Improving Program Management in the Federal Government

July 2015 – In the spring of 2015, the Project Management Institute engaged the National Academy of Public Administration (the Academy) to develop a white paper about how to strengthen project and program management in the federal government. This six-week project was led by a three-member Panel of Academy Fellows with expertise in project and program management supported by a professional study team.

While the paper is concerned with strengthening both project and program management, its focus is on program management--the management of any large-scale, complex change initiatives. The paper recognizes and builds on past efforts to promote a program management approach in the areas of acquisition and information technology. However, the paper takes a broader view of program management as encompassing people, processes, and technology.

 

Key Findings and Recommendations

The Panel finds that a more systematic approach, backed by the authority of law, would facilitate the more rapid and consistent development of project and program management capabilities across the federal government.

As part of this study, the Panel considered proposed legislation, HR 2144 (“The Program Management Improvement and Accountability Act of 2015”), which directs the following actions: (1) Create a formal job series and career path for program managers in the federal government; (2) Develop a standards-based model for program management consistent throughout the federal government; (3) Designate a senior executive in each agency to be responsible for program management policy and strategy; and (4) Establish an interagency council on program management to align agency approaches across the government.

The Panel finds that the actions outlined in the proposed legislation offer a sound overall basis for institutionalizing program management across the federal government and recommends the passage of this legislation, with a few refinements. However, these actions do not require legislation. Therefore, given the importance of institutionalizing program management, the Panel recommends that the Office of Management and Budget work with other Executive Branch agencies to undertake these actions even if legislation is not enacted. Also, the Panel recommends complementary actions to further develop project and program management capabilities throughout the federal government.