I work for a very large organization not in the PM role that has historically had problems with project leadership and project management in general. They have recently broken up and were reformed as now a Program Management Office (which I don't really know or understand the difference). The impression from my colleagues is that this is merely an abstraction away from real project management so that they won't have to be directly responsible for future project failures.
Our interaction with this group is generally that they coordinate BA, Dev and QA resources to hit arbitrary dates as laid out on a Gantt chart that they generate. Developers are never really asked for estimates by PM's but we are asked early in project initiation for a "rough guess" on level of effort, but even then the dates that appear on the Gantt chart don't seem to correlate with any numbers we provide. We track hours that are put towards a project, but we do not track project resource availability in any system. For all intents and purposes the dates on the Gantt chart appear to be arbitrary.
When I asked about this in a meeting I was told that resource availability is just not possible, but upper management insists that we all work towards a hard date as a goal, and that everybody should view these dates as merely goals to try and achieve. That is all well and good but our direct managers ask us for real estimates after the fact and then a date that originally started as merely a "goal" is now an unbending unmoving high pressure deadline by our direct managers. The presence of the PM sort of disappears later in the project.
My original thought on the purpose of the Gantt chart is to demonstrate resource availability and visualizing the Critical Path. Wouldn't predetermined dates minimize the real value or usefulness of a Gantt chart? Is this concept of pre determined dates on a Gantt chart a common paradigm for the field of Program Management?