Deborah Stempowski

Stempowski_DebPaper (24): Project Management: A Foundation for Leadership Transition

Abstract: Leadership transitions present a myriad of challenges to organizations. In the Federal government, members of the Senior Executive Service are expected to move around their organizations and lead in multiple contexts based on agency need. Beginning in 1998, the U.S. Census Bureau made it a business priority to inculcate the globally recognized Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) throughout the fabric of the organization. Over the course of time, the Census Bureau has built a cadre of managers who are skilled in applying the PMBOK to their work, fostering strides in operations, planning, budgeting, and innovating at the agency. The years of constructing, adjusting, and strengthening a solid Census Bureau project management infrastructure have paid off in impressive business outcomes and organizational stability through leadership transitions.

In the spring of 2015, the American Community Survey Office (ACSO) at the Census Bureau experienced a change in Chiefs. This paper describes how project management not only served to smooth transition between Senior Executives leading the organization and enabled critical business decision-making to continue even early in the transition. By describing the correlation between leadership success and project management through transition, this paper will provide examples of benchmarks, lessons learned, and leadership practices that may serve other public or private organizations as they endeavor to lead through change.

Biography: Deborah (Deb) Stempowski is a member of the Senior Executive Service who has made her career at the U.S. Census Bureau. An expert in strategic management with emphasis in finance, operations, quality, and program management, Deb’s work at the Census Bureau has spanned assignments to the Director’s Office, the Economic Directorate, Research and Methodology Directorate, and a detail to the Office of Management and Budget. Starting in May of 2015, she became Chief of the American Community Survey Office in the Decennial Directorate. Deb was chosen to participate in the Census Bureau’s first Project Management Certificate program in 1998, then went on to get her Project Management Professional (PMP) certification the following year. Deb led the development and initial implementation of the Census Bureau’s Quality Management Program as well as efforts to implement formal program management practices. She led initiatives to test new data collection technologies and analysis, conduct outreach to businesses, oversee data tabulation and dissemination operations, and enhance the American Community Survey.

Ms. Stempowski graduated from Penn State with a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics, and later from the University of Maryland, University College with Master’s Degree in Financial Management. She is a Project Management Professional (PMP) who also received Master’s Certificates in Project Management and Business Analysis from the George Washington University. Deb lives in Edgewater, Maryland with her husband Brian and their two children.