Project Management Institute

A comment on the executive's notebook

Project Management in Action



It is almost a cliché. Modern Project Management (MPM) cannot be successful without management support. What does this really mean, especially in an organization that has not already made a full commitment to project management as a way of life?

Does it mean having the chairman of the board state publicly that Jones is project manager of this project, and whatever Jones says is gospel? Hardly a likely event.

Does it mean having the CEO make a comparable proclamation to everyone in the organization, or even everyone associated with the project? Also hardly likely.

The most likely scenario is that an organizational announcement will be published and distributed within the organization indicating that Jones will be serving as project manager on the Widget Project. If it is a reasonably sophisticated organization, this notice may spell out the responsibilities in rather clear terms. It is unlikely that it will also relieve any functional heads of any specific responsibilities assigned to the PM.

With this inauspicious start, MPM is almost certainly doomed to failure.

Or does management support mean that every time there is a conflict between the PM and a functional head that management will rule in favor of the project manager? Also an unlikely event.

What does it mean to say that management support is essential to the success of MPM?

Somebody must know the answer to this, because every trainer and consultant avers that management support is essential. But have you seen a book or a seminar that really describes to an executive how management support is provided?

Many executives read that projects are the way to manage the many teams created in the race to leaner, flatter organizations. Tom Peters, in his recent Liberation Management, cites projects or some aspect thereof some 50 times. He sees this as the way of the future. But does he really describe how the executive should behave once MPM has been adopted?


Few of today's executives have operated under the MPM concept. They managed their projects with tools that can be likened to a sledge hammer. “If the project isn't progressing satisfactorily, get out the old sledge hammer and shape those people up!” No one has explained to them that they should be using a tool more akin to the sculptor's hammer.

Indeed, there is little if any literature providing other than anecdotal advice on how the modem executive should behave in order to ensure optimum results from a project effort, i.e., how to “manage to be excellent” in the implementation of MPM.

This is the fundamental premise of The Executive's Notebook column, new to PMNETwork this year (see the following page). This column will present the best advice available today on how to manage to be excellent with MPM.

Subjects for this column have been selected based on comments by participants in workshops on project management who have said, “Gee, if my boss only understood that!” They will deal with questions such as Why should I use MPM? What can I expect from MPM? What do I really need to know about my projects? What sort of questions should I ask and how should I ask them? How can I avoid becoming the de facto project manager?


PMI members may want to copy these articles and send them to their boss. Alternatively, the boss may want a personal copy of PMNETwork, as we intend to focus on concerns of the executive to a considerable extent throughout 1994.

Furthermore, executives are invited—urged—to communicate with PMNETwork about their concerns by writing letters to the editor. While all such letters must be submitted with the authors identification, we will be glad to publish them anonymously if requested.

It is the objective of PMNETwork that this column will lead to lively discussion of the issues covered and to identification of other concerns of executives. This is just one of many ways that PMI will be

Leading into the Future! ❏

This material has been reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited. For permission to reproduce this material, please contact PMI.

PMNETwork • January 1994



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