What Does it Take to Be a Project Manager in Government?

The Interpretive Guidance for Project Manager Positions published by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) in May of 2019 lays out the responsibilities that are shared by a wide range of project managers. It also provides precise criteria to be used in the evaluation of current and future project managers in the Federal Government. The production of this guidance involved consideration by numerous government organizations that oversee human resources, financial management, procurement, and other related functions.


While we understand that the day-to-day activities of the project manager who leads a software development project will be much different from one who is responsible for building a bridge. We also know that there will be some similarities in their duties. For example, candidates for both project manager positions should:

  • Have a comprehensive understanding of the project plan including objectives, scope, requirements, and deliverables
  • Be able to develop, coordinate, and manage project activities and resources to meet project objectives
  • Coordinate with contracting officers and contracting officer’s representatives to direct and monitor contractors’ efforts to ensure compliance with relevant government regulations
  • Mitigate risks, maintain quality assurance, and address concerns while overseeing phase, milestone, and final project reviews
  • Communicate project status in the format and frequency required

Forming the very foundation of project management, all time, effort, material and financial resources expended — from planning through completion — must be dedicated to meeting the objective of the project.


This guidance is part of the implementation of the Program Management Improvement Accountability Act (PMIAA), which addresses program and project management workforce concerns and objectives. In addition to baseline responsibilities, OMB has described 52 competencies, which consist of basic skills and characteristics, interpersonal skills, and management skills. Many of these competencies are identical to those listed in the Executive Core Qualifications (ECQs), which are required for Senior Executive Service positions.


Project Management in Real Life

One of the key drivers of The President’s Management Agenda is elevating the government workforce to better meet the needs of the American people. Although this objective is likely to touch the role of every public service worker over time, it is appropriate that we see this early initiative to reform the crucial role of project manager. From planning to execution, strategically managing personnel and resources, overcoming obstacles, solving problems, and mitigating risks, much of our success relies on project managers’ decisions.

For those of you who are project managers in the Federal space feeling the day-to-day pressures of the job, take a moment to enjoy the comic relief provided by this blog, The Daily Life of a Project Manager Demonstrated in GIFs.

What’s Your Point-of-View?

What are your experiences with project management in the Federal environment? Do you feel that PMIAA addresses the real-life concerns of project managers? If you were solely responsible for reforming Federal project management, what would you do?

Please share your perspectives in the comment section below.

Thanks to Bob Knight for contributing to this blog.

Written by:
Natalie Komitsky
Project & Program Management
Media Type:

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