Why the best chief project manager is a CEO
I used to have nightmares about this graph.
If that flat line looks like the kind you see in medical dramas, just before they whip out the defibrillator, you’re not far wrong.
We were in the midst of implementing a workforce planning platform for OTTO Workforce, Europe’s largest international employment agency. We’d made good progress, and now all that remained was for OTTO to test it. And they weren’t. At least not at a pace that was making much of dent in their ‘to-do’ list – or that flat line.
Perhaps I should introduce myself.
I’m Felix. Felix Ogg. And I was the Quintiq project manager for the OTTO implementation. My newfound respect for the role of C-level execs has a lot to do with this gentleman, Mr Frank van Gool, CEO of OTTO.
Now I’m Dutch and, as you may know, we Dutch don’t take CEOs all that seriously (after all they behave just like everyone else) but this episode taught me a lesson… or five.
So here’s what happened next.
A steering group meeting was called to investigate why that line was flatter than a pannenkoek (that’s a pancake for you non-Dutchies).
The CEO of OTTO enters the steering group meeting.
The CEO leaves the steering group meeting.
The CEO says a few words.
The line shoots up.
Well I’d always hoped CEOs were good for something (other than being CEOs) and now I was beginning to see what it might be.
Good CEOs are good at getting the right things done.
Frank van Gool walked out of that meeting and told staff who weren’t even on the project to drop what they were doing and start testing. Testing was going to be their new – and only – assignment.
Then he turned to his project manager and said, “I want a daily report on the number of untested cases, and an indication of when we’ll hit zero. If your plan indicates that we’re not going to hit zero in week 8, you’re not done planning. You can put more people on the job – it’s your responsibility to make sure their time isn’t wasted.”
And that, my friend, is why I believe the best chief project manager for a strategic IT implementation is the CEO.
But don’t take my word for it.
Check out this quote from a report by The Royal Academy of Engineering and The British Computer Society entitled The challenges of complex IT projects: “Without strong, sustained and high quality leadership, complex software projects are almost doomed to failure from the start and, in my view, should not even be commenced.”
The report goes on to claim that a “lack of clear senior management ownership and leadership” is a common cause of failure.
Much as I hate to admit it, there’s a major project management objective that only a C-level executive can fulfill: Creating the kind of environment in which the team can deliver.
Oh, the pictures? I promised pictures didn’t I? Well you’ve already seen ‘the CEO’s hockey stick’.
Read 5 pictures you must see before implementing a planning platform (Pt 2) to continue.