Project Managers – The “mini-CEOs”

Project Management, I got to learn first hand that its both an art and a science. Considering this was one of the few courses where we had to actually complete a project, it gave me a greater understanding how applying theory differs in practice from just learning theory and going home.

Work Breakdown Structure

  • I.) Throughout the course the importance of setting milestones, goals, and even before the goals and milestones, the work breakdown structure (WBS), are extremely important. Breaking down a project into a workable and understandable structure is extremely important. Without having a structure you wouldn’t know where to begin and where to end. At the same time the breakdown can’t be too confusing or you have a risk of potentially undermining your own project. It can’t be vague as well or else the teams won’t know what they’re trying to achieve. Striving for balance was one of the most important things, this was something that I could understand perfectly having worked on a few projects over the course of my professional career.
  • II.) The next important task that comes in is then the formation of teams and assigning them with goals and milestones. In our project this was done right after the WBS stage, where we assigned who would do what and when. There was a time frame given and everyone was assigned with a task to accomplish. The importance of the team is fundamental for the success of the project. If we don’t have a team that works well, then it’s all but over. Finding the formula to success is extremely important. The project leader works as a motivator, someone who can get the ball rolling so to speak. The others have to be able to rally behind him or else the project is not going to go anywhere. Jack Welch highlighted the importance of building a team and managing it below.

  • III.) One of the things we learnt in class was also that the project managers have to make tough decisions, these decisions have to be made in a moments notice or the project could be over before you know it. This is why project managers act like Mini-CEOs, they are constantly making decisions and they’re constantly monitoring the situation. Through either software such as Microsoft Project which lets you know when goals and milestones have been reached. Once they are reached, the project manager can then focus on whats not done, it’s like being a military commander having set objectives that need to be accomplished in a set order or else you run the risk of failing. This is true for multi-year projects on a massive scale. Like our discussion of the Hoover Dam and Bechtel. You need to make sure you’ve got a team that can handle the workload and are capable of working in various teams. Constant feedback is extremely important.


  • There was an excellent link for assessing the effectiveness of a team and I gave it a go after the conclusion of the project that we had. I suggest giving it a go, it was quite handy and informative. scored a 49, in my own assessment.

Overall the key takeaways from the class and our hands on project was to make sure you are constantly monitoring everything, make and prepare for contingencies and make sure you have an “Oh No” plan. Because, as we learnt there is no such thing as a perfect plan, especially once the project is underway, it starts to go all over the place.  We learnt the hard way when the venue we had put most of our eggs in vanished before our very eyes.

7 thoughts on “Project Managers – The “mini-CEOs”

  1. i hear you saying that “The project leader works as a motivator, someone who can get the ball rolling so to speak. The others have to be able to rally behind him or else the project is not going to go anywhere.” and this made me think that this might be another cause that made the Magazine project at my organization fail. because my manager (the project manager) was taking everything too easy and he weren’t constantly monitoring the project.

    i would like to also add that the project managers should be reporting directly to the CEO (the top leader in an organization), this will give him more priority when dealing with co workers, and it will make his project flow a lot smother in his organization.

    for more information about the Magazine Project:

  2. I completely agree about project managers being mini-CEOs. They really have to think of the bigger picture from the very particulars of the project to the whole. One of the CEO’s responsibilities and also the project managers is the project team selection and the organizational set up. However, CEOs, I think, have it easier.

    While project managers, most of the time, have to choose their team from the available pool of talent depending on the resources at hand, CEOs can hire new people and replace people. This gives CEOs more flexibility in terms of choosing their team.

  3. You couldn’t have put it any better Asim! From what I digested from your blog post is that planning is vital to the success of the project. Yes, I also thought that planning is important but after my informational interview with role model of mine who does project management for living I found out that 80% of the success of any project remains in the planning phase ! and you only leave 20% for executing “80/20 rule” . another thing that I have just digested after reading your blog post is a quote from Jack Welch, the leader or the CEO shouldn’t be the smartest person in the room but he is the one who directs the smartest people towards the goals and objective while keeping track of the progress.

  4. Thanks for the post Asim. The draw for many Project Managers is just what you have described, the opportunity to have ownership of a business directive and to act as the “mini-CEO” of their “company”, or project. Owning a project can be a very rewarding experience for the Project Manager if he or she follows your advice and plans well but on the other hand it can also be miserable if the Project Manager does not select the correct team and plan properly.

    Your key takeaways have been very helpful in starting to plan our project. We’ve started to create our WBS and your note on the PM needing to make tough decisions confirms that we’ve made the right choice as our Project Manager. As I read the last few sentences of your post I realized that we don’t have an “Oh No!” plan yet. We’re still very early in the planning stages but I can see how it will be wise to have a contingency plan from the start.

  5. Asim has some very good points. I agree that creating a work breakdown structure is hugely important for projects. It provides an opportunity to really think through a project, and it also allows other stakeholders/team members to provide input and feedback to make sure important steps have not been omitted.

    Additionally, the statement about constantly monitoring and preparing contingency plans is right on. In the commercial construction business, for example, things change by the minute. Schedules change, plans change, everything can change without notice. An effective project manager needs to have the ability to adapt to constant change and make good decisions quickly, much like a “mini-CEO”.

  6. Adding to Asim’s point about Project managers having to take tough decision, I, for instance, work in a difficult environment where business (who is the client for the project) is constantly adding scope to the project. The justification for the scope creep would always be accompanied by revenue figures and how important it is to the company goals. The project manager is in a bind in such situations as he does not get much support from senior management to reject some of this scope creep. Neither does he/she have additional resources to use. Here project managers have to play the role of a “negotiator” with the client and push back on some of these requirements, to meet project deadlines, without coming across as working against company interests.

  7. In point II, I can imagine (through my own experience) that assigning tasks is fundamental to the project success. Of course, each individual on the team has strengths and weaknesses and those are easier to identify as these teams work together more and more often. A potential issue with these projects in class is that you may work with unfamilair faces and not be certain of these strengths and weaknesses. However, in work settings, it may be more likely that you will be working with a familiar group and understand their capabilities off-the-bat. Failure by any of these members could allow for negative consequences on the project success. So, it is critical, not only that the team assign these tasks, but also, that there are backups and that none of these tasks that are assigned to one individual have any lasting negative effect on the project. Those critical tasks should be managed by several or have immediate fixes. Another commentor noted that 80% of the success of a project is in the planning phase and 20% is in the executing phase. However, if the 20% does not get done, the 80% is all for naught.

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