Posts Tagged ‘chief’

Add to the C-Level

June 22, 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:

Challenge 3 – Invest in a Chief Projects Officer

Well it starts with strategy formulation which is no longer the annual exercise it used to be – nowadays it is an ongoing iterative activity.

And since each strategy gives birth to one or more projects this adds to the portfolio constantly. Often, it should be honestly admitted, in some form of infinite capacity model – just keep adding projects and we will sort out the resources later.

The idea of a chief project officer is not new but it can be described as ‘emerging, with more organisations investing at this level in one person to represent the change programs at the highest level. If you think about CEO’s being most often fired for mismanaging change then it is a ‘no-brainer’ you would have thought if your portfolio is a significant one and – based on Challenge 1 – Invest in the right portfolio management – it is often more significant than you might think (see previous blog).

When project management, projects and change are elevated to the ‘C’ level of importance, one of the distinct advantages is it can no longer be viewed as optional, distracting, annoying, special or unimportant by all the other business functions. A Chief Projects Officer, or whatever title you may wish to bestow on this position, should make it easier to manage change initiatives across an organisation, should reduce that organisation’s exposure to the impact and potential; realisation of major risk, and can drive lower costs through economies of scale. All of which should deliver better results across the board, with higher engagement of all stakeholders and impacted employees.

A Chief Projects Officer (CPO) is typically responsible for providing governance over an organisation’s internal projects – external, or customer facing projects can be also covered but that is entering a slightly different world – with a focus on:

  • Ensuring all projects support the current strategic objectives
  • Managing the overall portfolio risk to the organisation
  • Driving efficiencies in delivery and economies of scale
  • Managing resource requirements across the project portfolio
  • Ensuring that all change is led by a skilled professional project management community
  • Leads, and is aided by, the PMO
  • Reports to the executive team

And how can you get a ‘CPO’?

Well why not fast track one through the project world?

I have seen in the companies that I have worked for, and I am sure that you have all seen it as well, the special ones amongst us that are on a fast track up through the organisation destined for the hallowed ground of ‘C’ level appointment. We all watch in awe and wonder at the skill and ability in acquiring new skills and mastering new responsibilities and generally doing a whole better than us.

And there is nothing wrong with that at all. They experience the company as broadly as possible with experiences in finance and in sales and in marketing and in manufacturing and even sometimes in services perhaps. They get first-hand experience of the component parts of the businesses that they will one day lead and this is a valuable preparation. These are the ones identified as having future leadership potential and any company will invest in such people for their joint futures.

Sadly, I have yet to see a future ‘C’ work their way through the project arena, the PMO, the project management practise. It seems as if, when it comes down to it, that the project side of the business (as opposed to the operational side of the business) is maybe a little less important, a little less attractive?

There is a danger of course in putting a non-project person in charge of projects.

A comment from my recent PMO Survey summed it up with ‘the management in charge of the PMO are highly experienced operational managers, each with a significant and solid track record. Unfortunately, that expertise does not translate into projects where the deadlines, delivery management and interaction between different role-players are significantly more acute than in operational management’.

So perhaps the ‘C’ is not immediately destined for the PMO leadership role but surely there is a critical need for such future leaders to understand the nature of their ever increasingly project based activities.

Take an action all of you executives – talk to the ‘powers that be’ and to the fast track talent development agencies in your companies, and open up your PMO with an invitation to ‘come on in and enjoy the experience’.

In the long run it will only benefit the PMO, your projects, you yourself and, of course, the organisation. Projects are here to stay and with the increase in project activity inside organisations then really the next generation ‘C’ level should understand as much as they can about our world.


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.