So You Have An Executive

The Executive is the owner of a project. 
The one individual who is supposed to pay for the cost of the project or at least ensure the funds are made available to pay for those costs.

(S)he will ultimately be accountable
for the success of a project.

There are FOUR criteria suggested by PRINCE2  to help you identify the right person :

  • they must have credibility,
  • they must the necessary authority,
  • they must have resources they can delegate to the project,
  • they must be available.

And Still Things Go Wrong...

The company has made a choice it considered appropriate and the newly appointed Executive has asked you to be the project manager.

But here comes the moment when a major decision needs to be made.
During a project meeting your Executive tells you that another director needs to decide on that particular point which prevents you from moving forward.+

You've just realised you have the wrong Executive.

What To Do...

The best approach is to discuss directly with the person you have identified has being truly in charge. I'll admit this is not always easy if that person is your boss's boss for instance.
You stand a better chance of sorting this issue out if you are open and transparent.+

They might be many reasons why that director has selected your current "Executive". Good or bad, you have to carry on with the project. Although it may be difficult to go directly to the real owner of the project, you can still try to discuss directly with her/him. Try having an informal discussion with her/him at first, maybe at the coffee machine. You would be surprised how many issues can be resolved that way. It's not all about reporting and meetings. It's about communication.

Situations can often be resolved if all involved understand the nature of the problem.

They might themselves not be available enough to commit to the project, reason why they have transferred to another manager the responsibility of "directing" the project. They may be travelling a lot and not be on site when needed.

Talk to Project Assurance

If you have a clearly identified project assurance role (which is not the "executive" in question) talk to them.

They will want to know why a project is constantly delayed (for example).

Having an external party, in this case an observer of your project is an efficient way to respond to this situation.
They can discuss the situation with corporate and the "executive", probably find a way to solve the problem at hand.

They can, if nothing else, make corporate aware of the situation who then need to make a decision.

Every situation is different

There is no one way to solve this kind of situation.
Finding the right approach depends on many factors - culture of the organisation, seniority of those involved, maturity of the organisation, experience of the project management, public or private sector.+

Remember one thing, a project is an endeavour which can only be achieved with some level of success if all those involved work together from directors to techies.

Create a no-blame culture, invite all involved in your project to "sign up" to a ethics charter through which all agree to find solution and not create problems.

Projects succeed because people want it to succeed. Create the dynamics in your project team to increase your chances of getting a fantastic outcome.

John Higham

John helps organisations blend Best Practices in their management systems to improve the way Portfolio of Change Initiatives are run.