With the enactment of the Program Management Improvement and Accountability Act late last year, the federal government has the opportunity and mandate to address two long-standing challenges: delivering successfully on large-scale change initiatives and addressing the dearth of well-qualified program managers across executive branch agencies. For a government that operates through the execution of programs — many of them large and complex — such gaps represent enormous risk.
Even in a modular, agile world, the role of program managers remains essential, because change initiatives are more likely to cross multiple organizations. After all, the federal government manages more than $3 trillion in annual budgets and hundreds of huge programs critical to the nation and its citizens.
But the federal landscape remains littered with what Peat-Marwick once dubbed “runaway systems” — projects that are over budget, behind schedule and failing to deliver promised benefits and functionality. Thanks to the PMIAA, the Office of Management and Budget now has the responsibility to implement a set of policies to improve program management in government. As the Trump administration takes shape, OMB should leverage this opportunity to increase the probability of successfully delivering on its initiatives.
About a decade ago, the five authors of this article began meeting as a group over breakfast (with the self-imposed moniker the “Breakfast Club”) to discuss the need for better program management. We all have served, or currently serve, in senior government management positions. Our focus then and now has been on mission outcomes and results. We believe results begin with effective management, which is built on a legacy of successful practices often referred to as portfolio, program or project management.
We came at the issue with the shared conviction that the dynamics of the environment demanded aggressive steps to…