The views expressed in this article are strictly those of Max Wideman.
The contents of the book under review are the copyright property of the author.
Published here May 2016

Introduction | Book Structure | What We Liked
Downside | Summary

What We Liked

We really liked the idea of introducing the contents through an Executive Summary that succinctly reflects the contents of each Part and in each Chapter of the book. This enables the reader to quickly grasp both the structure of the book and the philosophy of the author concerning Program Management. That is, in terms of how Program Management has evolved in recent years, what it is, how it should be applied, the benefits to be expected, and how it may be implemented through appropriate projects in an organization.

For example, here are some excerpts:[10]

"This chapter [chapter 1] will interest both managers and practitioners since it defines what a program is in relation to other similar methods and explains why program management is ideally suited to realize strategic decisions."


"Program Management could be labeled as: The governance and harmonized management of a number of projects and other actions to achieve targeted benefits and create value for the program sponsors in the short term, change recipients in the mid-term and the organization in the long term."


"Programs can be 'deliberate', driven by strategy, or 'ad hoc', a convenient grouping of existing projects."


"The second section of the chapter [chapter 3] will clarify why simply transferring project management tools and techniques to the program level does not work ..."

Project managers, guideline and standards developers please note! So, on the contrary:[14]

"Five 'functions' can be identified as essential to the practice of program management. They are: decision management, [program] governance, stakeholder engagement, change management and benefits management."


"Decision management is a new area of development that requires both a learning cycle, the actual decision-making process, and a performance cycle, the decision realization process. Managers will understand that decision-making is not just about tools, but about making the right choices, based on objectives that have been agreed and can be measured."

For those in any doubt, Michel makes it clear that there is now general agreement amongst standards representatives on the focus and purpose of projects, programs and portfolios. They may be distinguished as follows:[16], [17]

"Projects generally deliver outputs: a single product or service ... Programs deliver outcomes:[18] sets of capabilities which, together, produce benefits[19] ... Portfolios can cover two areas: the organization's projects or its whole investment portfolio ..."

"Outcomes" are clearly more suited to programs than projects, because inevitably more stakeholders are involved who can best be served by a number of separate projects.

In program management, benefits are tangible improvements that contribute to the overall value of the organization or have a positive social impact. To be quite clear, according to author, Michel Thiry, Program Management has the responsibility for delivery, or at least ensuring the delivery, of benefits to the organization, since "Benefits realization is the fundamental purpose of program management."[20] Michel's model of program management is shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Michel Thiry's view of "Realizing Business Value"
Figure 1: Michel Thiry's view of "Realizing Business Value"
Structure  Book Structure

10. Ibid p4
11. Ibid
12. Ibid, p5
13. Ibid
14. Ibid
15. Ibid p6
16. Ibid, P. 31-32
17. Table 2.1 on page 32 provides a valuable and detailed comparison between projects, programs and portfolios by comparing the separate areas of "Scope, Change, Success, Leadership, Role, responsibility, Main Tasks and Control."
18. Note the subtle difference between "outputs" and "outcomes". Outputs are deliverables or assets that are tangible benefits by nature, whereas "outcomes" are the consequence of delivering benefits through the proper use of those assets.
19. Ibid p111: Note that in program management, benefits are measurable improvements that contribute to the overall value of the organization or have a positive social impact.
20. Ibid, 114
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