Interview with Robert Buttrick


Project Failure is often Top Down

Interview with Robert Buttrick

Hon Fellow, APM
Author: The Project Workout
Associate Teaching Fellow, University of Warwick, UK

Interviewed by Yu Yanjuan
Journalist, Project Management Review: PMR (China)
International Correspondent, PM World Journal


Introduction to the interviewee

Robert Buttrick is an independent and influential advisor on portfolio, programme and project management, specialising in business-driven methods, processes and standards. He is also an Associate Teaching Fellow at the University of Warwick, a member of the British Standards Institute’s committee MS2 for project management and a UK Principal Expert on the equivalent ISO technical committee, TC258 (dealing with international standards on portfolio, programme and project management).

Robert Buttrick is also known as the author of the book The Project Workout. The book, as the flagship publication on business-led project management, based on his field experience in the direction of portfolios across sectors as a successful practitioner, has been translated into a number of languages. Robert Buttrick is also a co-author of the PRINCE2 (2017 edition)  with a focus on practical considerations and tailoring, as well as a contributor to other books such as the “Handbook of project portfolio management” Routledge, 2018; “Gower Handbook of Programme Management”, Gower 2016; APM Body of Knowledge (5th and 6th editions).

Due to his efforts, Robert Buttrick has received many awards. For example, in 2010, Robert received a Distiguished Service Certificate from the BSI for services to national and international project management standards, and in 2013 he was made an Honorary Fellow of the Association for Project Management (APM).

To know more about Robert Buttrick, please read the following interview or visit his website: www.projectworkout.com.




Part I: From ‘engineering’ towards ‘project management’

Q1.      What’s your story with project management? Why did you choose project management as your profession? As a leading expert in this field, what are the contributing factors for your success?

Robert Buttrick (Buttrick):           I didn’t think of myself as ‘being in project management’ until I’d been working for about 12 years. The early part of my career was as a consulting civil engineer, undertaking feasibility studies, designing and supervising the construction of civil engineering works. The word ‘project’ was used all the time but as part of the backdrop for my day-to-day work.

The world-wide recession in the early 1980s provided the catalyst for my gradual move away from ‘engineering’ towards ‘project management’. The market for consulting engineers was shrinking fast and many consultancies were disappearing. I spent two years building internal management systems for the engineering consultancy I still worked for. The new systems monitored cashflow, profitability, market analysis, bid management, pricing and foreign currency transactions, and the firm moved from losing money towards being profitable again.

I then moved to PA Consulting to become a management consultant, specializing in business-led project management. This drew on my both engineering skills and recent management experience. I worked on project management related assignments covering a range of sectors, including property development, banking, environmental management and manufacturing. I learnt to make sure that every project is driven by a business need. The fundamental question is, “Why are we undertaking a project?” After PA, I worked in several large commercial organisations, introducing portfolio, programme and project management. Currently, I am an independent consultant, advising the UK government and other large organisations. I am also an Associate Teaching Fellow at the University of Warwick.

I think ‘success’ for me came with being curious, wanting to learn and see tangible results. I want my work to be of direct help to people in organizations. I also have a very broad view on how to apply project management as a strategic management tool and adopt, what is now termed, a ‘whole system approach’. Naturally, the publication of my book, The Project Workout, added to my credibility, as did my involvement in the development of British and International Standards.

Q2.      You’ve worked for more than 30 years. What are the things that you are most proud of and what are the challenging parts in your career? Please offer some tips for newcomers in project management.


To read entire interview, click here


Editor’s note: This interview was first published in PMR, Project Management Review magazine, China.  It is republished here with the permission of PMR. The PM World Journal maintains a cooperative relationship with PMR, periodically republishing works from each other’s publications. To see the original interview with Chinese introduction, visit PMR at http://www.pmreview.com.cn/english/

How to cite this interview: PMR (2020). Project Failure is often Top Down: Interview with Robert Buttrick; Project Management Review; republished in the PM World Journal, Vol. IX, Issue VIII, August. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/pmwj96-Aug2020-Yanjuan-Interview-with-Robert-Buttrick2.pdf



About the Interviewer

Yu Yanjuan

Beijing, China


Yu Yanjuan (English name: Spring), Bachelor’s Degree, graduated from the English Department of Beijing International Studies University (BISU) in China. She is now an English-language journalist and editor working for Project Management Review (PMR) Magazine and website. She has interviewed over sixty top experts in the field of project management. Before joining PMR, she once worked as a journalist and editor for other media platforms in China. She has also worked part-time as an English teacher in training centers in Beijing. Beginning in January 2020, Spring also serves as an international correspondent for the PM World Journal.

For work contact, she can be reached via email yuyanjuan2005@163.com  or LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/yanjuanyu-76b280151/.

To view other works by Spring, visit her author showcase in the PM World Library at https://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/yu-yanjuan/