Posts Tagged ‘atos origin’

Great Event at Atos Origin!

July 15, 2010

What a great event and an overwhelming number of visitors! Over 100 people came to the competence meeting of AtosOrigin of June 15th where I gave my presentation about the co-operation between project executive and project manager.

It was a mixed public of project and programme managers, transition managers and other people involved with Atos projects.

foto: Patrick de Goede van Eijk

The title of the event was: ‘Project Managers are from Mars, Executives are from Mercury’. The key question of the evening was if this was really the case and if so what is needed to bridge the differences and make it a successful combination.

I started with a video newsflash about two in itself successful projects, but together were a great fiasco; new street lightning and parking spaces in a street in Rotterdam. The parking spaces were neatly paved and big enough for the cars. The lampposts were standing straight up and working properly….but some of them were standing in the middle of the road or the parking spaces.

Where did this go wrong? How can we prevent ourselves for these kind of fiascos?

In the presentation we took some time to look at the major failure factors for projects and concluded that at least half of them involved the project executive, the project manager and mainly their relationship and co-operation. So naturally, we had to look at what to do about these kind of situations, with the main focus on the project managers site. We can’t order the executives to change, we can only change our own behavior.

What can I, as project manager do, so the project is going to be successful? And what is my responsibility to work successfully with the executive?

Am I professional enough to ask myself the questions ‘Do I start a project while I know it can’t be done? Do I start when no ownership or commitment by the executive is in place?’. The main question is if the project manager is responsible to solve everything.

It is all there in the beginning of the project. We have an idea about what the project should be. Let’s consciously appoint the project executive and manager! It feels to business as usual to say, but the reaction in the audience was clear. This is felt as an issue for their projects. How to get the executive to not only accept the role, but also to fill the responsibility? So he is comfortable with his role and knowing how to co-operate together with the project manager.

The project manager is not a tumbler you can push around and following every move of the executive. We have to be a professional all the time, that’s what the executive may expect from us. Project managers are responsible for managing the project and that’s what we do best. But still things can go wrong or change during the project. Then we have to be clear about the situation, the causes, possible solutions and our advice. It is in these situation where the project is getting exciting and were our project management skills are needed most. This is where we can proof the executive he has a partner in crime and we are working on the same goal.

But to get such a relationship you have to build one. So have a formal but also a informal communication with your executive. This helps to build trust and understanding between the two of you. He will probably make time for you easier, when you have a good relationship. It also makes the formal and more difficult discussions easier to handle, because you both feel your are still on the same page.

In the first half of the presentation I told the story about the fundamentals of the project. Basically it was about creation a common feeling of working on the same goal in a project. There was some small discussion during the first half, but our goal was to have a strong discussion in the second half after dinner. We had some propositions where people could react on by holding up a green or a red card

Some of them felt like a commonly known fact, but still there was lots of discussion about these propositions. For example:

Proposition 1; hiring a (internal) project manager solves all the executives problems.

95% of the people were not supporting this proposition. They claimed that they were there to manage the project but they don’t have the power to solve all possible issues. There the executive is needed.

In the projects they were sometimes feeling the executive is using them as bin. ‘Why should I be bothered with these problems, where do I have you for then?’. It is important to keep the executive committed to the project and aware of his responsibilities. Manage his expectations about your co-operation and make sure he has a quick win every 3 months (for example) to show around.

Another proposition; a capable project manager doesn’t look beyond the borders of his own project.

A common feeling with the project managers in the room was that this was a bad suggestion in a theoretical environment, but a wise suggestion in their daily business. There was more than enough issues in their own project to cope with. It is hard enough to realize the project without managing the interfaces with the ‘outside world’ and by doing so the project would stretch the planning even more.

There was quite a discussion about this topic. Everybody felt this was what really should be done, but how to do this in their project environment? Focus on the projects end result and end goal is good, but don’t forget the stakeholders and other projects and programmes. Like in the short film about Rotterdam. You can’t manage a project with blinkers on.


It was very rewarding for me to notice all the involvement during the presentation. We had some beautiful discussions and I think some eye-openers for them to work on. I am also glad to see the organization is willing to work on this and we planned some next steps where we can help the organization together. I want to thank AtosOrigin and all attendants for their input and hospitality. Hope to see you all again soon.

Project managers are from Mars, executives are from Mercury

May 30, 2010
On Wednesday the 15th of June Atos Origin is organizing a year event for their project and programme managers, titled ‘Project managers are from Mars, executives are from Mercury’.
I am honored to announce that Atos Origin booked me as key note speaker for this event, to talk about the relationship between project manager and project executive.
What is the importance of the relationship between project manager and executive? And can a project be successful without a good relationship between those two? How can the project manager keep the executive committed and involved throughout the project? Important questions which will be answered during the event.
I have asked the project managers to come up with practical examples regarding their relationship with project executives. For me it’s important to understand what these project managers are dealing with every day, so I can give some hands-on and experienced solutions and advise they can use in their daily work.  Advise is nothing if you can’t use it the next day.
An interview with me has been used to tell some more about the presentation and was published on the Atos Origin intranet. You can also see the interview following this link. I am proud to say that we have exceeded the maximum capacity of the event in only a few days. And I am looking forward to meet everybody in Utrecht!
If you want to know more about this interesting event or want to organize an event for yourself, please contact us at