Governance: Key to Successful Program Management Delivery



By Bob Prieto

Jupiter, Florida, USA


Program management in the engineering & construction industry represents a fundamental re-allocation of responsibilities and authorities between the traditional owner organization and an engaged program manager. The readiness of the owner organization to adopt such a delivery strategy will be governed by many factors including overall capital project delivery volumes; prior experience, if any, with program management delivery approaches; inherent organizational capabilities and depth of staff; and, perhaps most importantly, degree of recognition of the level of self-change that adoption of a different delivery and management methodology will require.

From the program manager’s perspective, a key factor for success will be the degree to which its responsibilities can be clearly defined and responsibility and authority allocated consistent with these responsibilities and the owner organization’s own readiness. A well-developed contractual and implementation framework are therefore key ingredients for success but in many cases, even the best developed frameworks are undermined by a poorly defined governance regime and inadequate contract administration capabilities within owner organizations. This later factor sometimes reflects passive resistance to change while in other instances it reflects inadequate organizational maturity to adopt the new delivery regime.

This paper is not intended to dwell on the failings of either the program management contractor or owner organizations but rather outline some of the governance features which are hallmarks of successful program management implementations.

Program Management Governance Thinking

Program management governance thinking has developed across a wide range of industries ranging from government implemented healthcare transformations to enterprise-wide IT delivery efforts. In the engineering & construction industry, attention to governance issues at the outset of program initiation has been to a large degree spotty and inconsistent. The evolving nature of programs delivered in the engineering & construction industry and, more importantly, the inherent risks that program manager’s increasingly assume give rise to a necessary refocusing on governance issues. The engineering & construction industry can, however, draw not only on its own experience but on that of other sectors as well.

Key Success Factors

A review of identifiable key success factors from a broad range on non-E&C programs internationally suggest that certain characteristics are common to successful program management applications. These success factors include several with governance implications including:

  1. Strong and decisive leadership by senior management
    • supported by clear and appropriate allocation of responsibility and authority without ambiguity
  1. Early, consistent and direct involvement of frontline staff
    • With appropriate feedback mechanisms to encourage, collect and analyze criticism without fear of retribution
  1. Engagement and ongoing involvement by each stakeholder population both within the owner’s organization as well as externally
    • Communication chokepoints are avoided even while control points are strengthened



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Editor’s note: Second Editions are previously published papers that have continued relevance in today’s project management world, or which were originally published in conference proceedings or in a language other than English.  Original publication acknowledged; authors retain copyright.  This paper was originally published in PM World Today in March 2008.  It is republished here with the author’s permission.

How to cite this paper: Prieto, R. (2008). Governance: Key to Successful Program Management Delivery, Second Edition, PM World Journal, Vol. X, Issue V, May 2021.  Originally published in PM World Today, March 2008. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/pmwj105-May2021-Prieto-Governance-the-key-to-successful-progam-management-delivery-2nd-ed.pdf


About the Author

Bob Prieto

Chairman & CEO
Strategic Program Management, LLC
Jupiter, Florida, USA


Bob Prieto is a senior executive effective in shaping and executing business strategy and a recognized leader within the infrastructure, engineering and construction industries. Currently Bob heads his own management consulting practice, Strategic Program Management LLC. He previously served as a senior vice president of Fluor, one of the largest engineering and construction companies in the world. He focuses on the development and delivery of large, complex projects worldwide and consults with owners across all market sectors in the development of programmatic delivery strategies. He is author of nine books including “Strategic Program Management”, “The Giga Factor: Program Management in the Engineering and Construction Industry”, “Application of Life Cycle Analysis in the Capital Assets Industry”, “Capital Efficiency: Pull All the Levers” and, most recently, “Theory of Management of Large Complex Projects” published by the Construction Management Association of America (CMAA) as well as over 800 other papers and presentations.

Bob is an Independent Member of the Shareholder Committee of Mott MacDonald and a member of the board of Dar al Riyadh. He is a member of the ASCE Industry Leaders Council, National Academy of Construction, a Fellow of the Construction Management Association of America and member of several university departmental and campus advisory boards. Bob served until 2006 as a U.S. presidential appointee to the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Business Advisory Council (ABAC), working with U.S. and Asia-Pacific business leaders to shape the framework for trade and economic growth. He is a member of the Millenium Challenge Corporation advisory board where he had previously served. He had previously served as both as Chairman of the Engineering and Construction Governors of the World Economic Forum and co-chair of the infrastructure task force formed after September 11th by the New York City Chamber of Commerce. Previously, he served as Chairman at Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB) and a non-executive director of Cardno (ASX)

Bob serves as an honorary global advisor for the PM World Journal and Library and can be contacted at rpstrategic@comcast.net.

To view other works by Bob Prieto, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at https://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/bob-prieto/