In his book "Drive", researcher Daniel Pink cites research proving that people do their best when working autonomously. Pink demonstrates how this claim has been proven in fields as varied as education, research and athletics. However, the autonomous worker can still benefit from program management, the metaphorical hand on the steering wheel of the team.
Although autonomy can generate efficiency in some workers, others require strong leadership to keep a program running. Supervision can mean organizing teams, keeping workers on task, and monitoring results to identify areas for improvement.
Many individuals working together toward one goal can mean getting there faster. It can also mean redundancy, misunderstood instructions and other examples of people getting in each other's way. A program manager understands the larger picture and can point individual contributors in the right direction. The best program managers understand the strengths and weaknesses of each team member, the better to assign each to the most appropriate role.
Program management includes handling resources other than human team members. Understanding the financial needs and money available to a program can be the key to a program 's success. Time and effort require budgeting just as much as money. A program manager also tracks jobs that need be done in order to assign the right people to the task.
Proper project management can also help fund the project. When seeking funding, whether in the form of charitable donations, corporate resources or venture capital, the fund raiser must understand the project enough to sell it. A good project manager will have the necessary details ready to hand, along with accompanying numbers for support.
Similar to supervision, accountability is a force that drives many workers, including those with significant autonomy. Whereas supervision manages how people work, accountability considers the results of that work. People acting alone often have trouble reaching specific results on deadline. A manager or a management system can motivate workers to stay on time and on target.
At the executive level, program managers play an important role in staying on top of multiple projects. An individual responsible for the success of multiple departments will assign a program manager to take charge of each one. The program manager is responsible for the operations of his program through coaching, advising and providing accountability for the manager. The executive may well apply his own program management strategies while managing his managers.