By Laura K. Furgione, PMP, Chief Office of Program Performance and Stakeholder Integration, U.S. Census Bureau
Today’s environment requires project manager’s to juggle a diversity of challenges from requirements engineering to stakeholder integration, from enterprise risk management to team composition, all while keeping the final product and the customer’s requirements at the forefront. It becomes a project manager’s nightmare on how to even start the project initialization and planning. That is where the enforcement of enterprise-level strategic and program management processes and tools guide our data-driven decision-making.
At the U.S. Census Bureau, we are well known for our constitutionally mandated decennial census. That count of the entire U.S. population has taken place since Thomas Jefferson directed the first census in 1790 and will occur again on April 1, 2020. A less known fact is we execute more than 130 other surveys with over 15,000 people contributing work to those surveys; however, our consumers, only care about the data. Where the data is collected or how the data is integrated does not mean as much as the ability to access that quality data in a timely fashion. In order to be the trusted source for timely and relevant statistical information, and the leader in data driven information, the Census Bureau must serve as the nation’s leading provider of quality data about its people and economy. And the ability to implement cutting-edge statistical methods, sources, and products to meet and anticipate our customer needs is our first goal.
It all starts with understanding the customer and using that environmental landscape knowledge to inform the strategy
The newly established office of Program, Performance and Stakeholder Integration within the Census Bureau emphasizes a service model that is focused on streamlining internal processes, as well as tightening integration across the functions we perform. Those functions include Strategic Management, Requirements Engineering, Program/Project Management, Program Quality Assurance and Evaluation, Cost Estimation, and External Stakeholder Engagement. And the integration of each function helps the program/project manager to better manage through standardized processes for effective evidence-based decision-making and ideally, identification of risks for mitigation prior to them becoming issues.
From developing the project charter phase through the close-out phase, every step along the way should be an element within your service model to help assist in more efficient project management. Getting stuck in informational governance boards or misaligned processes that provide no direction or value to the execution becomes frustrating for the team and could lead to schedule delays, cost overruns, or poor team morale. Our new approach will streamline these events, and allow our teams to be more agile, thus allowing improved communication and more effective project management.
It all starts with understanding the customer and using that environmental landscape knowledge to inform the strategy. Where is your agency or program headed? Is your mission and vision something every employee or team member can see himself or herself in? Once you establish that baseline and forward stretch, you can then prioritize a handful of initiatives that align with your strategy. If everything is a priority, minimal productivity and completion will be achieved.
The priority initiatives must be managed and implemented through sound management practices and proven scientific principles. These ideals can be thought of and even evaluated based on a minimal level of project management artifacts such as a project charter, schedule, risk/management list, dashboard, and lessons learned documentation.
Transparency through communication and training is critical to success. If your team does not understand the process or your expectations, it is difficult for them to guess at what you want accomplished. Additionally, communication must come from multiple devices in order to meet each individuals preferred communication. Everyone learns differently and interprets information at various levels. A continuous stream of information will ensure everyone receives the information, understands the message, and remains on track.
As we delve into the implementation details of the Program Management Improvement and Accountability Act (PMIAA) signed into law on December 14, 2016, use of our tools to assist with effective management of small projects or large programs will be further emphasized. Implementation of the bill is overseen by the Office of Management and Budget and encourages the federal government to use program and project management guidelines, policies, and processes to improve these project management competencies and skills across every agency. While the Census Bureau has an established program for project and program managers to become certified, our office will serve formally in an executive leadership role accountable for program management strategies and policies ensuring sound stewardship of our tax payers’ dollars.
We are creatures of habit. Reinforcing program/project management applications through policies, proven techniques/ tools, evaluation, and continuous communication with internal and external stakeholders will ensure your projects are a success. It may also establish professional development opportunities to allow utilization of staff to their fullest potential.