An executive has administrative or supervisory authority in an organization. That authority is used in a number of ways on projects. An executive is typically responsible for the Business Case of a project, which is used to determine whether the project should even be started. Once the project is approved they can impact the success of your project in four key areas.
1. Sponsorship and Funding
Every project within a company starts with an idea. It’s hard for that idea to go much further without backing from the right person and some money to make it happen. An executive can provide the sponsorship and funding your project needs to get off the ground. They are responsible for signing off on the project charter, which describes the project, gives you the authority to manage and, most importantly, allocates the necessary funds to keep it alive.
2. Escalations and Resolution
The second role an executive plays in your projects is to be the go-to person when unresolved problems surface. An executive needs to be on the escalation path, and more importantly on the resolution path of your projects. There are going to be times when others are unresponsive to the project’s needs, or in a dispute about the best direction to take. An executive can use his position to break through these bottlenecks. Here’s a hint: shorten the escalation process as much as possible. Rather than go through a gradual escalation of layer after layer of management, take it to the highest level of management and get it resolved in a fraction of the time.
3. Monitor Projects
Executives sponsor and fund projects. They should also be interested in how the project progresses. They should be interested in ore than when the project starts and when it finishes. They should monitor the project. This includes reading and understanding status report, approving major deliverables and being involved in gate reviews. Of course, the projects that are of interest will vary based on the level of the executive. Senior managers should monitor the larger and more strategic projects. Middle managers monitor more tactical projects.
4. Coach Project Managers
Let’s face it: despite the stereotype, most executives are talented, skilled, and experienced people. Tap into their knowledge. You’re going to run into rough patches on your projects from time to time or will need to make decisions when answers are not so obvious. Sit down with a respected executive and bounce some ideas off of them. At the very least, they may validate that you are on the right path or give you the encouragement you need to keep going. More often than not, they will provide you with a fresh perspective to help make your project a success.
If you want to benefit from the value an executive brings to project management, it’s up to you as a project manager to optimize their role on your projects. View them as another resource you need to bring your project to closure. Who knows, with such a great track record of project success, you may end up sitting in the corner office yourself!