Project Portfolio Management

How to Make the Jump from PM to Delivery Lead

Project management careers usually evolve in the direction of greater delivery responsibility. So don’t be surprised if you one day find yourself handling multiple projects at the level of a program manager. Once you’ve progressed to this stage, it is also conceivable that you’ll find yourself handling multiple programs. This is, in a post for Voices on Project Management, what Kevin Korterud calls a “delivery lead.” A delivery lead is not exactly the same as a portfolio manager, but it’s pretty darn close. Here are a few suggestions for handling the transition.

Four Tips for Fitting In

  1. Adopt a “big picture” delivery mindset.
  2. Don’t manage projects; guide them.
  3. Acquire business knowledge.
  4. Manage for business outcomes.

It might sound as if the graduated process from PM to program manager to delivery lead is an act of telescoping into space, and in fact, it is very much a transition to “the bigger picture.”  The switch to strategy dictates that the professional remove themselves from the details of budget, scope, and schedule.

Furthermore, notice that the word “management” drops from the title at the delivery level. That’s because, at this juncture, you’re done being a manager. Think of yourself more as a guide now. Instead of pouring your time and efforts into reacting to hidden risks, you’ll be preventing PMs and program managers from reacting to hidden risks through tools and policies.

In the case of delivery leads, foundational project management knowledge must be balanced with industry knowledge that will be used to help move the organization forward. No longer subject matter experts, they must now communicate with a broader range of stakeholders.

Finally, along with the slew of already stated changes comes a change in established success factors. For the previous roles, it was project outcomes that mattered. Now, it is business outcomes that the professional must fix as their guiding star.

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