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28 Mar

Managing Better: Implementing the Program Management & Improvement Accountability Act

Background. On December 14th, 2016, President Obama signed into law the Program Management Improvement and Accountability Act of 2015 (PMIAA). Designed to improve program and project management across all federal departments and agencies, the PMIAA is the product of several years of dedicated bi-partisan congressional effort and strong support from stakeholders such as the Project Management Institute (PMI) and the National Academy of Public Administration.

The legislation was driven by a widespread recognition that program and project management is an area of major weakness across most federal agencies, resulting in inefficient program implementation and increased costs. A 2013 study concluded that an increase in efficiency of just 1% across all federal programs would yield savings of nearly a trillion dollars by 2025. The PMIAA is a vital step toward improving efficiency and consistency in federal project and program management.

Impact. The new law is good news for federal program managers, agencies, and the American taxpayer. However, as with any major piece of legislation, it requires organizational change, with all the potential for resistance and poor implementation that such change entails. The PMIAA will have significant impacts on the agencies and leaders that must implement it. These include:

  • Common Standards, Policies, and Guidelines. The new law tasks the Deputy Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) with developing government-wide standards, policies, and guidelines; and with overseeing their implementation. It requires the Deputy Director to “engage with the private sector to identify best practices”, establishing standards and policies that are “consistent with widely accepted standards”. Additionally, each agency must designate a senior executive—a Program Management Improvement Officer, or PMIO—to oversee implementation within the agency.
  • Strategic Planning. The PMIAA requires the Deputy Director of OMB to develop a five-year strategic plan for federal program and project management. PMIOs are also tasked with developing similar implementation strategies for their agencies.
  • Recruiting and Training Project Managers. Program Management is a discipline that has evolved over the past few decades to address the challenges of managing large, complex projects and initiatives. Professional education involves progressive training and experience, developing the ability to manage larger projects and, ultimately, programs. The PMIAA requires each agency PMIO to develop an agency strategy for recruiting, training, mentoring, and retaining project and program managers.
  • Knowledge Sharing. Agency PMIOs are also responsible for developing methods for collecting and disseminating best practices and lessons learned, agency-wide; and for sharing standardized tools and templates for data gathering, analysis, and management.
  • Career Development. Long neglected even within their own agencies, program and project managers will now be recognized for the value they bring. The PMIAA mandates a new (or modified) career field within the OPM classification system, with clearly established key skills and competencies. It also requires each agency’s PMIO to develop a strategy for improving the career path and opportunities for program and project managers.
  • Interagency Coordination. The law creates a Program Management Policy Council to serve as the principal interagency forum for sharing and improving program management practices, government-wide. Chaired by OMB, it will include the PMIO of every department and agency. This council will meet at least semi-annually to discuss topics of importance, including workforce development, policy, designated “high risk” programs, and challenges across agencies.
  • Oversight. The PMIAA tasks the Deputy Director of OMB to conduct reviews of designated “high risk” programs, and joint annual reviews of all agency programs with the agency PMIO. It also tasks the Government Accountability Office (GAO) with performing a review of the law’s impact three years after enactment, and reporting the results back to Congress.

Challenges. Putting the new law into practice will require a considerable work in most agencies. It will demand effective strategic planning, careful review of existing business processes, skillful change management, and efficient project execution.

Each agency will need to determine how to build on its existing program and project management staff, skills, policies, and processes. Each will need to designate a PMIO, and establish a cohesive, high performing Program Management Office (PMO) to support the PMIO. Every agency will exert substantial effort in analyzing current capabilities, preparing plans, drafting policy, collecting tools and templates, developing training, and establishing the organizational basis for successful and sustained implementation.

Managing organizational change is always a major challenge. People are naturally resistant to it. Change is uncomfortable; and admitting that change is needed can be a humbling experience. Effective change management must integrate new techniques, technologies, processes, and policies without losing sight of the human dimension. Each agency must develop pathways for people to accept, adopt, and excel in the new way of doing business.

Solutions. Federal agencies will need to develop and implement a complex set of plans and activities to keep those impacted by these changes informed and engaged throughout the implementation process, and to ensure successful integration of the new paradigm and new operating procedures. Most agencies will need some help.

Firms that specialize in strategic planning, project management, business process improvement, and organizational change can provide significant expertise and assistance in implementing all of the specified and implied requirements of the new law. The PMIAA directs engagement with the private sector to ensure that government standards and policies are consistent with widely accepted best practices. This simply makes sense—getting the best advice available from recognized experts is, in itself, a best practice.

Line of Sight, LLC, is a certified woman-owned business with extensive experience each of these specialties. Our Core4™ consulting services include developing and delivering assistance with strategic planning, project management, business process improvement, and organizational change to government agencies.

Line of Sight will team with agency leaders to implement the PMIAA by working to build on or improve the agency’s current program management framework, capabilities, and competencies. We also support our clients with expert personnel and real-time mentoring and knowledge transfer from our business analysts, program and project managers, and subject matter experts to help organizations create, improve, and augment their own capabilities.

Federal agencies need their projects to run on time and on budget, and to deliver high quality outcomes. Line of Sight’s project management guidance and training delivers. Our tiered services are targeted to meet critical program and project needs—available when and where our federal partners need them. Line of Sight offerings include:

Project FastStart. Just as the name implies, this helps federal agencies to get off and running. The agency project team and other stakeholders get just-in-time knowledge on how to function in the program/project environment. Our PMs come armed with the templates and knowledge to get projects off the ground quickly.

  • Project Management Office (PMO) Success. Where does a PMO begin? Standards? PM resources? Training? Line of Sight can assess and improve an existing PMO, or help create one. Our team will help quickly define and roll out a structured PMO that follows one of several industry best practice PMO models.
  • Project Management Delivery. Line of Sight can complement and complete the agency team, providing team members (full-time or part-time) to lead critical projects or to support and supplement agency project management teams.
  • Project Management  and Change Management Methodology. Effective project and change management requires a robust approach that outlines the activities, sequences, deliverables, and requirements across all phases of the project lifecycle. Line of Sight will develop and execute a world-class, workable, and repeatable methodology tailored to agency needs, experience, and culture.Customized Training. From in-depth project manager/change manager training to team training across a variety of topics, our courses are built on industry best practices and adapted to agency-specific needs. Our instructors conduct training using techniques suited to adult learners. Courses are both exciting and pragmatic, and participants can immediately put their knowledge to work.       
  • Mentoring & Knowledge Transfer. Line of Sight’s experts will mentor agency leads in effective project management, change management, and facilitation. Mentoring transfers skills and knowledge to “train the trainer”. Using a structured approach that develops key behaviors and proficiencies, organizational leaders quickly develop the confidence to take on and manage projects.

An Experienced Partner. When experience matters most, you need the best experience you can get. Agencies working to implement all of the provisions of the PMIAA will face challenges, regardless of the current breadth and depth of existing agency program and project management capabilities. Engaging a reliable partner that can provide tailored and timely solutions will be vital to success.

At Line of Sight, our goal is to help our federal partners achieve their PMIAA implementation in a practical and effective manner, meeting each agency-specific objective with the right solutions, on time, every time. We are justifiably proud of our record of success in helping public sector clients to effectively plan and manage projects and programs. With increasing pressure on agency budgets across government, this kind of corporate experience and area expertise will be invaluable—not just with implementing the provisions of the PMIAA—but with preserving programs and returning increased value to the taxpayer.

Now is the Time to Begin. Line of Sight’s capabilities are easily accessed through the GSA Mission Oriented Business Integrated Services (MOBIS) Professional Services Schedule (PSS) contract. To find out more about how Line of Sight can help your agency implement the provisions of the PMIAA, improve agency-wide policy and practice, and develop a sustainable agency program and project management community of practice, please visit our website at, e-mail us at, or call us at 410-696-2610.

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