Project Management

How to Get Executives to Act for Project Success

Michael O’Brochta, PMI-ACP, PMP, is a retired CIA project manager who currently works as President of Zozer Inc., a project management consulting company, and volunteers as Chair of the Project Management Institute's Ethics Member Advisory Group.

Even world-class project managers will not succeed unless they get their executives to act for project success. The trap of applying best-practice project management only to have the project fail because of executive inaction or counteraction can be avoided. According to the latest PMI Pulse of the Profession® report (PMI, 2017a), “actively engaged executives continue to be the top driver of whether projects met their original goals and business intent.” Increasing numbers of project managers are trying to deal with this reality.

This is a how-to paper. It describes how project managers can get their executives to act, and it identifies executive actions most likely to contribute to project success. This paper explores why the evolving and expanding definition of project success, and the expanding complexity of projects, have led to an environment in which the project manager is ever more dependent on the executive. It draws upon recent research about top-performing project managers, about why executives fail, and about why new products fail to identify the basis for a strong, mutual partnership between project managers and executives. A central theme is that project managers are empowered to extend their influence beyond the immediate project boundaries, not only to get their executives to act, but also to help implement the actions as well.


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