On Public Sector Programs


Let’s talk about public projects!


By Stanisław Gasik

Warsaw, Poland


In this article, I would like to compare the meaning of the term “program” in public administration and in the project management environment. Do the terms have the same meaning in both environments? Can the recommendations developed in the project management environment be applied to all public programs? Behind this question is also another one: does the project management community sufficiently consider the needs of public administration in its standards? I will take as my subject of analysis primarily US federal programs and the concept of the program as defined by the Project Management Institute.

What Is a Program?

In the public administration environment, a program is a set of instruments that implement a certain public policy (e.g. Howlett and Rayner, 2013; Barnett and Shore, 2009). Instruments can be in the nature of continuous processes (e.g., tax collection) or projects (e.g., road construction). An even broader definition, which does not limit the concept of a program to public administration, says that it is “a set of related measures or activities with a particular long-term goal” (https://brainly.com/question/20451510). Also, the Merriam-webster dictionary indicates that it is adequate for our discussion to understand this concept as “a plan or system under which action may be taken toward a goal” (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/program).

None of these understandings of the “program” term limits its components to projects.

Programs in Public Administration

Let us consider some examples of US federal programs.

Operational Programs

“Operation” is an activity aimed at obtaining value from owned assets; most often they are permanent, continuous processes. In the private sector, value is mainly the profit. But values in the public sector are perceived differently: they are anything considered important by the public (Moore, 1995). They are called “public values”.

For example, the Social Security program “provides protection against the loss of earnings due to retirement, death, or disability”. Its FY 2022 budget was USD 1.196 trillion (https://www.ssa.gov/oact/progdata/index.html) and for budget data: (https://www.thebalancemoney.com/u-s-federal-budget-breakdown-3305789).

Another very costly program is Medicare – an insurance program for people aged 65 or older. (https://www.ssa.gov/benefits/medicare/). Its budget in 2022 was $766 billion.

Medicaid provides health coverage to millions of Americans (…). The program is funded jointly by states and the federal government; Its 2022 budget was USD 571 billion. (https://www.medicaid.gov/medicaid/index.html).

The objectives of the three above-mentioned programs are just producing public value: social security or health. They are among the biggest US federal US programs. The most important components of all these three programs are continuous operations, mainly payments – direct or indirect – of certain sums to eligible persons. From the managerial point of view, they are operations.

We will call such programs “operational programs” (Gasik, 2023). A program of this type is schematically presented in Figure 1.


To read entire article, click here

Editor’s note: This article is the first in a series related to the management of public programs and projects, those organized, financed and managed by governments and public officials.  The author, Dr. Stanisław Gasik, is the author of the book “Projects, Government, and Public Policy”, recently published by CRC Press / Taylor and Francis Group.  That book and these articles are based on Dr. Gasik’s research into governmental project management around the world over the last decade.  Stanisław is well-known and respected by PMWJ editors; we welcome and support his efforts to share knowledge that can help governments worldwide achieve their most important initiatives.

How to cite this paper: Gasik, S. (2023). On Public Sector Programs, Let’s talk about public projects, series article, PM World Journal, Volume XII, Issue II, February. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2023/02/pmwj126-Feb2023-Gasik-on-public-programs-series-article-2.pdf

About the Author

Stanisław Gasik, PhD, PMP

Warsaw, Poland


Dr. Stanisław Gasik, PMP is a project management expert. He graduated from the University of Warsaw, Poland, with M. Sc. in mathematics and Ph. D. in organization sciences (with a specialty in project management). Stanisław has over 30 years of experience in project management, consulting, teaching, and implementing PM organizational solutions. His professional and research interests include project knowledge management, portfolio management, and project management maturity. He is the author of the only holistic model of project knowledge management spanning from the individual to the global level.

Since 2013, his main professional focus has been on public projects. He was an expert in project management at the Governmental Accountability Office, an institution of the US Congress. He is the author of “Projects, Government, and Public Policy,” a book that systematizes knowledge about government activities in the area of project management.

He was a significant contributor to PMI’s PMBOK® Guide and PMI Standard for Program Management and contributed to other PMI standards. He has lectured at global PMI and IPMA congresses and other international conferences.

His web page is www.gpm3.eu.

To view other works by Dr. Gasik, please visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at https://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/stanislaw-gasik-phd-pmp/