Top Secret! Successful Program Management In Government

Case Study Review: Milestones To Efficiency and The Factors That Influence Program Success In U.S. Federal Agencies

Formal project and program management has not been as diligently applied in government agencies relative to their counter-parts in private industry. This is alarming, as a large percentage of organizations, both public and private, are unable to deliver their projects successfully — “nearly 56 percent of strategic initiatives meet their original goals and business intent” (PMI, 2015). As a result, organizations are “losing $99 million for every $1 billion invested in projects and programs” (PMI, 2018). That’s roughly 10 cents per dollar spent on a project initiative. This article is aimed at summarizing the case study performed by the Project Management Institute (PMI) in 2015. The full case study can be found here.

Using Organizational Project Management — OPM

Just over a third of government agencies report that they “fully understand the value of project management” (PMI, 2015) and this case study examines three Federal Agencies to demonstrate what “successful Organizational Project Management (OPM) looks like in government” (PMI, 2015) in the:

  • Social Security Administration (SSA)
  • Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA)
  • Federal Aviation Administraiton (FAA). 

Success Factors

While the specific mission and goals of each agency are unique — they all strive to effectively manage their budgets and spend tax payers money wisely, serve their constituents, and adopt and realize the benefits of OPM within their respective programs and projects. Below is a list of the success factors all three agencies report as

  1. Strong Leadership Capabilities: Hands on leadership from program managers effectively support project management activities, better engages stakeholders, and “serves to increase camaraderies and confidence within the team (PMI, 2015).”
  2. Commitment to OPM: Each agency had a subject matter expert (SME) available or leading the adoption of OPM; investment in training and certification made “formalizing principles and practices” (PMI, 2015) much easier and the appetite for change outweighed risk & avoidance. 
  3. Executive and Senior Level Support: Executives budgeted for training and were called upon when their influence was needed to remove project impediments — signaling a “strong sign of commitment to lower echelons” (PMI, 2015) of the organization. 
  4. Effective Training Programs, Ongoing Coursework, & Certifications: Training and experience go hand and hand; critical employees were afforded training and certification opportunities to better serve their constituents.

    “For the team involved in the Bureau of Indian Affairs program, to lower violent crime rates, Indian Country police officers received sensitivity training. This familiarized them with Indian cultures and customs, helping officers to avoid cultural missteps. This in turn helped promote acceptance of the program.”

  5. Transparent and Effective Communication: Regular communication, both formal and informal, were highly effective as they fit the needs of stakeholders and the programs, resulting in “identification of problems that could be pre-empted — reducing the likelihood of escalation” (PMI, 2015). 
  6. Team building and Stakeholder Engagement: Coalesced communication, training, and agency buy-in culminates into shared “understanding and respect among parties, which helps avoid resistance and misunderstanding that can lead to delays” (PMI, 2015). 

Common Obstacles

Each agency identified obstacles that were unique to their programs and mission, however, two common obstacles were identified:

  1. Lack of Understanding: Specifically, understanding the value of a project or program management.
  2. Limited Funding: Resources are finite and government agencies must carefully budget and distribute their funds across multiple portfolios, programs, projects, and operating activities. 

Lessons Learned

The Project Management Institute has not performed a study on the adoption of Organizational Program Management in Government Agencies prior to this case study. The case study servers as a baseline for future research and the impetus for other agencies to collectively learn and increase adoption of OPM.

Lessons Learned By Agency

  1. Social Security Administration: “Project and program career development benefits the entire organization” (PMI, 2015).
  2. Bureau of Indian Affairs: “Project and program management practices can be implemented to fight crime and promote better understanding between police and the community, thus creating efficiency and lowering the violent crime rate” (PMI, 2015). 
  3. Federal Aviation Administration: “Greater reliance on standardization of processes transforms program management at the FAA” (PMI, 2015). 

I’d love to hear your thoughts on OPM or any experience you’ve had with program and project management you’ve seen in government. If you’d like to have a discussion, leave a comment below or contact me. I’d love to connect on social media as well!

Photo Credit: Pixabay

 

References

Project Management Institute. (2014). PMIs Pulse of The Profession: The High Cost of Low Performance 2014. Project Management Institute Global Operations Center. Newtown Square: Project Management Institute.

Project Management Institute. (2015). Milestones to Efficiency: Factors That Influence Program Management Success in U.S. Federal Agencies. Project Management Institute Global Operations Center. Newtown Square: Project Management Institute.

Project Management Institute. (2018). PMIs Pulse of The Profession: Success in Disruptive Times. Project Management Institute Global Operations Center. Newtown Square: Project Management Institute.

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Jeremy is an IT Professional with the State of Nevada. Previously, he was a mental health counselor and a Navy Veteran. He holds a bachelors degree in Psychology and Information Systems and is currently working on his Masters in Information Systems at the University of Nevada - Reno. Follow him on Twitter.

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