Why must the top dog come to the Project Management workshop?

What do we discuss with our corporate clients as we prepare for an in-house Project Management training event? This letter provides a glimpse into one of the questions which comes up often. It was written to a senior decision-maker at one of our client companies on 22 December 2017. (Names of organisations and individuals have been changed for confidentiality.)


Dear Mark


You wrote, “Our CEO, Dr. Meyer, cannot attend–but I will check if she can be there the first day till 10:00–any specific reason why you want her there?”

Here’s the context:

Senior management identifies requirements for operations to work better or differently, and to establish what is needed to execute the KFD’s business strategies. The function of projects is to establish the operational vehicles for executing company strategies. Strategies stand in service and in support of the organisation’s vision. The management of projects works best—and in some instances, only—in an enabled Project Management environment. (For more about what we mean by “an enabled Project Management environment”, see our articles on this topic.)

All of these things lie in the domain of senior management’s sphere of influence. The project team executes the mandate that comes from the top, and what is within their span of control. Their success also depends on the level and intensity of the facilitation, and active support they receive from senior management, and from the most senior leader (or ‘top dog’, as we typically call this person informally in our training events).

The ‘top dog’ and her team create the structure and formulate the mandates that lead to cross-functional support and facilitation of the project team. None of the above is in the span of control of project managers, and it can also not be driven by department heads alone, although it would certainly involve them and affect them directly.

The importance of senior management in training to implement Project Management is mentioned as Step 2 of The first 5 steps for training Project Management that works at work, as Number 5 of our 10 Principles for Organisational Project Management Training, and in our article The role of the leaders in implementing Project Management. The requirement for the ‘top dog’ to be present was also mentioned in the information about our GRASP Workshop, which we sent to Lindi earlier.

Given a 2-day training session, and in the absence of the most senior person, the goal of the workshop would change. We would then focus instead on creating an awareness of the behaviours and attitudes needed for successful execution of projects, as well as on how organisational processes can be optimised once the ‘top dog’ has begun to lead the initiative, and to link these to basic project scheduling. The thinking behind this approach is that regardless of all prevailing KFD factors, changed behaviour and basic project planning remain prerequisites for improving project success, and it is in these two domains where we can create the most enduring value in the short time available until such time as the ‘top dog’ can be actively engaged in the process.

I trust that this helps!


Best regards


Marius Cloete
Director: Organisational Learning

Tania Melnyczuk

Director of Programme Design at ProjectManagement.co.za and the Collaboration Director of the Autistic Strategies Network.


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