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By Denis G.

3 minutes

Programs in Context of the Organisation

Ever wondered how projects and programs sit within the business? Or how everyone within the program is linked to the organisation’s vision? Here is a very simple diagram which attempts to show programs sit within the context of the overall business, and how everyone within the a program should be actively working towards achieving the organisations vision.


This diagram moves from Vision at the top to Projects at the bottom. As we move down through the diagram each circle gets bigger to represent that more people are involved in each stage as we move from Vision to Projects.

At the very top level we have the vision. All organisations must have a vision. The vision should be simple. It simply says what or where the organisation wants to be, but does not state how to get there. It is focussed on the future, provides inspiration, and guidance to strategic planning.

The strategy is simply the plan of action the organisation will take to move towards its vision. Strategy is not the same as tactics. Tactics can be considered the direction of one business unit or product, and strategy can be considered to be how different business units or products are linked. What a business unit does or how a product evolves is a matter of tactics. Whether the business unit or product should exist at all is a matter of strategy.

At the next level we have the Portfolio. Depending on the size of the organisation this could mean a portfolio of business units or a portfolio of products. The portfolio needs to be managed so that all businesses or products within it are working in line with both the strategy and each other. A good portfolio management process will prevent overlaps between business units and products, identify gaps to address, and ensure the businesses/products within the portfolio are working in unison.

Moving down our diagram one further level we get to Programs. Programs are the glue that pulls together different functional units within the business to deliver business benefit. This could be in the form of a successful launch of a new product, an integration of an organisation which has been acquired, or the establishment of a new business unit, amongst others.

Finally we get to projects. Projects are temporary organisations, typically within a single functional unit, setup to produce deliverables within time, quality, and budgetary constraints. Working within projects you will typically find specialists and technicians.

I like this diagram as it gives a good picture of how individuals working within a project team are linked through programs within the portfolio to the strategy and vision of the organisation.

Cite this article

Minute Tools Content Team, Programs in Context of the Organisation, Minute Tools, May, 2009,
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Denis G.

Originally hailing from Dublin, Denis has always been interested in all things business and started EPM in 2009. Before EPM, Denis held a leadership position at Nokia, owned a sports statistics business, and was a member of the PMI's (Project Management Institute’s) Global Executive Council for two years. Denis now spends his days helping others understand complex business topics.

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