Developmental processes in cells require a series of complex steps. Often only a single master regulator activates genes in these different steps. This poses several challenges: some targets need to be ordered temporally, while co-functional targets may need to be synchronized in both time and expression level. Here we study in single cells the dynamic activation patterns of early meiosis genes in budding yeast, targets of the meiosis master regulator Ime1. We quantify the individual roles of the promoter and protein levels in expression pattern control, as well as the roles of individual promoter elements. We find a consistent expression pattern difference between a non-cofunctional pair of genes, and a highly synchronized activation of a co-functional pair. We show that dynamic control leading to these patterns is distributed between promoter, gene and external regions. Through specific reciprocal changes to the promoters of pairs of genes, we show that different genes can use different promoter elements to reach near identical activation patterns.