The “Program Tetrahedron”: A Changed Baseline Control Basis under Strategic Program Management


By Bob Prieto


In a traditional project management approach, control of project dynamics is often described by the project management triangle (Figure 1) that shows the need to balance the competing forces of cost, quality and time. Control bases include estimate, schedules and various definitions of fit for purpose or quality.

Time frames are traditionally those associated with initial delivery of the facility and generally do not consider activities during the operating and maintenance period.

Under a strategic program management approach the control of program dynamics is more robust, corresponding to the increased challenges such programs often face because of factors such as scale, complexity and increased duration. This last factor drives significant changes in program control bases when time durations encompassing the entire lifecycle are considered.

In such programs the traditional project triangle can be replaced with a “Program Tetrahedron” where the traditional, three control bases are defined in a more expansive manner and three new control bases are introduced. This can be seen in Figure 2.


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About the Author

Bob Prieto


Bob Prieto is a senior vice president of Fluor, one of the largest, publicly traded engineering and construction companies in the world. He is responsible for strategy for the firm’s Industrial & Infrastructure group which focuses on the development and delivery of large, complex projects worldwide. The group encompasses three major business lines including Infrastructure, with an emphasis on Public Private Partnerships; Mining; and Manufacturing and Life Sciences. Bob consults with owner’s of large engineering & construction capital construction programs across all market sectors in the development of programmatic delivery strategies encompassing planning, engineering, procurement, construction and financing. He is author of “Strategic Program Management” and “The Giga Factor: Program Management in the Engineering and Construction Industry” published by the Construction Management Association of America (CMAA) and “Topics in Strategic Program Management” as well as over 400 other papers and presentations.

Bob’s industry involvement includes recent and ongoing roles on the National Infrastructure Advisory Council’s Critical Infrastructure Resiliency Workgroup and the National Academy Committee “Toward Sustainable Critical Infrastructure Systems: Framing the Challenges”. He is a member of the ASCE Industry Leaders Council, National Academy of Construction and a Fellow of the Construction Management Association of America. Bob served until 2006 as one of three U.S. presidential appointees 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 and 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, as a senior industry executive, he established a 20-year record of building and sustaining global revenue and earnings growth.  As Chairman at Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB), one of the world’s leading engineering companies, Bob shaped business strategy and led its execution.  Bob Prieto can be contacted at [email protected].