C-Suite's Role in Project Success
Executives define vision, strategy, and goals to advance the business. Projects enable companies to meet those goals. Between strategy and projects, there is a lot of work to be done—work that lays the foundation for project and operational success. Through experience and research, six common gaps exist in organizations that inhibit project success—an absence of common understanding, disengaged executive sponsors, misalignment with goals, poor change management, ineffective governance, and lackluster leadership.
Leaders define the vision. A business turns vision into value. It still takes a team of executives, managers, project managers, and individual contributors to drive the projects that build the capabilities to transform businesses. Ergo, projects are the enablers for turning vision into value.
The Vision to Value keynote is geared toward helping executives, finance leaders, technology leaders, and project managers understand what is required to enable the organization to share and stay focused on the company's goals, hence, reducing waste, increasing productivity, and decreasing waste.
The ability to quickly deliver initiatives that make breakthroughs in the business is the differentiator of truly successful organizations. It takes a blame-free culture, highly accountable, talented, and innovative people, and money. Nothing is free. However, even with this powerful combination, project success rates are dismal. Failure rate estimates range from 40-75% of projects are over budget, late, or fail to deliver the required functionality. There are many actions leaders can take to minimize this, but at times it is just part of being in a world where customers want constant innovation.
Project failure is rampant. In the US alone, the cost estimates for failure run as high as a trillion dollars annually. Regardless of the industry, executives seem powerless to alter this direction. The challenge for them is understanding where to focus their time and energy. All too often, they take the seemingly obvious move of zeroing in on the project manager, their teams, and technology. Other executives, reflect on their contributions to the failure. That self-reflection is time well spent as executives are essential in setting direction, aligning projects to corporate goals, implementing effective governance, and providing the needed resources. In other words, being effective leaders. This keynote explores the actions executives need to take to have the greatest impact on project success.
People often fail to realize how many actions in work and our personal lives rely on negotiation. It could be negotiating a raise, setting up conditions about using a resource, determining a task's scope, or adjusting a delivery date. We do some form of negotiation daily. Even though we learn to negotiate at just about the same time that we learn to communicate, we rarely understand the science and art behind it. By establishing a process around negotiation, we maximize our chances for success. A process ensures that we understand the wants and needs of the person on the other side of the table.
Leaders make decisions. This requires a core set of actions to gather the best information, hear out the concerns of others, and making a decision that everyone will follow—even if there is not unanimous agreement with the decision. Although there are hundreds of actions leaders must take, there are four core actions that all great leaders do—listening, dialog and discussion, selling a vision, and eliminating blame. This session will discuss those actions in a roundtable format that we call a "What Would You Do?" session. In these sessions, the presenter acts as a moderator spending 10 to 15 minutes per topic working with the audience talking about what the action is, how to best do it, and hearing from the group on how they have carried out the action. This brings significant audience interaction, involvement, and broader education.
Salespeople, Project managers, and business leaders, to name a few, need to change their leadership style for every situation. Situational leadership is more important for these roles than nearly any other role in an organization. Central to this leadership style is commanding the six core strategies—directive, expert, consensus, engaging, coaching, and affiliative. These sets leaders the foundation for building the most appropriate leadership style for the conditions surrounding the current events, people in the room, and external conditions. In this roundtable session, which we refer to as a "What Would You Do?" format, the audience debates the use of each strategy as the presenter poses various conditions and dilemmas that face leaders daily. This creates an educational, interactive and entertaining presentation that builds cohesiveness in your group and relationships that last long after your event.
Let me be perfectly clear, I hate PMOs. It matters not if you call them project management offices, program management offices, or portfolio management offices, they only spell one thing—poor leadership. Now those of you that know me, have heard this enough times that your eyes are rolling back as you mumble, "Here he goes again. Who set the bait in front of him this time?" However, I have confused people with a couple of PMO articles that might seem contrary.
From her corner office, the new executive decried, "Decentralize the PMO. Let each department be responsible for their own projects." Maybe she had made a pact with another executive for some other bit of power, or it could be she lost a power struggle and the PMO had to go, or possibly she has little regards for project management thinking it is a mechanical, blue collar discipline that methodically follows a recipe to execute each project. Bottom line, she is missing the point of the Project Management Office (PMO)—it is all about business goals. Unfortunately, for the company, decentralized PMOs provide little if any value. They are similar to distributed teamwork—an oxymoron. The concept is illogical.
Last week I gave a presentation at the San Diego PMI Chapter's Tutorials conference. Flanking both sides of my ten o'clock presentation in the leadership track was Steve Romero. His two presentations were on IT governance. His energy, insight, enthusiasm, and passion (not to mention being the IT governance evangelist for CA Technologies) made him an excellent selection. And, what is so news worthy about that? Nothing. However, for someone that has little regard for adding one more layer of management to solve a problem, I was surprised that I sat through both of his presentations. He provided a three hours of information on governance—both PMOs and PPMs—crammed into two intense and valuable hours.