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Strategic Project Management, Interview with Professor Sebastian Green

01 May 2013
Strategic Project Management, Interview with Professor Sebastian Green

In this interview, Sebastian Green, Emeritus Professor of Management and Marketing at UCC, looks back at the emergence of project management in Ireland over the last twenty years and discusses how important it is to execute strategy for organisations.

He reminds us of former Harvard Business School Professor John Kotter’s statement that “Strategy should be viewed as a dynamic force that constantly seeks opportunities, identifies initiatives that will capitalise on them, and completes these initiatives swiftly and efficiently.”
Sebastian believes that the bridge between strategy and successful execution, which delivers the desired value to the organisation, is project management.

How did your career evolve to the point where you became Professor of Management and Marketing at UCC?

As an economist, I started my academic life, moved to anthropology, and then began to apply this to strategic management.  I was one of the first Research Fellows in Strategy in the London Business School. I was hired to analyse organisations as business cultures which led me to implement strategic change and develop leaders who can drive strategic thinking throughout their companies. I left LBS and then went to Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand, where I lectured on Strategic Management and Leadership.   I joined UCC in 1990 to re-launch its MBA program and develop its Department of Management and Marketing.

How did the discipline of Project Management (PM) emerge on your radar?

I came from a strategy area that is a slightly different perspective to PM. However, my colleague, Dr Donncha Kavanagh, first introduced me to project management and Ed Naughton in 1993. We looked at how my interest in Strategic Management might be aligned with Donncha’s skills in Project Management to bring something useful to Institute and foster a joint venture between UCC and the Institute of Project Management.

What role do you think that the Institute has contributed to the development of management skills in Ireland?

The Institute has contributed very fundamentally. It has brought many people through its doors and helped them progress career-wise and make an added value contribution to their organisations in both the private and the public sectors.  It has helped them aspire to and to take on very significant management roles. In manufacturing, construction and IT, there has always been a large interest in project management, and this is now growing across all business functions and sectors.  It is no longer a luxury to have project management skills in a company. It is essential, and more and more aspects of management can and are benefitting from the application of PM protocols and learning. This is true even at the highest level within organisations where project management can contribute to effective strategic management.  For how can you even begin to think about managing Strategic Investment Decisions, the lifeblood of strategy, unless you have leading-edge project management skills and competencies?

Has Project Management become a strategically important weapon for organisations?

Strategic weapons are about being better than others. Knowledge about project management is no secret, and if everyone has it, it cannot give a competitive edge. However, poor project management performance can undermine strategic success in other areas.

To really become a strategic weapon, project management has to focus much more on the softer sides of management over the straight analytical side of project management. Project management is used to drive strategy but is not a weapon unless it is done better than others.  That means doing more than abiding by or following PMBOK principles which are open to everyone.

It means bringing in star project management qualities and experience – which more often than not relate to the level of dedication, forcefulness, organisational savvy, relationship management, political and cultural skills possessed by a seasoned project management professional in addition to the strict adherence to widely accepted best practice protocols.

That is why I believe that the Strategic Project Management Diploma is a unique programme that focuses on such an agenda and will help develop the “Next Generation Project Manager.”

How can Project Management and the Institute help to enhance/protect/develop the career prospects of our young and emerging professionals?

Managers can no longer do without project management skills and knowledge. Project management can bring together the rational, analytical side of management, relationship, leadership, and general management skills. I believe that all are needed, and this common grounding is given by project management. In a tougher world where you have to trim the fat, projects are a better way of getting things done.