Program Managers have two primary roles - managing the business associated with the program, and leading the program team to success. The program strike zone is a key tool for managing the business aspects of a program. It is utilized to identify the critical business success factors of a program, to help the organization track progress toward achievement of the key business results, and to set the boundaries within which a program team can successfully operate without direct management involvement.
As shown in the figure above, elements of the program strike zone include the critical business success factors for the program, target and control (threshold) limits, and high-level status indicator. The thresholds serve as the dividing lines between program team empowerment and executive management intervention. A green indication signifies progress is as planned, yellow indicates a heads up to management of a potential problem, and red requires senior management intervention to proceed.
Managing a program is like having a rocket strapped to your back with roller skates on your feet; there is no mechanism for stopping when you're in trouble. The program strike zone is such a mechanism that is designed to to stop a program, either temporarily or permanently, if the business success criteria for a program are compromised.
The program strike zone is also a powerful tool for senior managers, They can set the boundary conditions for a specific program tighter for an inexperienced team or a program characterized by a considerable degree of risk. On the other hand if, if senior managers have confidence in an inexperienced program manager and team that possesses a consistent track record of success, they may set the boundary conditions with a wider margin in order to provide the team a greater degree of flexibility to move more rapidly to improve time to market.