Notes on increasing project management involvement

in senior management activities in production-based organizations



By Alan Stretton

Sydney, Australia



For nearly as long as I can remember, many (but by no means all) project management writers have been concerned about project managers remaining in subordinate positions in the production-based organizations in which they operate (see definition below). Their essential concern is that senior management has been unaware of the benefits that project managers (PMs) can provide.

Some writers have expressed these concerns in somewhat generalised contexts. Other writers have been concerned with more specific issues, such as senior management making vitally important project initiation decisions, but with little understanding of how their decisions could adversely affect project execution and ultimate business benefits. The most obvious way to overcome this latter situation is to get project managers more involved in activities related to the initiation of projects. The question then becomes one of ways and means of achieving such involvement.

These two forms of concern strongly overlap, and this article looks at what various authors have had to say about ways of overcoming these concerns. But first we distinguish between two different types of organizations that undertake projects.


I borrow from Cooke-Davies 2002 in describing the two different types of organization as production-based and project-based, and from Archibald et al 2012 (who use different descriptors) in describing them.

  • Production-based organizations derive most (if not all) of their revenue and/or benefits from producing and selling products and services. They utilize projects to create new, or improve existing, products and services; enter new markets; or otherwise improve or change their organizations.
  • Project-based organizations derive most (if not all) of their revenue and/or other benefits from creating and delivering projects / programs to external customers.

The relevant point to note here is that the above concerns apply primarily in production-based organizations. Such concerns are evidently rare in project-based organizations. As Debourse & Archibald 2017 observe (“project-driven” is their descriptor for what I have described as “project-based”):

From our face-to-face interviews we learned that, for “project-driven” companies, the job of project manager is an essential experience to become a CEO.


“The calm before the storm” – Wake 2017

Wake’s article is a substantially generalised polemic which broadly says that project management is not doing enough to convince others of the value of project management. The following quotes give something of the flavour of his arguments.

The Project Profession has to get and maintain its voice.

It’s our fault we haven’t made our case as well as we should. And it’s our problem to fix. But time is ticking and things are not improving.

Project management needs to expand itself. Go into areas which create success. It sure as hell is not more process.

Where is your lobby to get a seat on the Board and the rest of the Board and its investors educated about your value? Where is the evidence? The proof?

Wake does not spell out the specific nature of the benefits that project management can offer to senior general managers. Like many writers, he appears to take the value of project management in such situations as being self-evident. But obviously, it is far from self-evident to many senior managers.

We now turn to quite a different perspective about the role of the project manager in the broader context of a production-based organization.

“Proposals to accelerate advancement from project manager to senior executive” – Debourse & Archibald 2017

The title of this article accurately reflects its contents. The authors set down proposals at three levels…


To read entire paper, click here


Editor’s note: Alan Stretton, PhD (Hon), Life Fellow of AIPM (Australia), is a pioneer in the field of professional project management and one of the most widely recognized voices in the practice of program and project management.   Long retired, Alan is still tackling some of the most challenging research and writing assignments; he is a frequent contributor to the PM World Journal. See his author profile below.

About the Author

Alan Stretton, PhD

Faculty Corps, University of Management
and Technology, Arlington, VA (USA)
Life Fellow, AIPM (Australia)


Alan Stretton
is one of the pioneers of modern project management. He is currently a member of the Faculty Corps for the University of Management & Technology (UMT), USA. In 2006 he retired from a position as Adjunct Professor of Project Management in the Faculty of Design, Architecture and Building at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS), Australia, which he joined in 1988 to develop and deliver a Master of Project Management program.   Prior to joining UTS, Mr. Stretton worked in the building and construction industries in Australia, New Zealand and the USA for some 38 years, which included the project management of construction, R&D, introduction of information and control systems, internal management education programs and organizational change projects. He has degrees in Civil Engineering (BE, Tasmania) and Mathematics (MA, Oxford), and an honorary PhD in strategy, programme and project management (ESC, Lille, France). Alan was Chairman of the Standards (PMBOK) Committee of the Project Management Institute (PMI®) from late 1989 to early 1992. He held a similar position with the Australian Institute of Project Management (AIPM), and was elected a Life Fellow of AIPM in 1996. He was a member of the Core Working Group in the development of the Australian National Competency Standards for Project Management. He has published over 180 professional articles and papers. Alan can be contacted at [email protected].

To see more works by Alan Stretton, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at http://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/alan-stretton/.