February 29, 2012 Vol. 5, Issue 2
What’s impeding NASA’s ability to deliver projects successfully? The NASA Office of the Inspector General has identified four key factors.
In the spring of 2011, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) initiated a review of NASA’s program/project management practices. OIG administered a survey and conducted over 80 group and individual interviews to better understand the program/project management landscape at NASA.
At PM Challenge 2012, a panel consisting of Jim Morrison, OIG Assistant Inspector General for Audits, Ridge Bowman, OIG Director for Infrastructure and Facilities Management, Diane Choma, OIG Project Manager, and Ray Tolomeo, OIG Director of Science and Aeronautics Research, identified four main challenges hindering NASA’s ability to with stay within cost, schedule, and performance objectives:
- Technical complexity of a project
- Optimistic organizational culture
- Unstable funding
- Limited opportunities for program/project manager development
OIG’s findings provoked a frank discussion between the panel and audience members. “We’re given a box to fit in. If we don’t fit, we’re going to be replaced,” said one session participant. “Every time we propose a number, it’s never right. We’re being forced to downsize.”
Audience members also voiced concerns about carrying out seemingly unsustainable projects. “If people know at the outset that what they’re doing is just a big game and they won’t be able to complete their project, they won’t be as invested,” said another participant. Optimism is a double-edged sword: it may drive a team to push themselves, but without right tools, managers run the risk of undertaking programs and projects not based in reality.
On the topic of development opportunities, the panel explained that program and project managers reported concern over decreasing amounts of in-house work. Managers feel more like contract officers (COTRs) rather than integral project leaders, and they fear that young professionals in the workforce don’t have sufficient opportunities to gain knowledge and experience from current programs and projects. “I certainly made a lot of mistakes growing up as a young person in the space program,” said an audience member.
The OIG panel thanked the audience and said it would take its feedback into consideration as it moves toward releasing the full report.
Read recently published reports from the Office of the Inspector General.
Read more from the panel description.