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Why project professionals belong in the C-suite

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The link between projects and business strategy, and the idea that project professionals can follow a route into the top of business by becoming a chief project officer, is becoming ever more evident.  

This way up the organisational ladder for project managers is new, but the role of chief project officer is set to become more common. This is no easy task for a project professional, as there’s no natural path in this direction other than the value-add you bring to the table when it comes to strategy implementation.  

Why aren’t chief project officers more common? 

People skills, especially leadership skills, are only one of the many feathers we, as project professionals, carry in our caps. The spectrum of our skills is so great that it would be a huge waste for organisations not to seize our full potential, regardless of where they are on the maturity curve of projectification.  

The work we do points to change and improvement that can be applied in any context and within any part of any business. Project professionals can collaborate with and complement any other part of a business and make it better. That collaboration should be present and driven from the top down. 

As facilitators and action seekers, we can enable the C-suite to become a highly effective team. So why isn’t it commonplace for project professionals to be in the C-suite? In my view, it’s the way project professionals think about the world outside projects and how we connect to the strategy.  

Strategic project management  

Strategic project management uses all the tools of traditional project management in a way that aligns with an organisation's overall strategic goals and objectives. It’s the application of principles and practices crafted in a specific way that considers the long-term goals and direction of the organisation.  

In its focus, it goes beyond the borders of the iron triangle of time, cost and quality. Instead, its horizon extends by looking at the project’s impact on the organisation’s strategic objectives, its stakeholders and its future growth. 

It’s built on a deep understanding of the organisation’s vision, mission, goals, purpose and behaviours — as well as external factors that may impact its future. Through the application of strategic project management, organisations can ensure that all their initiatives are aligned with the overall strategy, generating the desired outcomes and benefits. It also helps to identify potential risks and opportunities and to adapt to changing circumstances. 

Linking projects and strategy  

Strategy is meant to result in the implementation of what has been crafted. Therefore, it can be assumed that a strategy equates to a high volume of tasks an organisation needs to undertake to change itself.  

Strategy and projects are therefore intrinsically linked. A mixture of project management with strategic management can move mountains when turning business strategy into implementation.  

Project management is an enabler of strategy. If manifested as strategic project management, it can drive an organisation’s change more efficiently and with greater focus.  

Dynamism is improvement 

Businesses need to move fast in the current environment, but projects don’t always do so. Project management needs an injection of dynamism and all the brain power available within the organisation. The control the system seeks needs to be abandoned and, instead, the tools we possess need to be used to embrace continuous improvement. It’s time to let go of control. 

Project management should not be there to deliver the answers or outputs. It’s there to support the business in designing its solutions from the ground-up organically, being driven by purpose. It’s an everyday ritual and a mindset that we need to help build (not an offline or side-of-the-desk task).  

It’s an ability to adapt and change within the organisation, which is a key competitive advantage.  

This means project professionals relinquish control to the people and instead focus on the roadmap of strategic priorities and strategic objectives.  

It’s no longer about project professionals steering the ship, it’s about the capability to invite others to do so. We also need to become champions of dynamic capabilities, utilising the latest tools and AI to put the ownership in the hands of all members of the organisation.  

It’s this value-add that will make us indispensable. It elevates us to that deserved seat as a chief project officer.  

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