Filling Execution Gaps Front CoverBefore you go to the first 69 pages of Filling Execution Gaps, let's make sure you have the concept of the book. Below is a brief outline of each section of the book. When you are ready to look at the actual pages, simply select the next image from the page indicators at the bottom of this page.

Cheers,
Todd C. Williams

Filling Execution Gaps:

How Executives And Project Managers Turn Corporate Strategy Into Successful Projects

Gap 1: Common Understanding

Chapter 1: Understanding the Problem

Most companies have difficulty defining success.  In fact, they rarely realize there is an issue in the definition and are continually hobbled by its ambiguity.  This is rooted in the fact that although executives know that initiative success is based on value, the yardstick used is whether it adheres to scope, schedule, and budget.  The latter three attributes, often referred to as the iron triangle, are almost solely used by project managers and middle managers, simply because they are quantifiable.  Value is too subjective.  Monitoring value requires measuring highly subjective properties such as usability, deployment issues, attractiveness, and clarity of instructions.  This and other definition gaps are discussed to help the organization work to a common understanding and improved communication.

Hence, this chapter functions as a problem statement to lay the foundation for the subsequent chapters.  It briefly outlines the common areas that people see daily and aligns them to show major definitional gaps in how businesses run projects.  These include:

  • Bloated project scope (from pet project scope, nice-to-have requirements, project team members adding scope, and end-users adding scope).
  • Project success being based on perceived value, yet its progress is measured on scope, schedule, and budget.
  • Accountability being perverted to be a mechanism for assigning blame, where it should be attributed to a role that is responsible for making and accounting for decisions to get the project done.
  • The roles of executive sponsorship and governance.

By taking a system view it identifies the six gaps preventing organizations from turning their business vision into value:

  • Common Understanding
  • Strategy Project Alignment
  • Executive Sponsorship
  • Adoption/Change Management
  • Effective Governance
  • Leadership

Gap 2: Strategy to Project Alignment

Chapter 2: Creating and Maintaining Corporate Alignment: Ever Changing Corporate and Project Goals

All successful companies have strategic goals and plans to meet those goals. Unfortunately, as projects proceed and the business environment change, there are a number of factors causing them or their corporate targets to shift. These include:

  • Bloated project scope (from pet project scope, nice-to-have requirements, project team members adding scope, and end-users adding scope)
  • Changes in the business environment requiring commensurate changes in the corporate goals.
  • Modifications in regulations requiring new initiatives or reprioritization of current ones.
  • Unexpected break-fix and maintenance activities (earthquake, flood, power issues, etc.)

This drift is necessary as business environments are always in flux. To accommodate it requires flexible planning that is accurately communicated and understood throughout the organization. Executives and project teams need tools to stay in sync with each other and meet common goals. This chapter provides details of how this works. Balanced scorecard is used for the tool to promote a common understanding of the corporate goals.

Gap 3: Executive Sponsorship

Much of the impetus for this book came from our research on executive sponsorship, organization change management (OCM), and governance. The executive sponsor role is the tie between the project and executive direction. Inadequate definition of this role is responsible for a major gap in accountability for initiatives and projects. This role in most organizations is poorly defined. As a result, there is hardly a project manager that will not identify the lack of executive sponsor engagement as a major project risk and there are few executives who want to add sponsorship to their plate. Two chapters cover this—understanding the issues and solutions to the issue.

Chapter 3: Challenges in Executive Sponsorship

Our surveys showed numerous challenges with executive sponsorship. This chapter discusses the issues in executive sponsorship as seen by from the perspectives of the executives and the project managers. Although it covers all business domains, there is special attention paid to:

  • Healthcare where there is a specific set of conditions making certain roles consistently inadequate as executive sponsors—clinicians.
  • Manufacturing companies where many of these problems are addressed with product managers.

Chapter 4: Solutions in Executive Sponsorship

As Chapter 3 lays out the issues and root causes for many of the problems existing with executive sponsors, this chapter focuses on the solutions. It includes defining the executives sponsor’s responsibilities, selecting the right sponsor, and defining the relationship between the sponsor and project team.

Gap 4: Adoption

As with executive sponsorship, adoption is an area that our research shows as poorly understood and a hot button in nearly every executive. Without a team working on adoption (or its subset, organization change management) the project fails. Two chapters cover this—understanding adoption issues in general and the added challenges in organization change management.

Chapter 5: Adoption Behavior and Business

As most executives and project managers are unfamiliar with the discipline of adoption, the reader must first appreciate the foundational components of current theories on how change management operates. Then they need to understand how to implement this in a project framework. As adoption is very important in new product development, this industry will be used as a guideline and will be related to current project management practices. Methodologies and experience will be discussed extensively.

Chapter 6: Organization Change Management and Projects

Organization change management (OCM) is a subset of adoption. It relates to situations where internal end-users need to follow new processes. This is different from many cases of adoption and must be explored separately. As opposed to adoption, which can be quite removed from the project, OCM is reliant on the project and needs a different approach to fill the gap.

Gap 5: Effective Governance

Governance is a thorny issue for most companies. Young, nimble companies generally need very little governance. As they grow, however, more oversight is needed to get all the moving parts in the organization to line up. This is the primary genesis of bureaucracies. These two chapters look at how governance helps, gets in the way, and what forms of governance have proven successful.

Chapter 7: Lean Governance

Although lean has become a buzzword, it must be discussed as most forms of governance become overbearing. Historically successful companies understand how to implement “light governance” and allow it to morph in a positive manner. Most companies, however, fail to implement the right level of governance for the organization. Other authors have conducted significant research in some of the best run companies in the world on governance. These data, results from our surveys and the author’s experience, are used to create a guideline for developing the correct level of governance.

Chapter 8: Value Driven PMOs

Project management offices (PMOs) are a major area of discussion by executives and the project management world. Executives create and dismantle PMOs on an average of every three years. In numerous publications, even PMI (Project Management Institute) questions the PMO’s value. However, little is said on how PMO should be changed, which will be covered here. There are situations where PMOs are appropriate and others where they should be avoided. This chapter discusses this type of governance and its application.

Gap 6: Leadership

Leadership holds this all together. Without good leadership the aforementioned tactics are ineffective. To cover project leadership properly, it needs to be presented in three steps—what types of leadership are applicable in managing projects, what an effective project leadership structure looks like, and identifying and developing good leaders.

Chapter 9: Leadership Strategies

Leadership is not a set of one-size-fits-all characteristics. Just because someone can lead a company, does not mean they can lead a project, and vice versa. It differs depending on the role of where the leadership is needed. To make matters worse, ascension through the ranks is normally based on technical skills; leadership characteristics are secondary. Therefore, any conversation on leadership must start with a discussion of the leadership issues in today’s companies. Once the problem is properly framed, it can be addressed. The goal of this chapter is grounding on the need for leadership throughout the organization.

Chapter 10: The Project's Leadership Structure

This chapter talks about the structure of project leadership, in other words—who leads what. As leadership does not come solely from the top of the organization, and often should not, each role in the organization has some level of leadership it must provide. This chapter discusses leadership responsibilities inside the project by the project manager, the executive sponsor, other middle-managers, and the senior executives.

Chapter 11: Leadership Traits and Actions

The last leadership chapter defines the traits and actions that are most relevant to project leadership. The question this chapter answers is, "Based on the role, what techniques should I use to augment the leadership deficiencies in my organization?" It defines individual traits and actions that should be at each level of the company.

Conclusion

Chapter 12: Pulling it all Together

In general, filling any one of these six gaps yields moderately better results. However, the best results come from fixing all of them in tandem. It is not simply the sum of the parts that is achieved; it is the synergy between them all that reaps the greatest rewards. This chapter will illustrate how this can, and has, been done.

If you prefer you can read it in a PDF.

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