The title, Project Executive, has been used for several years and primarily in the general construction area. Our Sub-Trade “partners” are just beginning to warm up to the term when they are a major participant on large project. I’d like to explore this important role and perhaps provide some reasons why more construction companies, of all specialty and sizes, might be wise to look to its place.
For the smaller contractor, a Project Executive might also double as the Owner, or perhaps the Project Manager. For the larger contractor, the Project Executive more often represents a more senior Project Manager, although I have found the more experienced Superintendent serving under the title, Project Executive.
But first, let’s discuss some of the components that often make up the role of Project Executive.
Project Experience — in every case that I’ve worked with a Project Executive, he or she was seasoned in their job knowledge, project knowledge, project finances, etc. The Project Executive literally “oozed” with experience. In only a few minutes of discussion one knows, “This person knows what they are talking about.”
Project Leadership — made up from the Project Experience, the Project Executive, or “PX,” is no stranger to having run projects. They are privy to many of the needs of a project leader and can relate to the challenges that confront the Project PM or Superintendent. This experience leverages them to be able to move the Project Leaders to think before acting, plan before executing and prepare before delivering.
Project Financial Master — the PX must be knowledgeable about how the money moves throughout the life of a project. They are project wise to where questionable expenses are to be accounted and understand how a job may have gone into the “red” and how to turn the job around.
Project “Ambassador” — this may be the most important part of the PX’s role. For any project, the Client wants to know who they need to call if they have a burning question, problem or idea. It is the PX that will often take the hardest complaints from a Client and will be expected to ensure that the Client’s ultimate needs and expectations are met. The other side to being the “Ambassador” is that the PX is also the best representative from the Project Team to their company’s Executive Suite. The PX’s attitude, perspective and insights are invaluable to those whom they report directly to. The President or CEO will take the word of their PX over the word of the Project Manager or Superintendent just about every time.
Project Counselor & Coach — while the Ambassador role might be critical to the Client, the execution of Counselor or Coach, may be the most important to the Project Leaders. This is role can be the differentiator between a Senior PM being considered for the Project Executive role. This person must have demonstrated wisdom over the years when they had younger field leaders under their tutelage. The PX didn’t have to have had a perfect record, but they need to be one that has demonstrated professionalism in both attitude and action.
Project Strategist — part of their coaching function, it is the PX that must instruct their Project Leaders on the importance of staying ahead of the current day. When so many Project Leaders find it easy to get down in the weeds, often missing what is about to come around the corner, it is the PX who must pull them out to balance both the short and long-term perspective. Easier said than done, the PX must impose their will, if needed, if he or she views their Project Leaders getting lost in the weeds or succumbing to the whines and minor emergencies of subcontractors who are failing badly in their own efforts. Again, easy to say what should be done, the PX must continue to encourage both PM and Superintendent to keep “their eyes downfield.”
The formal role of a Project Executive is crucial for any project, especially the larger projects that will require greater manpower, longer lead times of scheduling and just more complexity. Finally, I’d like to provide just a few benefits to why I have found Project Executives are worth their weight in project “ROI.
- Improve the vision of the Project Leaders
- Drive greater realism on job planning
- Provide “aid & comfort” to Project Leaders when they need it most
- Educate Project Leader on critical and strategic decision making when challenges arise
- Reinforce their company’s culture of professionalism
- Add to the Client Retention Strategy
If you are already engaged with using the Project Executive role, hopefully this article has provided some confirmation to what the role is all about. If you have never considered the PX role, consider it to improve your project success and performance profitability.
Engage the Project Executive role. Let this critical project leader assist your company to accomplishing greater results!