Posts Tagged ‘ceo’

A View from the Top

June 7, 2017

The following is an extract from my new book ‘How to get Fired at the C-Level: Why mismanaging change is the biggest risk of all’ in association with my friends at Tailwind Project Solutions – the extracts follow a series of 5 Challenges that I think every organisation should consider, and consider very carefully:

‘Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future’ John F. Kennedy

Challenge 1 – invest in the right Portfolio Management

Knowing the value of your investment in change, and the consequential cost of failure to deliver this change, is critical.

So how can you get across the message that executives need to stop failing their projects without looking like a project manager with a chip on their shoulder?

Fear is one way, so why not try this simple exercise when you get the opportunity. Putting a price on something works well, I find.

Start with your company project portfolio value (this should be a reasonable reflection of the strategic investment). For the sake of this example I am going to use pounds’ sterling but of course it works with any currency. I am also going to use a small portfolio value of say £20m; again, please insert your own figure here.

The next step will depend on the type of industry you are in but if we choose a typical regulated commercial model for a business it can be said that out of that total portfolio some projects are compliance driven and some business driven. In this example, we will use 40% as compliance and 60% as business growth projects. Therefore, in this example we have £8m invested in compliance projects and £12m in business development projects, again insert the appropriate figures for your organisation. A regulatory light organisation may devote only 20% of portfolio to compliance, with 80% devoted to growth.

You know your business so I will leave it up to you to decide.

But we don’t stop there. For each project to be sanctioned there must be a ‘value added’ benefit. For compliance projects this might be expressed better as cost impact. So, failure to deliver ‘X’ will result in a potential fine of ‘Y’, and/or a potential loss in self-certification of ‘Z’ and so on. All such failures have cost impacts. This may be a 2:1 ratio calculated as the potential penalties for non-compliance plus the actual project-investment costs. In our example this would be £8m multiplied by 2 plus the original £8m, which equals £24m.

Now for the rest of the portfolio, the business growth or development projects. There would be no point in investing £1 to gain £1, there must be a return on investment. In terms of a ratio that typically might be at around 4:1 (apply your own business factor here you should be able to find relevant figures in your business case approval process). Therefore, investing £1 would gain a return in investment of £4. Using the same maths as the compliance projects we now have in our example a total of £12m multiplied by 4 plus the original £12m, which equals £60m.

We now have a ‘true’ project portfolio value of £24m plus £60m which gets us to a chunky £84m.

And guess what? We haven’t even considered disruption of business costs during the projects. What shall we say here, maybe another 20% of the total portfolio investment, so about £16m or so? But the two types of project don’t behave in the same way. I suspect that the 40% we allocated as compliance project investment has a greater success ratio than the other projects. It is not that these projects are any more ‘healthy’ but the fear of non-compliance ensures that the company throws resources at these projects in a way that it doesn’t with the 60% that are business development projects, ensuring ‘success’ the hard (and costly) way.

Now if the compliance projects are ‘successful’ (he says smiling knowingly), then the other 60%, the growth projects, must carry even higher levels of potential failure.

Work out these figures now. In our example, we will use 10% across the whole portfolio for simplicity.

Can you work them out?

Do you have the data (the accurate and real data) to do this? If not, does that worry you? (It should.)

Looking back at our portfolio we said 40% was compliance activity and 60% was business growth but think about it, on balance how many of these growth projects represent real clear blue strategic change?

I bet that most are just to keep pace with your market and perhaps only 10% of projects represent real change. So again, if failure is the ‘norm’ and the focus on success tends towards the compliance end of the project scale, how successful is this 10% – the true change projects you have underway in the organisation?

I realise that these figures are open to interpretation and maybe my maths is a bit rough but you can see the general idea. It is a little like fantasy finances but the underlying points are that a) your portfolio is bigger than you think it is and b) unless you are in the special minority you probably don’t have a good insight into how this portfolio investment is being managed and how the organisation’s money (and future) is being protected.

In our example this takes a £20m base portfolio right the way up to £105.6m.

Extensive investment in strategy through projects needs to be backed up by real commitment to successful delivery and, whilst the development of good project managers backed up with appropriate processes and methods is critical, it is the clear responsibility of the executive leaders to connect such strategy to project activity and to sponsor these projects in a competent way.

Hopefully putting a value on the portfolio will have woken up the executives (or even you).


Tailwind Project Solutions was formed in 2014 to provide a bespoke approach to project leadership development. Owned by Director & CEO Alex Marson, the organisation works with large FTSE 250 clients including some of the biggest companies in the world in the Asset Management, Professional Services, Software, Automotive, Finance and Pharmaceutical industry.  The company has a team of world-class experts who provide a bespoke approach to the challenges that our clients have, and the company was formed because of a gap in the market for expertise which truly gets to the heart of the issues clients are facing – providing a robust, expert solution to change the way that companies run their projects.

At the time, the market was becoming flooded with training companies, providing a ‘sheep dip’ approach to project management, and the consensus was that This didn’t solve the real challenges that businesses and individuals are experiencing in this ever-increasing complex world of project management. The vision was to hand-pick and work with the very best consultants, trainers and coaches worldwide so that Tailwind could make a difference to their clients, to sit down with them, understand their pain points, what makes them tick, and what is driving their need for support.

These challenges being raised time and time again are in the project leadership space, from communication issues, not understanding stakeholder requirements or having the confidence to “push back”, lack of sponsorship support, working across different cultures, languages, levels of capability and complexity. We expect more from our project managers – we expect them to inspire, lead teams and be more confident.

Tailwind’s experience is vast, from providing interim resources in the project and programme management space, supporting the recruitment process, experiential workshops, coaching – from project managers through to executives, providing keynote speakers, implementing PPM Academies, PM Healthchecks and Leadership development. The approach is created often uniquely – to solve the real challenges of each of their individual clients.


Challenging the C-Level Executives

April 12, 2017

How to get Fired at the C-level goes beyond the constraints of a book.

To that end the author offers some focused workshops, keynote presentations and insightful supporting education to help organisations achieve the success in strategic change that they desire, and to help C-level executives understand the challenge and benefit from the opportunity.

This is all about bringing a reality check to your executive team, and help can be found right here.

If your organisation or team needs a short sharp executive ‘scare’ session (or reality check) then Peter Taylor can deliver this, customised for your organisation, your executive team and the time available.

If you need to take it to the next level of detail, then the author offers two specific workshops based on his book.

Both can be customised to suit your audience’s needs and indeed, a fully customised engagement can be proposed if you feel your organisation requires something very specific in order to help you look at what you should be considering and doing to make sure your change, your projects, your organisation and you are still around for the foreseeable future.

Workshop 1: Executives – stop failing your projects!

Yes! You read that right – not ‘Executives – stop your failing projects’ but ‘Executives – stop failing your projects’.

The report Why good strategies fail: Lessons for the C-suite published by The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited in 2013 stated in its conclusion that there was a need for increased C-suite attention to implementation (and therefore projects). It said, ‘Leadership support is the most important factor in successful strategy execution, yet a substantial number of survey respondents indicate that the C-suite is insufficiently involved’.

This is why I make the loud and bold challenge that executives are failing their projects and why I strongly believe the situation needs to stop – now!

The workshop will explore the true value of your strategic change portfolio (projects) – which will probably be bigger than you think – and will explain why it, you and your organisation are at real risk of failure (and wasting a lot of that financial investment).

What you should do about this critical situation is, of course, explained simply. The two key actions you need to take to avoid strategic change failure will be introduced, making this undertaking far less onerous than it would have been had you attempted it solo.


Workshop time                                           1 to 3 hours[1]

Participants                                                 C-level executives and senior project leaders


Workshop 2: Two key actions you need to take to avoid strategic change failure

If you are concerned about strategic change failure, and by association your portfolio of projects, then there are two key actions that can dramatically de-risk this potential situation.

Step 1: Strategies for project sponsorship

It is stated in the Standish Chaos Report, amongst many others, including PMI’s ‘Pulse of the Profession’, that the sponsor is the person who is ultimately responsible for the success (or failure) of the project, who represents the business and the business change. And yet, there is a chasm in many organisations between this statement and the reality of the professionalism and associated investment in development of those active sponsors.

We will explore the current challenges of project sponsorship maturity and offer some techniques for creating an effective sponsorship community as one of the two foundations of project success.

Step 2: Building the best PMO

Here will explore the true value of a good PMO in guiding project success and supporting the sponsor community in the management of the portfolio of project change.

We explore what is meant by a balanced PMO, a design developed by Peter, as well as presenting a new working model for project management excellence with the project academy concept.

This all adds up to a critical second foundation for project success.

The workshop will be an interactive experience with first-hand case study insights and the opportunity to spend some time with one of the world’s most experienced PMO leaders.

Workshop time                                           2 to 3 hours[2]

Participants                                                 C-level executives, senior project leaders, sponsors and PMO leaders

The workshops are standalone but related and follow the journey from strategy investment through to the key foundations of change/project success.

Also available are keynote presentations based on this book, on project sponsorship and PMO leadership.

Peter Taylor

Known as The Lazy Project Manager, Peter Taylor is a project management office (PMO) expert.

He is currently leading a global team of more than 200 project managers acting as custodians for more than 5,000 projects around the world from Kronos Inc., a billion-dollar software organisation delivering workforce management solutions.

Peter is also the author of eighteen books, including the number 1 bestselling project management book, The Lazy Project Manager. In the last four years he has delivered more than 200 lectures around the world on his mission to show people how to work smarter, not harder in their quest for career success. and

[1] Workshop timing can be customised to the availability of the audience – the shorter workshop focuses only on the high-level issues with minimal interaction time permitted, the longer workshop allows for a ‘deeper dive’ and with audience interaction and discussion

[2] Again, here the workshop timing can be customised to the availability of the audience – with the longer workshop allowing for some audience interaction and discussion