Evidence of the Neglect of Project Management by Senior Executives


Advances in Project Management

By Antonio Nieto-Rodriguez 


The Origins of Current Views of Project Management

I have spent the last ten years trying to understand why senior executives seem to neither understand project management nor regard it as an important means of strategy execution. While conducting my research, I discovered that most heads of organizations view project management as a highly technical discipline–an area for engineers and IT professionals. Consequently, they:

  • Lack a basic understanding of how to link each of their strategic projects with the company’s overall strategy.
  • Do not devote much time to developing project management competencies in-house.
  • Fail to implement a formal project selection process and investment committee, which discusses, prioritizes, and decides on all the new project proposals.
  • Lack the means to monitor the success or failure of their strategic projects.

But why do so many senior executives feel this way? In an attempt to get to the deeper reasons for their views, I sought answers to the following questions:

  1. Do the theories of the most highly regarded business management gurus, those that influence the way businesses are managed (e.g., Taylor, Drucker, and Porter), mention project management and/or the importance of its link with strategy execution?
  2. Have the top business schools, those that train most senior executives and future leaders, been teaching the value of project management and its link with strategy execution?
  3. Is project management regularly discussed in the finest business publications?

Disregarded by Business Management Gurus

My rationale for scrutinizing the work of the so-called business management gurus is that they have shaped the way companies do business today. Their theories have promoted big waves of change and improvement for many decades and have become obligatory reading for most business school students.

I looked at business management experts of the 20th and early 21st centuries whom I considered to be the most influential. My aim was to first understand the impact of their theories on business and then to determine whether they discussed project management as a discipline and/or its link to strategy execution.

I describe below three out of the eleven management gurus and its theories that I researched.


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About the Author

antonio-nieto-rodriguezflag-spainAntonio Nieto-Rodriguez flag-belgium

Antonio Nieto-Rodriguez is the head of Transversal Portfolio Management and in charge of the entire portfolio and project management practices at BNP Paribas Fortis. In addition to being member of the board of the London Business School Alumni in Belgium, he also holds a membership with the PMI Belgium Chapter board and was a founding member of the PMI EMEA Corporate Networking Group.

Prior to becoming elected to the Board of Directors, Mr. Nieto-Rodriguez was the head of post-merger integration at Fortis Bank, leading what was the largest takeover in the financial service history: the acquisition of ABN AMRO. Before that, he worked for 10 years at PricewaterhouseCoopers as a senior manager, becoming the global lead practitioner for project management.

The author of the book The Focused Organization, Mr. Nieto-Rodriguez has been featured in several magazines, including PM Network®, Strategy Business Review and The Economist. He is also the author of the white paper “Boosting Business Performance through Programme and Project Management”, which was written after he conducted one of the first global project management maturity surveys.

Mr. Nieto-Rodriguez is a professor of project management for MBA students at several business schools, and is a regular keynote speaker at large international events where he speaks on the strategic value of project management; he is often voted as ‘best speaker’. Mr. Nieto-Rodriguez undertook undergraduate studies in Germany, Mexico, Italy and the United States and has a university degree in economics from the Universidad Complutense in Madrid. He has an MBA from LondonBusinessSchool and is fluent in Spanish, English, French, Dutch, Italian and German. As a hobby, Mr. Nieto-Rodriguez teaches business students and convinces senior leaders about the value of project management, positioning project management as a key management concept for executing organizations strategies.

Information about Antonio’s book, The Focused Organization, can be found at http://www.gowerpublishing.com/isbn/9781409425663.

Editor’s note: The PMWJ Advances in Project Management series includes articles by authors of program and project management books published by Gower in the UK.  The articles are coordinated by series editor Prof Darren Dalcher, who is also the editor of the Gower Advances in Project Management series of books on new and emerging concepts in PM.  Prof Dalcher also provides an introduction to the current month’s article, which you can see elsewhere in this month’s edition.”  Information about the Gower series can be found at http://www.gowerpublishing.com/advancesinprojectmanagement.