Successful Project Management at the Executive Level


Sabah al-Binali has a dream. In it, a management team meets to deal with an opportunity, decides on some project goals, picks a leader, and mere weeks later meets with executives to report on deliverables. Unfortunately, it is only a dream. In an article for PM Hut, al-Binali gives us the real version of the typical project cycle, which is often more like a nightmare.

Why PMs are Sometimes the Problem

The problem lies in the hand-off of agreed upon goals to the project leader. Time passes, and when the next management meeting is called, the project leader is ready with excuses to explain why these goals have not been met. With each repetition of this pattern, the opportunity slips away, or a pertinent challenge morphs into a crisis. Al-Binali says that the blame lies in a difference of work styles:

The problem here is the difference in complexity of projects run by executives versus those run by professional project managers. This in turn drives the complexity of the tools needed. Applying mission critical project management tools to designing and executing the first moon landing is completely different from a project to roll out a new marketing campaign.

The Executive View of Project Management

The key is to build a bridge between processes. For the PM, this means gaining a better grasp of what goes on at the executive level. For instance, in the initiation phase the management team must define goals and constraints that are crystal clear before moving forward. Additionally, the work breakdown structure need not be planned right down to the last task. Instead, focus on “next actions.” Executive project management is all about the ability of the project team to determine the next action and to then repeatedly execute. Employees should be trained to alert their PM to particular action items that are being continually delayed. In a case where high risk warrants a high degree of regulation, more task planning and more effort on the part of the PM is required.

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About Author

Eric Anderson is a staff writer for CAI's Accelerating IT Success. He is an intern at Computer Aid Inc., pursuing his master's degree in communications at Penn State University.

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