How much time does a busy executive give to directing a project? Too much and you will find the project sucks you in. Too little and you are not doing your job. But what are 'too much' and 'too little'?
There are two extreme dysfunctions in directing a project:
- micromanagement; and
Micromanagement is interfering with the delegated role of the project manager. This behaviour basically shows an inability to delegate, or an absence of trust. Here the Executive requires every twist and turn of the project to be brought to his or her attention. As a consequence, the project manager is likely to do less useful work in order to serve this obsession with excessive reporting and planning.
Absenteeism is the opposite. Here the executive is not engaging with the project primarily as a decision-maker, but when present, if at all, is there to be briefed. There is no conception in the mind of such an executive that at key moments in the project the project manager needs to be empowered by decisions, decisions to proceed as planned, decisions to adjust scope or requirements, decisions to stop work, decisions to provide resources. Without this decision-making role the project manager is again disempowered.
Sometimes I've seen both behaviours exhibited by the same individuals: they take an 'arms length' approach to direction. Then when a crisis is drawn to their attention, they panic and throw themselves into the project; in doing so, they disempower the project manager and her team.
But there is a cure for these two extremes, and a very sensible use of the executive's scarce time. We coach executives on this in our briefings. This better approach save everyone a lot of time and waste.