Show off



Sharon Gietl, The Doe Run Co., St. Louis, Missouri, USA


Sometimes you've just got to prove it.

When Sharon Gietl joined The Doe Run Co. as vice president of IT and CIO in 2004, the mining company had no project management in place—and no interest in adding it. “The former CEO was not a process or methodology guy,” she says. “In his mind, adding processes was just a lot of corporate overhead.”

Shortly after she came on board, though, a new CEO took over. Sensing an opening, Ms. Gietl got to work, showing how a project management office (PMO) would help—not hinder.

“You can talk about project management until you're blue in the face,” she says, “but you have to demonstrate success to get buy-in.”

What prompted you to recommend creating a PMO?

When I started, a large enterprise resource planning implementation was underway. The project manager was a functional expert with no project management experience, and the team was trying to get it done faster and for less money than it should have. We got it done, but there were a lot of bumps and a lot of lessons learned about the need for better governance and scope.

After that, I went to the new CEO and suggested we launch an enterprise-wide PMO. The CEO challenged me that if I could get the executive team to buy in, then I could go for it. The biggest resistance came from the COO, but he agreed to bring in a project management expert for a one-year contract. If we could make inroads, then the company would convert.

You can talk about project management until you're blue in the face, but you have to demonstrate success to get buy-in.

How did you create the company's project management methodology?

We purchased it from an Australian company specializing in mining. The PMO customized it for different-sized projects based on the budget, scope and impact to the organization. The idea was that the amount of rigor required on each project would be based on the amount of risk a project had—a US$100 million project has greater risk and requires more rigor than a US$20,000 initiative.

Has it changed the way Doe Run approaches projects?

Absolutely. In the past, if you could convince the COO and the CEO your project was a good idea, then it would be put on the list. As a result, people might never deliver on their promises because there was no scope or governance.

Today there's a lot more rigor. We do annual project reviews. We prioritize projects, and all scoping has to be done before project ideas are even presented.

How has the presentation process changed?

Project leaders used to avoid processes like developing scope documents because they saw them as obstacles to progress. Larger-budget projects could sit for ages and there would be a lot of questions back and forth with executives. Now, if you have a really good scope and a track record of performance, approvals come much quicker. Project leaders see that processes help them get things done faster.

Has project management helped you weather the downturn?

Yes. We had our list of priorities and we had a defined cut line in terms of budgets and projects that could be put on hold. We held review sessions every two to four weeks to decide when to cut budgets or projects and when to add them back.

How does the COO feel about project management now?

He was the Doubting Thomas, but once he saw what we could accomplish, he became a cheerleader. And having a cheerleader on our side from the division that spends the most money and has the most political clout has paved the way for us. PM