Every company's unpublished hierarchy

Consider three levels - portfolio, program, and projects/operations (PPPO)

Every company's unpublished hierarchy

Every company has an unpublished operational hierarchy. While the business management world may think of C-Level positions and published org charts, many project managers learn to think in three levels: portfolio, program, and projects/operations (PPPO). Here is how it looks:

  1. Portfolio sets the strategy i.e., what work gets done
  2. Program coordinates project & operations for efficiency
  3. Project completes all specific, time-bound work efforts while operations completes ongoing work efforts that never finish

Here is how it might shake out at a restaurant company, for example:

  1. The portfolio manager e.g., the CEO, decides to build 50 new pizzerias in a new region
  2. Program staff coordinate the rollout of scalable common resources e.g., IT systems, and prevents duplication of effort e.g., multiple contracts for building materials when one will do
  3. Project staff develop individual restaurant sites while operations staff ensure adequate ongoing ingredients and delivery capacity

Because virtually every company includes some combination of portfolios (decisions), programs (coordination), projects (timed efforts), and operations (ongoing efforts), PPPO is an unpublished company hierarchy that exists widely across many organizations.

Available data does not contradict this idea because select LinkedIn job search results on January 5, 2021 showed the farther down the hierarchy, the more jobs were available. This is expected because setting strategy is *always* easier than executing it:

  1. Portfolio jobs: CEO, 23,401 results
  2. Program jobs: Program manager, 110,862 results
  3. Project & Operations jobs: Product manager, 95,070 results; Project manager, 111,227 results; Operations manager, 132,399 results; Product marketing manager, 33,584 results

If the PPPO hierarchy is done well, then every job is equally important. PPPO does define work goals hierarchically - project & operations always work in context of program decisions, and programs always work in context of portfolio decisions - but no level is better than any other. What matters is that all levels can work in harmony towards a common mission and value, in support of excellent customer experiences. That is why it is important for managers at every level to practice servant leadership daily.

No matter where you sit within the PPPO hierarchy - we all do! - today you can make a difference for your customers.

Header photo by Edvard Alexander Rølvaag / Unsplash