Project Practitioners > The Great Divide

The Great Divide

By Lisa DiTullio

There is a growing divide between senior leaders and project managers.  Senior executives view project management as administrative overhead; project managers view senior leaders as disinterested.  Who's right?

Depending upon your position, the view varies; senior leaders drive the business plan from a high level; project managers toil in the details to execute the plan.  Neither party needs to know the intimate details of what goes on behind their respective closed doors-so long as the Plan is successfully delivered.

The only way to bridge the gap between senior executives and project managers is to have both sides agree they are fighting for the same cause:  Successful delivery of a strategic vision.  The sooner both sides make a truce, the sooner they can move on, respectfully acknowledging the plan cannot be delivered unless both sides fulfill their respective roles.

Senior leaders can get a lot better at recognizing the valuable contributions of their project managers.  After all, project will never be completed without the dedicated efforts of disciplined project managers.  Seniors leaders, hear this:  Project Managers are the most valuable members of any management team!  They deliver the goods, time in and time out, to support the successful evolution of your organization.  When was the last time you really recognized their efforts in a real and meaningful way?

Project managers, let it go; senior leaders will never really appreciate the daily battles you endure.  Senior leaders are not trained project managers; they don’t like the details nor should they ever get into the details.  Senior leaders need to know enough about project management to fulfill their sponsor roles and to effectively guide stray projects back on track. 

When each side respectfully acknowledges each side plays in integral role in successful delivery of the strategic vision, we can refocus our energy on what’s import:  Delivering the Plan.

Lisa DiTullio, Principal

Lisa DiTullio & Associates, LLC

Related Links
Project managers often struggle to balance project manager vs. executive input when determining project goals and scope. Proactively developing a Team Roles and Responsibilities List is one way to bridge the gap early in the project. It also helps to be sure the Project Sponsor's role is well understood — by you and by the sponsor — and to clarify your roles and responsibilities as the project leader.


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Not all comments are posted. Posted comments are subject to editing for clarity and length.

I have a different take on this:

Top management support is crucial for project success, but top managers are not interested in project level concerns.

I believe programme management is the crucial link because programmes deliver the business benefits required to realise strategic goals. However the project and programme management community will have to learn engage at the strategy level and focus on the achievement of strategic goals.

The current approaches are too heavily influenced by project management concepts to be effective in engaging top management. For more evidence:

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