Getting senior executives to buy into project methods is a challenge worldwide.


Globally, more has to be done to create an awareness of project management's true potential and value at a strategic level. Practicality aside, starting a PMI chapter in your part of the world would help create project management awareness, but in and of itself, it wouldn't be enough to advance the profession. Project management professionals don't exist in a vacuum—they work in organizations, and they must convince their managers about the value of project management. They must sell project management in their organizations and make their managers aware of the benefits not only for a particular project but within the entire business context.

Depending on the maturity level, organizations react differently to the project management movement. During the last nine years, I have observed the evolution of the profession worldwide, and I have found that one of the keys to gaining project management acceptance is to spend some time explaining the meaning of project management to executives. However, upper management is hardly available and ready to listen to you.

Some years ago, I was part of an international team at Hewlett-Packard (HP) that implemented project management offices (PMOs) worldwide inside the organization. The program manager made an extraordinary effort explaining to the management team how the project office adds value to project team members, to the organization and to customers, and provides visible signs of management commitment, competent team support, and improved project and organizational performance.

The key to getting upper management support at this point was showing how the PMO solved current problems and provided immense business impact. A complete business case was presented to executives in “management-speak.”

The HP PMO stakeholders were the managers of the businesses and solutions that influence both end users and upper managers. Through a stakeholder analysis, I could determine how different individuals influence decisions throughout the project. This kind of analysis helped me understand the levels of concern and authority of the management team—and how those behaviors or patterns influence the delivery of results by project managers.

A short-term business orientation is not compatible with a project-oriented business approach. Projects need to be planned and implemented, project managers must be trained, mentored and coached, and projects need sponsors. At HP, I convinced upper management to be trained in sponsorship. I was able to demonstrate that, although the project sponsors were not active members of the team, they were a resource that served as motivator and barrier-buster.

Most upper managers believe project management is something tactical and relevant to project managers only. I have spent some time delivering short talks and workshops speaking the language that upper management understands, talking about profit, strategy, goals and how to get better results. The recognized benefits through the actual project management vision strategically improve the company's value and profitability.

When stressed by organizational targets and objectives, people are less ready to collaborate and support you.

When stressed by organizational targets and objectives, people are less ready to collaborate and support you. I did many face-to-face meetings with different management levels at the organization, but I was not successful at the beginning. Persistence and discipline were the keys for project success.

Most organizations spend time and money training project managers, but very few focus on training the executives and upper managers who need to understand how it works. Because management support is needed to implement project management across the enterprise, if upper managers are not able to understand the value and don't know how to link projects to the organizational strategy, they will not jump in with both feet. PM

Alfonso Bucero, PMP, is managing director of the International Institute for Learning office in Madrid, Spain. He has helped to implement project offices at Hewlett-Packard, CAIXA GALICIA, CEPSAand GRUPO EROSKI.





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