Project Management Best Practice 3 – Line Management Project Ownership

Whether creating a new product or service or upgrading an internal process or software application, all projects fundamentally represent a change to the way an organization does business. This change is represented by two components, the technical object being added or altered and the emotional acceptance and implementation of the new technical object by the workforce. While each change component is equally important to the project’s success, it is the later that often poses the most risk of failure. To reduce this risk and thereby increase the project’s likelihood of success requires strong line ownership especially on the part of executives and managers.[wcm_restrict plans=”41091, 25542, 25653″]

Executive and organizational manager project ownership is critical for implementation, adoption, issue resolution, and ongoing performance improvement. Only these leaders possess the organizational authority to drive the project’s change through impactful reinforcement. Unlike the project manager, executives and organizational managers have enduring authority, enabling them to sustain the project’s output over time. Thus, only executives and organizational managers will be perceived by subordinates as credible power brokers able to legitimize the project’s outputs.

How Can Executives and Organizational Managers Assume and Demonstrate Project Ownership?

Executives and organizational managers assume and demonstrate project ownership by behavioral example and through supportive decisions. These decisions often involve commitment of organizational resources including the resource of their time and attention. While not all inclusive, the following list reveals some ways executives and organizational managers assume and demonstrate project ownership:

Ownership Assumption

  • Personally sponsor the project
  • Providing financial resources to support the project’s execution and implementation
  • Direct involvement of the executive or manager and/or their subordinates in the project’s technical object design, design approval, testing, training, and launch activities.
Note that former employees, retirees, and consultants should not be substituted for personal and subordinate involvement.
  • Understanding and implementing needed organizational and individual actions including:
    • Providing subordinates with the opportunity to receive project related training
    • Implementing staffing and/or role and responsibility adjustments
    • Establishing compensatory measures to mitigate project implementation risks
  • Formal sign-off that the executive/manager’s organization is ready to implement the project’s output
  • Post implementation performance self assessment support

Ownership Demonstration

  • Routine public endorsement through personal communications both internal and external to the organization including one-on-one communications with end users
  • Participation in project related training
  • Kicking-off project related training sessions
  • Align the organization’s reward systems (i.e. compensation, bonuses) with the project’s successful implementation
  • Reinforcement of the project’s outputs by:
    • Publicly published performance goals and supporting KPIs
    • In-field observation and feedback given to subordinates
    • Incorporation of new performance expectations in subordinate personal performance evaluation goals
  • Personal use of the project created technical object

Final Thought…

While executive and organizational manager ownership is critical to the success of every project, it is a key project manager responsibility to help develop and maintain this sense of ownership within the leadership team. This role becomes even more important during periods of leadership transition when incoming executives and organizational managers not involved with the decision to launch the project now need to own the project and its outcomes. During these times, project managers must work diligently to establish the same strong sense of commitment and ownership by these incoming leaders as was exhibited by those departing to maintain their, the project’s, and the organization’s chances for success.[/wcm_restrict][wcm_nonmember plans=”41091, 25542, 25653″]

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