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Five Key Principles of Project and Program Management Success
By Vincent J. Bilardo, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Principle 1: Establish a Clear and Compelling Vision

Creating a clearly defined vision of the future that inspires and motivates the workforce is an important first step on the path to project success. An effective vision statement should be vivid, concise, motivating, and memorable.

Principle 2: Secure Sustained Support from the Top

Maintaining top-level support for large programs requires developing and sustaining “program protectors” inside and outside an organization. Managers should also establish effective working relationships with key stakeholders.

Principle 3: Exercise Strong Leadership and Management

Strong leadership requires managers to identify and develop other leaders and technical staff, define clear lines of authority, demand accountability, implement sound project management practices, and demonstrate uncompromising ethical standards. This uncompromising integrity for project performance also requires ethical behavior from managers. Team members will not follow a leader they know is capable of unethical behavior and decision making. Lack of integrity fosters cynicism among the team and can compromise the mission.

Principle 4: Facilitate Wide-Open Communication

Fostering open communication has always been a cornerstone of good project management, but it can be — and has been — stifled by leaders who do not want to hear bad news. As a result, the bearers of bad news learn to stop communicating problems upward. Not listening is bad; criticizing anyone who brings to light unpleasant, but necessary, information is worse. Few individuals will dare come forward with critical information if they know they are likely to suffer public criticism.

Principle 5: Develop a Strong Organization

Organizations can remain effective over long periods if three interdependent pillars — culture, rewards, and structure — are well designed and aligned. Such organizations carefully negotiate respective roles and responsibilities before staffing and initiating program office operations. By doing this, they remove as many potential organizational conflicts and barriers as possible before executing any program.

Reprinted with permission from NASA. This article first appeared in NASA’s ASK Magazine, the NASA source for Project Management and Engineering Excellence.

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