An editorial for Project Mangement World Today Web Magazine Published here June 2000.


Musings Index

Getting Top Management on Side

Many companies live and breath project management because they are in that kind of business. These include companies such as engineering design, engineer-procure-construct (EPC), general contractors and so on. For them, organizing around projects is a natural way of life as almost all senior staff have "come up through the ranks", and top management understands what it takes to be successful in project work. Just a quarter of a century ago these people, together with some companies in the pharmaceutical industry, were virtually the only "fountain of knowledge" on modern practical project management.

Around this time, Russell D. Archibald, a giant of intellectual project management thinking, was spending his airport travel time pulling together his ground-breaking book "Managing High-technology Programs and Projects". At the same time (1976) this writer was promoting the idea that the concepts of project management could be applied much more broadly. Indeed, project management has now spread its wings and today it is to be found in almost all industries where companies identify specific objectives, whether major or minor, and manage their attainment as projects. But this expansion has not come without its difficulties.

How often have you heard the project manager's wail that "My boss does not understand what I need to run my project!" And indeed in most public or private organizations the two may well be worlds apart. Aside from the obvious differences between enterprise management and project management such as relative team stability, versus temporary team work and the issues of cross functional boundaries, there is a much more compelling difference - that of management style.

According to Marie Scotto (Project Resource Planning, Chapter 13, Project Management Handbook, Jossey-Bass, 1998): "The business community believes in understaffing which it can prove is generally good business most of the time." In contrast, projects by their nature are uncertain and hence contain risks for which margins or contingent resources are required. For a project to be under-resourced is a recipe for failure. Thus, the very mindset of the two managements are diametrically opposed.

So it is welcome news that Russ Archibald has now presented a paper entitled "What CEOs Must Demand to Achieve Effective Project Management" (First presented at the First Ibero American Project Management Forum, Mexico City, June 2000.) In the paper,  Archibald proposes and explains no less than twenty-six "CEO Demands." These range from the strategic: "That every authorized project clearly supports an approved objective of the organization" to the detail: "That the project management process of the organization be documented in a coherent easily understood manner". From requiring "That functional managers and project leaders respect the project lines of authority as exercised by the project managers" to requiring "That a post-completion appraisal be performed on every projects " for capturing lessons learned to the corporate memory."

But of them all, our favorite is "That the corporate project management process includes a detailed description of the corporate project management information and control system." How many companies even have an information system that serves the needs of its project managers? And we don't mean all that historical stuff churned out by financial accounting departments - to the nearest penny - assembled by tax class - weeks later!  We mean a system that captures progress records and tentative cost date along with estimates and forecast trends, and has that information on line and in real time. You can read the latest version of Russ's  insightful article "What CEOs Must Demand to Achieve Effective Project Management" in our Guest Articles section.

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