5 Important Planning Tasks for Programs in Matrix Organizations


Matrix organizations with a strong line organization that are conducting programs are having two key players: program and department managers. Both roles are following competing goals. The program manager is focusing on time, budget and quality – the department manager will look for profitability, team management and corporate strategy.

This article will show how to mitigate the risk of failure in program management by giving an overview on the 5 most important tasks for each role. Before looking at the detailed tasks, let’s break the goals down to objectives regarding operative program management:

Important tasks during planning and execution for each role

The program manager needs to focus on schedule planning – the department manager’s main task is to manage the resource in order to deliver results. Let’s get into the details…

Program manager

  1. Create WBS incl. work packages: Ensure that all tasks have been planned, new tasks will be added and no tasks are missing
  2. Plan schedule and dependencies: Add dependencies to work packages, where relevant and needed, schedule tasks to be performed in the correct order
  3. Add slack time: Remember ‘the project schedule is only valid until the project has been started’ – adding slack time will ensure that only a certain phase/part will move and not the entire project
  4. Establish controlling measures: Add deadlines as early warning indicators – if your schedule is moving, this will ensure immediate information and allows pro-active actions
  5. Add responsible department: Work packages need to be delegated to departments, add responsible department and inform its manager, stick with the highlander principal (only one assignment per work package)

Department manager

  1. Task over tasks: Get information on a task dedicated for own department, add task to department planning, confirm (or discuss) requested planning information, if required detail the single tasks into multiple sub-tasks and create dependencies
  2. Add resources to the tasks: Perform resource planning, add responsible personnel to the tasks who will deliver results
  3. Perform capacity planning: Look at each resource’s capacity, beware of vacations, bank holidays, absence in general, day-to-day activities, and of course planning uncertainty
  4. Resolve resource conflicts: Search for over-allocation, resolve conflicts by extending task durations, adding more resources, changing scope, etc.
  5. Give feedback to program: Double-check the outcome of resource planning and the resulting timeline, give feedback to the program

If each role is following these top 5 tasks, be sure that you are mitigating a full set of risks and pitfalls you otherwise might run into.

Key success factor is the information exchange between both roles. Beware of this very crucial factor – if no communication is performed, you’ll face two independent planning platforms, each telling its own story.

What’s next: Let’s slip into the role of a program planner and look how to managing and control the program.

Ingo Meironke, PMP – Manager at Campana & Schott@meiroTweet