Program management: All about the people

Effective program management begins and ends with people, said Edward Hoffman, director of NASA's Academy of Program/Project and Engineering Leadership.

Speaking today at FCW Events’ Program Management Summit, Hoffman outlined the four key ingredients of a successful project: teamwork, leadership, process and knowledge.

Teamwork requires every member of the group to be devoted to the goal, he said. They must also be dedicated to one another's success.

"They are entirely 100 percent committed to helping each other or it isn't going to happen," he said.

Leadership emphasizes the role of individuals in making the project succeed, he said. Such a focus includes providing opportunities for coaching and mentoring.

Effective processes are also essential, Hoffman said. Organizations should have policies in place to ensure consistency.

He emphasized the importance of the fourth peg, knowledge integration. NASA establishes communities of practice so people can share ideas and experiences with others.

"The most important ingredient for success is the social dimension," he said. That includes travel to conferences and training events, he added.

"A manager who makes it hard [for employees] to go to a conference or a training event should be kicked out," he said.

Technology plays an important support role for keeping people connected, but it cannot replace the value of face-to-face interactions, he said. That's why it's important for managers to budget money for travel.

"If people don't have the chance to get together and talk over coffee once or twice a year, you're kidding yourself," he said.

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