Change of Course

Project Managers Must Prove Their Strategic Value to Ease C-Suite Concerns

By Andrew Robinson, PMP

A fellow executive recently told me he was renaming his project managers “delivery managers.” The reason was not positive: He believes the change is needed to remind these employees of their purpose.


I knew what he meant. I'm no alarmist, but I think a course correction is needed to reinvigorate project managers’ sense of purpose—which is to accomplish great tasks through systemic thinking and processes, rather than just provide reports and statistics on performance.

Here are two things I've heard lately from people working in commercial industries and in the U.S. government contract market:

  • Some project management certifications may no longer necessarily signify a capable project manager.
  • The profession needs to decide if a project manager is responsible for delivering a project (and executing the strategy behind that project) or reporting on the delivery of a project.

So how can the project management profession evolve? A starting point would be to view certifications as just a starting point. At my organization, which lives and dies by its project delivery capabilities, I look for the following:

Tenacious critical thinkers. They never lose sight of the problem that needs to be solved—and ensure that requirements lead to the correct solution.

Scope masters. Project managers must be able to see the big picture, be comfortable altering a scope to maximize chances of success and be willing to own the promised scope.

Delivery leaders. Project managers who can drive a team to a solution rather than just manage a schedule.

These qualities require:

A flexible outlook. Software implementations, for example, often necessitate hybrid frameworks consisting of various delivery methodologies. Project managers should be prepared to adjust accordingly.

Superb communication. Project managers should communicate issues to business sponsors and know how to execute change management plans.

Aggressive risk management. The ability to recognize and then lead the mitigation of project risks is a must-have.

The ability to recognize and then lead the mitigation of project risks is a must-have.

Executives need to be able to point to a person or office that can and will get the job done. Project managers and project management offices must define their roles and responsibilities clearly so no one is left guessing. Their goal should be to leave no opportunity for a colleague to doubt that project management capabilities are the way to translate strategy into performance. PM

image Andrew Robinson, PMP, is president of RG in Alexandria, Virginia, USA. He has worked in management consulting for over 25 years and can be reached at andrew.[email protected].
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