Project Management Institute

Straight Talk with Sunil Episode 10 Transcript - Part 3


  • Sunil Prashara, PMI President & CEO
  • Cathy LaTona, Compensation Committee Chair
  • Tejas Sura, Strategy Oversight Committee Chair
  • Galen Townson (Audit Committee Chair)

SUNIL PRASHARA: Hi, everyone, Sunil Prashara here, the President and the CEO of the Project Management Institute and boy have I got a surprise for you today. We are going to be talking today to three Board members, in fact, the three Board members that look after the three standing committees that we have that are set up to support the Board of Directors’ actions during the course of the year. So I am joined here today by Cathy Latona. Cathy, would you like to say hello?

CATHY LaTONA: Hello, everyone.

SUNIL: Cathy looks after the Comp Com Committee but she has also been a Chair of the Board and actually sat on a number of committees. So we learn a little bit more about Cathy and the role of the Comp Com in a minute. But now I would also like to introduce you to Tejas. Tejas, would you like to say hello?

TEJAS: Hello, everyone.

SUNIL: Tejas looks after the Strategy Oversight Committee, which is responsible for looking at where we are going in the future. And then I’d also like to introduce you to Gaylyn Townsend, who looks after the Audit Committee. Gaylyn, would you like to say hello?

GAYLYN: Hi, everyone.

SUNIL: Thank you all for giving some time to spend with me. The whole purpose of this session here really is to help the audience understand the role of these various standing committees and what they do and how they contribute to the ongoing delivery and focus of PMI. So, let me start with you, Cathy. Would you like to tell us a little bit about yourself and the role of the Comp Com?

CATHY: In terms of the Compensation Committee, we have three primary responsibilities. The first is compensation itself, the second is performance management and the third is succession. And since the Board has only one employee, that’s you, Sunil, it is all about you. So we are focused on -

SUNIL: I’m privileged.

CATHY: Yeah and so therefore we are focused on insuring that from a leadership perspective we’re doing everything we can as a Board to insure that the organization, that PMI has the right leadership, that we provide the right compensation and incentives and feedback to insure that we are moving forward in the right way.

SUNIL: Let me turn to Gaylyn. Gaylyn, you look after a very, very important aspect of the PMI operations, you look after our Audit Committee. Why don’t you share a little bit about what the Audit Committee is doing for us.

GAYLYN: Sure, Sunil. The Audit Committee provides assurance for our governance policies and performance and not just our financial performance but our non-financial performance through our value true. So we connect with external audit and internal audit, risk, finance, of course. So yeah, we tend to be looking at the present and the past, whereas SOC looks towards the future.

SUNIL: And talking about where we want to go, Ted, yes, the SOC is all about the future, as you said. Who do you work with? What does the SOC look like? How many times do you engage and where do you get your insights from about deciding directionally where the organization needs to go?

TEJAS: I would say the most important activity that takes place within the SOC, every year we have a meeting somewhere about this time, which is August, that we look at the environmental scan report, how the business looks like, what the competition out there is in the market and how the world is moving. For example, thinking about the Covid crisis, how it is impacting the way PMI works, how it’s impacting the way this profession runs.

So a lot of sensing activity happens in our committee. We take all this feedback from the staff and we dwell on it and we figure out what changes we need to make in our strategy, how we need to move, how we need to tweak it. And so a lot of this important stuff happens in our committee. And it is very exciting to be in here.

SUNIL: We have had a lot of interaction with the SOC Committee because obviously one of the things that we are continuously doing is looking see where do we want to go, how is the profession developing. And you also got heavily involved in the work that we did around the acquisition of Disciplined Agile. Do you want to talk a little bit about the work that SOC does in trying to identify opportunities where we might want to invest?

TEJAS: Yes. So depending on our sensing activity, one of the things we also look out for is organic and in-organic growth for PMI. And so one part of that is basically we look at identifying organizations that we can target for mergers and acquisitions and the would help PMI grow in a big way. We do look for such organizations that help us leapfrog our strategy. So this is also one of the very important activities that we do in the Strategy Oversight Committee.

SUNIL: I’m going to turn to Gaylyn and ask a slightly different question around learning. Because some of these roles, like the Audit Committee, you have to have a fair degree of understanding of commercials, finance, performance management, other bits and pieces as well, and you may not come from that part of.. your work may not entail that kind of specialization.

So as being a member of this committee, clearly you bring a lot to the table but also, I guess you’re learning a fair degree as well. So would you like to talk a little bit about that reciprocal arrangement, which is there, which is you are contributing your thought leadership and thinking whilst at the same time you’re taking onboard some new learnings. First of all, is it reciprocal?

GAYLYN: Absolutely. There’s both formal and informal learning and development for the Board. In fact, I was laughing at the last question because I think a lot of the conflict is actually us learning and growing as individuals. So often those differences of opinion, it’s just actually we’re learning something new and it takes us time to process it and sometimes we come around and sometimes it’s like oh, I’ve learned something and I still disagree but that is okay.

But yes, for Board development we have a formal Board Development, Director Development program. So while many of us come with very strong backgrounds, we have MBAs, some of us have served on previous boards, have director qualifications, we all have a firm foundation starting off with the Institute of Directors Certificate and then (deployment courses?) in the first one to two years. And then there’s other structured learning that takes place. And that is further enhanced in an ongoing way. So yes, there’s actually a lot of learning and development as part of the Board role.

SUNIL: Cathy, from your side, it’s your last year on the Board but that means that for many years you have been contributing to the Board. You’ve worked in different roles, you have been the Chairman, you were involved, it’s your fault that I joined PMI. [laughter] No but you know and I’m very proud that you made that decision. So thank you very much for that. I’m very honored.

But you’ve played lots of different roles and lots of different parts in the organization and you’ve seen it from different angles as a result of that. So what would you say were the two or three things that are typically contributed at the Board level by members in the sub committees?

CATHY: So I think personally my work on the Strategy Oversight Committee, I think, had an impact relative to really looking at how can we sustain ourselves, how can we continue to be relevant moving forward. And that leading to the transformation of 2.0 and now even being able to do that on a regular basis, being able to insure that we are having strategy conversations as a Board on a regular basis because strategy at this point at the pace of change has to be an ongoing conversation. So I think being able to have an impact on enabling that to happen is significant.

And the transformation itself, my background and experience in transformation, making sure that we are really looking at the outcomes, we are not just looking at what it is that we’re doing but why. So that’s driving the need for strategic objectives, what is it that we’re trying to achieve. So, infusing that view, that knowledge and experience, that you need that to be able to align your organization, align all the volunteers, the stakeholders around where it is that you want to be. So I think those are some of my – I will say – the impact that I have made, along with the overall transition to a new CEO. I think that’s significant. The CEO casts a shadow. And it was really important for me and for the Board to insure that we were going through the process effectively, that everyone was involved in being able to insurance that we were all comfortable with the process we were going through and the final decision that we made and that we continue to work through insuring that we are supporting.

SUNIL: Lovely. And Tejas, from a strategy perspective, I know that your background is in construction, you run your own organization so you bring tremendous business acumen to the strategy team. And that’s great because sometimes what can happen is you can have an idea that’s like a blue sky idea but you can’t monetize it or you can’t create value on it or it doesn’t have influence or it won’t take us in the direction that we want to go from an enablement perspective.

You probably bring that kind of thinking to the SOC. What else on top of that, on top of your business acumen, have you been able to contribute to the SOC this year?

TEJAS: I think apart from being an entrepreneur, one of the major experiences I had was as a volunteer of PMI. And I have a huge journey as a volunteer of PMI. I have been with PMI for over 22 years as a volunteer, right from starting a chapter to being the mentor for the region and being in the advisory groups of PMI for chapters and for ISO, and finally, of course, being on the Board here. So I have had a pretty wide experience and exposure as a volunteer at PMI.

And basically being a volunteer is like you don’t make the decisions but basically it’s not like.. it’s your own business. You take (a pulse on?) everybody and come to a consensus and make decisions. So it is a very different environment. You bring in different cultures, different views, from different regions, from different professions.

And even being a professional from the construction industry, my exposure to the other industries is also pretty vast in the sense that we build facilities for the (IT?) industry, for the pharmaceutical industry, the health care industry and so on. And so we also not only know our stuff, the construction stuff, but we also know the requirements of our customers. So in those terms, I mean, I have broadened a lot of different flavor in my inputs to the PMI. And I think that is a great contribution I feel. I’m proud of it.

SUNIL: Wow, that’s fantastic. Okay so look, I think we have had a fantastic conversation. I just want to wrap it up. I just want to say a few things myself. First of all, I think that these subcommittees are super important, the standing committees are super important, because they do allow the board to double click in some very, very important areas, obviously starting with me as the CEO, making sure that I am aligned to the direction that the Board would like us to go in and that I understand the objectives that need to be achieved over the course of the next year and then future years as well.

And then also, that the SOC, which is really defining our future, where are we going, what are we going to play in, what is going to be the field of play for us across the globe? Should we be acquiring businesses, should we be building our own? Should we be even moving away from a certification model to something different? The whole role of the SOC committee is to challenge conventional thinking and especially this year where Covid has really transformed the way work will be done in the future. And nobody has figured out what that way of work is going to be right now. You may have heard it from many different people with a point of view, but nobody has it locked in stone today. So we have a huge opportunity to really influence the way work will be done in the future.

And one thing is for sure is you are going to see the need for more and more people that can turn ideas and thoughts and new ways of operating into reality and that is where project management comes in. So not is a critical part of our business and I love working with the SOC organization because it’s very exciting stuff that they do. And then, of course, how do we know that we are actually on track? How do we know that we’re going in that direction? How can you quantify the extent of our performance? And that is the Audit Committee that really gives examples and exemplifies when we have been successful and when we have not been successful. I mean, the numbers speak for themselves. They define and they give visibility to the decisions that have been made by staff and by the Board by simply responding to those decisions. Either you are ahead of your plan or you are below your plan or whether you are breaking even or you’re not breaking even. These are all consequences of decisions that have been made.

And so having a robust function that looks at the risk, looks at performance, looks at both qualitative and quantitative, insuring that the organization is on a stable footing, that the ship is afloat. That is the role of the Audit Committee. It collectively all comes together to provide support to the Board.

So I really would like to thank you all for taking the time, for a very candid view of what life is like when you are leading one of these standing committees on behalf of PMI and on behalf of the Board. So I’d like to thank all three of you for your time today. Thanks very much. Cheers.

CATHY: Cheers. Thanks, Sunil.

TEJAS: Thank you.

GAYLYN: Thanks, Sunil.