The Program Way


The Connected Future Business Culture:

The Great Project Management Accelerator



By Dr. Harold Kerzner

Senior Executive for Project Management
The International Institute for Learning (IIL)
New York and Florida, USA


Dr. Al Zeitoun, PgMP, PMI Fellow

Global Future of Work Executive
Siemens DISW
Ohio and Maryland USA


A program is generally defined as a grouping of projects that can be managed consecutively or concurrently or a combination of both.  There are numerous challenges facing the program manager that quite often make it difficult to achieve all or even part of the strategic goals and objectives established by senior management.  The larger and more complex the program, the more difficult it will be to overcome the challenges.

Many of the challenges are common to both projects and programs.  However, the risks due to the challenges may have a much greater impact on programs than projects.  When projects are challenged, some companies simply let the project fail and the team moves on to their next project assignment.  When programs are challenged, the cost of terminating a program can be quite large and might have a serious impact on the organization’s competitiveness and future success.

Projects generally have a finite time duration.  Most programs, because of their strategic nature and impact on the success of the organization, are much longer in duration and are susceptible to more challenges, risks, and negative impact on the business.

In the early years of project management, most PMs had engineering backgrounds, many with advance degrees in technical disciplines. Project sponsors were assigned from the senior most levels of management, mainly to make all of the necessary business-related and strategic decisions. Many companies did not trust project managers to make business or strategic decisions. Even companies that had programs and program managers, there were still governance personnel assigned to ensure linkages to strategic business objectives.

Project management today is more than just a traditional career path for workers. It is now treated as a strategic competency which means it is one of the 4 or 5 most important career paths in the company in order for the firm to have a viable and successful future. Part of the strategic competency requires that senior management give up the idea that information is power and clearly share strategic information with project managers. Today’s project managers and program managers are managing strategic opportunities for companies and making strategic decisions.  This forms the shift to the Program Way, running project and programs with the proper strategic clarity and full authorization to make the necessary business strategic value decisions, a true business strategist way.

The program business case must articulate the expected benefits and business value. The business case also provides the boundaries for many of the decisions that will have to be made.  The challenge will be in the preparation of a business case such that all program team members clearly understand what is expected of them.

Program management is more closely aligned to strategic decisions than project management activities that focus on traditional projects. As such, over the next decade, we can expect to see a significant growth in the “Program Way” with program managers becoming experts in strategic planning.

Several years ago, IBM wanted all of their project managers to become dual certified: certified by PMI on project management and certified internally by IBM in the use of IBM’s forms, guidelines, templates and checklists for making strategic decisions at IBM. IBM discovered the importance of having their 46,000 PMs qualified and trained in making business decisions on projects and programs.

Other companies have followed IBM’s lead and created internal training and internal certification programs more closely aligned to business strategy. Even without utilizing the words, this expansion of capability building towards business strategy linkages, most certainly confirms that companies have been shifting focus to expand and make use of the “Program Way.”

The Program Way

Program stakeholders are the people that ultimately decide whether a program is successful. There can be significantly more stakeholders on programs than projects.  Failing to meet program stakeholder expectations can result in a significant loss of business.  Given the long-time frame of many programs, managing the changes in stakeholders over the lifecycle of the program and addressing their changing expectations, this Program Way muscle is critical to develop.


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How to cite this paper: Kerzner, H. and Zeitoun, A. (2023). The Program Way, The Great Project Management Accelerator, series article, PM World Journal, Vol. XII, Issue VIII, August. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2023/08/pmwj132-Aug2023-Kerzner-Zeitoun-the-program-way.pdf

About the Authors

Harold Kerzner, Ph.D., MS, M.B.A     

Senior Executive Director for Project Management
International Institute of Learning
New York & Florida, USA


 Dr. Harold Kerzner is Senior Executive Director for Project Management for the International Institute for Learning (IIL). He has an MS and Ph.D. in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering from the University of Illinois and an MBA from Utah State University. He is a prior Air Force Officer and spent several years at Morton-Thiokol in project management. He taught engineering at the University of Illinois and business administration at Utah State University, and for 38 years taught project management at Baldwin-Wallace University. He has published or presented numerous engineering and business papers and has had published more than 60 college textbooks/workbooks on project management, including later editions. Some of his books are (1) Project Management: A Systems Approach to Planning, Scheduling and Controlling; (2) Project Management Metrics, KPIs and Dashboards, (3) Project Management Case Studies, (4) Project Management Best Practices: Achieving Global Excellence, (5) PM 2.0: The Future of Project Management, (6) Using the Project Management Maturity Model, and (7) Innovation Project Management.

He is a charter member of the Northeast Ohio PMI Chapter.

Dr. Kerzner has traveled around the world conducting project management lectures for PMI Chapters and companies in Japan, China, Russia, Brazil, Singapore, Korea, South Africa, Canada, Ireland, Germany, Spain, Belgium, Poland, Croatia, Mexico, Trinidad, Barbados, The Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, Venezuela, Columbia, United Arab Emirates, France, Italy, England, and Switzerland. He delivered a keynote speech at a PMI Global Congress on the future of project management.

His recognitions include:

  • The University of Illinois granted Dr. Kerzner a Distinguished Recent Alumni Award in 1981 for his contributions to the field of project management.
  • Utah State University provided Dr. Kerzner with the 1998 Distinguished Service Award for his contributions to the field of project management.
  • The Northeast Ohio Chapter of the Project Management Institute gives out the Kerzner Award once a year to one project manager in Northeast Ohio that has demonstrated excellence in project management. They also give out a second Kerzner Award for project of the year in Northeast Ohio.
  • The Project Management Institute (National Organization) in cooperation with IIL has initiated the Kerzner International Project Manager of the Year Award given to one project manager yearly anywhere in the world that demonstrated excellence in project management.
  • The Project Management Institute also gives out four scholarships each year in Dr. Kerzner’s name for graduate studies in project management.
  • Baldwin-Wallace University has instituted the Kerzner Distinguished Lecturer Series in project management.
  • The Italian Institute of Project Management presented Dr. Kerzner with the 2019 International ISIPM Award for his contributions to the field of project management.

Dr. Harold Kerzner can be contacted at hkerzner@hotmail.com


Dr. Al Zeitoun, PgMP, PMI Fellow

Global Future of Work Executive
Siemens DISW, Ohio & Maryland USA


Dr. Al Zeitoun is a Future of Work, business optimization, and operational performance excellence thought leader with global experiences in strategy execution. His experiences encompass leading organizations; delivering their Enterprise Digital and Business Transformation; guiding fitting frameworks implementations; and using his empathy, engineering insights, and collaboration strengths to successfully envision new business models and execute complex missions across diverse cultures globally.

In his current role with Siemens, he is a Senior Director of Strategy responsible for driving the global program management practices, Master Plan governance, and enabling the Strategy Transformation processes and priorities.

In his position, as the Executive Director for Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation, Abu Dhabi, UAE, he was responsible for creating the strategy execution framework, achieving transformation benefits, governance excellence, and creating the data analytics discipline necessary for delivering on the $40B complex country energy mission roadmap.

At the McLean, USA HQ of Booz Allen Hamilton, Dr. Zeitoun strategically envisioned and customized digitally enabled EPMO advisory, mapped playbooks, and capability development for clients’ Billions of Dollars strategic initiatives. Furthermore, he led the firm’s Middle East North Africa Portfolio Management and Agile Governance Solutions.

With the International Institute of Learning, Dr. Zeitoun played a senior leader and global trainer and coach. He was instrumental in driving its global expansions, thought leadership, and operational excellence methodology to sense and shape dynamic ways of working across organizations worldwide. He speaks English, Arabic, and German and enjoys good food, travel, and volunteering. Dr. Al Zeitoun can be contacted at  zeitounstrategy@gmail.com