables management.
  4. Deduce strategies for working with sponsors and shareholders including communication and conflict resolution.
  5. Perceive risks and challenges in each phase of multiple project management.
  6. Develop a startup plan and roadmap for managing programs.
  7. Plan program scope, understand risks and challenges.
  8. Incorporate the key elements of planning processes and tools in an organization’s strategic goals.
  9. Propose strategies for managing organizational change and recovering troubled projects.
  10. Evaluate methods of accessing performance.
  11. Recommend strategies for status tracking and documentation.

I am looking forward to teaching this new and exciting class. You can read the full syllabus on my management teaching page.