Innovation – Changing the Game

Transcript

Narrator

The future of project management is changing fast. On Projectified™ with PMI, we’ll help you stay on top of the trends and see what’s really ahead for the profession—and your career.

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Stephen W. Maye

Hello. I’m Stephen Maye with Projectified™ with PMI. I’m here with my co-host, Tegan Jones. Today, we’re talking about innovation and the future of projects. You know, innovation is rapidly transforming the way we live. We see it all around us. It’s also affecting the way we work. It’s even changing the very nature of our jobs themselves. Projects are still going to need leaders, but the roles that people play will likely be very different. Tegan, I know you’ve been looking at this from a variety of perspectives. Tell us what’s going on.

Tegan Jones

We’re seeing a lot of uncertainty out there. For instance, there’s this organization called the Institute for the Future, and they recently brought together a panel of 20 academic leaders, tech leaders, business experts from very forward-looking organizations to discuss the next generation of human-machine partnerships. And what these experts said was that they believe that around 85 percent of the jobs that people who are in school today will be doing in 2030 haven’t even been invented yet. And that just seems like a crazy high number, right?

Stephen W. Maye

Well, it is. I mean, it does strike you as a crazy high number. And you know, it reminds me of—it was back quite a few years ago now—when really the earlier days of the popularity and proliferation of the internet. And I was goofing off on the web, and I found this robotics lab in Australia. And I pinged it—pinged this robot—and was granted control. And this is, of course, all automated. I was granted control. And I am manipulating physical objects in a lab in Australia from my office in the Philippines at the time, and I was just struck by this. And I thought, “Things are changing. I mean, this is absolutely significant. Things are changing.” Of course, fast-forward now. We see that that pace of change is only increasing.

Tegan Jones

Absolutely. The acceleration is real. In fact, Dell recently did a survey—their digital transformation index—where they surveyed 4,000 senior-level decision-makers. And 45 percent of those leaders said that they were concerned about becoming obsolete in just three to five years.

Stephen W. Maye

You know, and that’s interesting too because there has been this traditional perspective that when people would reach more senior ranks, then the skill set was different and much more stable. So they didn’t necessarily have to be as current or proficient in every nuance of the way technology was changing, but it sounds like that the perceptions around that are shifting.

Tegan Jones

They are. In the same survey, nearly half of those senior leaders said that they don’t actually know what their industry will look like in just three years’ time. So if you’re thinking, “I need to make big-picture decisions about the projects my organization is going to invest in, but I have no idea what the market is going to look like in three years,” that creates a lot of confusion around exactly what you need to do to be successful.

Another thing I find really interesting is that 3 out of 4 of these senior leaders believe they need to be more “digital” to succeed in the future, but even that is kind of up in the air in terms of what that really looks like.

Stephen W. Maye

You know, I think as we continue to see changes over the next decade and beyond, it’s not surprising to me that our skill sets are going to have to develop quickly, and our jobs are going to change a lot.

Tegan Jones

Really, they’re already changing. Last year, PwC released its report on the workforce of the future, and it cited the top skills global CEOs are looking for. What we’re seeing is that hard skills, including risk management, which really topped the list in the past, have taken a back seat to softer skills like problem-solving, creativity, innovation, leadership.

These skills that rely on the complexity of the human mind, that can’t really be outsourced to software.

Stephen W. Maye

So bottom line, those skills and capabilities that make us uniquely human continue to be as relevant or more relevant than they’ve ever been before. And—and we’ve got to stay current on the technology.

Tegan Jones

Right. When we talk about innovation, a lot of people can get overwhelmed, thinking that it’s all about learning how to use AI or worrying about whether robots are going to take project management jobs, but a lot of times it’s really about starting in that basic place of learning to use the technology that’s already available to us.

So, when I was in Berlin for the PMI Global Congress in May, I had the chance to talk with two project leaders who manage virtual teams about how technology is—and isn’t—changing the way they work.

Fiona Charonnat is the customer project and program management process owner for Ericsson in Paris, and Ibrahim Dani is the director of governance for Optus Australia in Sydney—and they both had a lot to say about how leaders need to think differently when working with dispersed teams, which are becoming a lot more common.

Stephen W. Maye

Well, I’m eager to hear their perspective. Let’s see what they have to say.

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Tegan Jones

Fiona, Ibrahim, I know the two of you were on a panel today that focused on leading more effective virtual teams. This is becoming a bit of a hot topic, as more organizations have started to hire more remote workers. So, I’d like to start there. Why are more organizations using virtual project teams?

Ibrahim Dani

There are basically two main reasons why organizations are turning into virtual teams. First one is cost. They want to work with a better efficiency and reducing the cost, and they cannot bring in people from different places and put them in same place. Sometimes, it is costly.

And the other thing is the access to talent from all over the world. There might be other considerations other than cost that they cannot come in, they have families. So they say, “Okay, fine. Stay in country, and you can work with us virtually for some time in order to finish these things.”

Fiona Charonnat

They can be more productive, as well. I mean, they don’t spend time traveling into an office. They can work from home. And they need to be careful though that they need to do it in an organized and formal way. Not to get messy, basically. This is professional work they’re doing that they need to produce in a good way, so they have to set up rules for themselves to, say, you know, they get up in the morning. They get dressed. They have a routine. They take their meals. They take exercise. They spend time with their family. And when they are working, then, that they spend concentrated, very productive time with their virtual team working at a distance.

Tegan Jones

Obviously, a virtual team won’t work on every project. So when does this type of team make the most sense?

Fiona Charonnat

I would recommend not using virtual teams when you have very young people starting up. Beginners, would say, in a subject in that it takes time to build up competence and so forth. And you need very much hands-on, face-to-face meetings with those people to help them on literally a day-to-day basis and quite throughout the day. You need mature people to work in the virtual teams. They can be self-motivated and self-driven and that and then you get the best results from them in that sense.

Tegan Jones

Once you’re confident that you’ve selected the right project and you have the right people, what do you do to make sure you’re keeping your virtual team members engaged?

Fiona Charonnat

Yeah. I think the best thing is to have a good startup. You need to, you know, sit down. Spend time. Prepare properly. Document and formalize how you want to work together. We highly recommend a virtual team charter where you brainstorm, brain write, work out what it is you want to do together, what you expect from the team, what every member of the team expects from the team themselves. How will they want to engage in that team? You know, you set the rules. You design what you want to do, and everybody should sign off. And then during the project, you need to come back to that charter and see. Is it still working for you?

Ibrahim Dani

In doing that, in order to encourage them very well, we need also to consider the cultural implications, the time zones, the differences in ways of working. And so, all of these are different things that needs to be taken into consideration, and this is only known by the dialogue—the proper dialogue at the beginning.

Tegan Jones

If you’re managing a virtual project team, are there skills that you need to develop that are more important or different than what you would use to manage a co-located team?

Fiona Charonnat

Yeah. I think the big one is the virtual media skills, basically. We have all this technology and tools. We should not let it dominate us. We need to be in control of the tools that are there. So you have to practice with the tools. Get to know them. It’s not the first day in the first meeting that you should discover that Skype doesn’t work so well on your server or something like that. And I think secondly, then, is your listening skills, that part of the communication. As they say, when you see somebody facing you, 80 percent of communication is the visual ticks and whatever you can see.

Most times, you don’t have the video conference. So you don’t have all of that visual parts. You’re left with the 20 percent of what you can hear.

It’s great if the kickoff can be face-to-face. Then you learn about the person, and you start putting together their visual and oral—their sound, basically, how they act and sound—and you develop an ear for that and when you’re on the telephone with them. So you can start to detect if they’re engaged or if they’re listening and things like that. You have other techniques, then, which is a simple pen and paper. You can note who’s listening and who’s contributing. Who’s talking all the time? Who’s not talking at all? And then, engage with them to find out what’s the problem, why you’re being blocked on this.

Ibrahim Dani

Yeah. I can add also one major skill here is to understand the lovely cultures in other areas, as well. And not only understand it by Google or whatever. Try to investigate more. Ask more. If you don’t know, ask. You can, for example, if they are coming from different language, you can start at times saying their salutation in their own language. Just learning a couple of phrases in their language makes a very good way of breaking the ice at every meeting. All of these will add a lot to the engagement of the people, and this is the skill that you have to reach out and grab it. Don’t assume that they will understand you or they will follow you because you are the leader—you need to really make your homework understanding their side, as well.

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Stephen W. Maye

I liked Fiona’s point about understanding the limitations of technology. You need to integrate useful tools into the daily workflow, but also you have to know when it’s time to meet face-to-face. I mean, it comes back to the idea that human interaction and really personalized leadership, the need for that is not going to go away in the foreseeable future.

Tegan Jones

I think that’s true, and I think it’s really difficult when technology and innovation is changing the business environment so quickly, you know, how can leaders understand, what are the pieces of how we’ve worked before that we need to keep and what are the pieces that we need to change or throw out entirely. I wanted to get a better idea of what that really looks like, so I reached out to James Stewart, who is the vice chair for KPMG in the U.K. James has been working on infrastructure projects for the past 20 years, and really, you know, working in these traditional industries where people are used to getting things done in a certain way. So, I reached out to him to get his take on how innovation and technology is shaking up project work and how technology is going to transform the landscape in the coming years.

Stephen W. Maye

Well, a guy with that background is certainly going to have an interesting take. Let’s have a listen.

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James Stewart

I think leaders are going to find it very difficult to distinguish the next big thing from passing fads because of the uncertainty that exists in the world. But having said that, I think a lot of these new innovations, it’s not a case of what if. It’s a question of when. So the big issue for project planners is timing, and the only way to cope with the uncertainty is for project planners to map out a range of future scenarios and place their project plans against those future scenarios so that they’ve got the flexibility to change those plans in the future.

The challenge is how to build a project organization that is fit for purpose for these big changes in tech and shifting customer demand that we’re going to see, and those project organizations are going to need new skills. So for example, data analytics is going to be a very important part of project management going forward. And I think in these new teams, you’re going to have to see a combination of young and old, inexperience and experience, and these teams are going to have to have flexibility and the agility to cope with change in a way that they’ve never seen in the past.

For a first-of-a-kind project, project managers are going to need to think differently. They’re going to need to think in terms of shorter time horizons. They’re going to need to think about real-time reporting, and I think the big new thing that we’re going to see is real-time assurance. Now, what do I mean by that? Most assurance on projects is done retrospectively. It’s that famous monthly report that lands on someone’s desk, but what I think projects are going to require now is assurance, as I said, in real time on an ongoing basis.

One of the consequences of real-time assurance is going to be that the people who are actually going to run the project are going to have more interference, more involvement from outside parties, and they’re going to have to get used to that. So innovation and change is coming, and the project management industry is going to have to change with it. It’s going to have to adapt its ways and move into the future.

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Stephen W. Maye

Tegan, I think we really find ourselves really with a foot in two boats. You know, where we have a lot of expectations around reporting and budgeting and so forth, project cost accounting, those kinds of things, that really come from a tradition, you know, more of a manufacturing tradition, more of a waterfall tradition, but now we’re trying to work in these shorter time frames. We’re trying to work in more of real time, and we are finding ourselves a bit between the two models.

Tegan Jones

Yeah, there’s definitely a need for being more flexible, being more reactive, working in real time, but a lot of that requires a lot more collaboration. You can’t stay stuck in your silo. You have to understand how what you’re doing impacts the other teams and the other projects in your organization. And you have to be willing to have conversations and make decisions kind of on the fly as needed.

Stephen W. Maye

I recently had a conversation about this with Alice Pollard, who’s the chief of staff and innovation architect for Cisco Hyper Innovation Living Labs, or CHILL, as they call themselves, in San Francisco. CHILL takes the idea of innovation through collaboration to the next level by bringing together leaders from giant global companies to address some of the world’s biggest problems. Now that’s quite a, that’s quite a charter, isn’t it?

Tegan Jones

I’ve heard about some of the stuff that CHILL has been a part of, and it really is impressive, so I’m very excited to hear more about what Alice does and what it means to be an “innovation architect.” How cool is that? Let’s have a listen.

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Stephen W. Maye

Alice, I have to say I have never met anyone with the title of “innovation architect” before. What a cool title. I confess, I’m just a little envious. I cannot wait to hear more about what you do every single day. Thank you so much for joining me.

Alice Pollard

Thanks for having me.

Stephen W. Maye

So let’s start with the fundamentals. So how would you describe CHILL’s mission? Sort of what’s its purpose in life? What does it do?

Alice Pollard

Yeah. So CHILL, which stands for Cisco Hyper Innovation Living Labs, is a co-innovation catalyst for Cisco’s 12-billion-dollar services business, and what we really look to do is to drive multiparty innovation where we bring together an ecosystem to tackle some of industry’s biggest problems.

Stephen W. Maye

So when you say “biggest problems,” give us a sense of scale. Like, give me an example of one of the problems that CHILL has tackled to date.

Alice Pollard

Sure. So one of our living labs, we did in the healthcare space. And we actually looked at how do we transform the patient experience for oncology care? So we were thinking about, how do we make that a seamless experience, not only when they’re interacting with doctors and in the hospital, but also in their home environment.

Stephen W. Maye

Yeah. And is that—so you described a question there that you started out with. Is that always the way a CHILL lab launches? Is it with a single question?

Alice Pollard

Yes. Yes. So we start pretty broadly when we’re looking at scope, but we always end up with what we call the ambition, which is a challenge statement that we come together on the corporations that are in the cohort share.

Stephen W. Maye

So let’s go to your role in that. So you’ve been described here as an innovation architect. Tell us what is the day in the life of an innovation architect. What do you do? What do you focus on? How does your work show up in this process?

Alice Pollard

Sure. So, to create the right innovation environment, it takes a great deal of work. So we want to look at, what are those common problems that we do have? And then, how, when we’re creating this living lab experience that the customers come and participate in, how do we create all the right conditions then within that 48-hour experience to create meaningful innovation outcomes that everyone has a part in creating?

Stephen W. Maye

So this idea, by the way, if anyone didn’t catch that, this idea of a 48-hour window and what I’ve read that you compress into a 48-hour window is just fascinating. So give us a quick window into that. Tell us a little bit about what happens in that 48 hours.

Alice Pollard

We decided we were going to actually start the night before. So when we bring the customers together for a dinner, it’s an informal setting. So we actually sit the folks in their team so they can get to know each other. We spend some time understanding what projects the companies are working on. Then, when we kick off the living lab the next day, we do a small amount of plenary. We get people excited. Generally, everyone is raring to go.

And we then send people into their pods and they start with an immersion process of really understanding the problem that we’re there to tackle, and then we start out a very rigorous process of 90-minute iteration rounds. So from the moments the customers walk into that pod, they’re seeing their first end users within 90 minutes, and we’re building a prototype, and we’re getting that rapid feedback. And then, that happens through round after round until we get to the end of day one. Then, we actually have dinner in the space. It’s a chance to breathe. It’s a chance for the teams to sit there and to, you know, they first sort of step away, really, from the process and to think through some of their solutions. We bring everyone actually back onto the floor, and then those customers have to decide what they’d like to see our build team develop overnight.

And our build team of engineers and hackers and designers actually stay all night so they can build new prototypes and increase the fidelity of those prototypes. When the customers come in for day two, they have a great prototype. There’s actually a “ta-da” reveal moment when that happens cause everyone’s anxious to see that, but, and then, we start the iteration process again for half a day. And that’s, at that moment, then we start to concentrate on what is the story that we’re looking to tell? Because at the end of day two, the teams actually pitch their ideas and demonstrate the prototype of what it is and ask for an investment from a panel of investments that join us at the end of day two.

Stephen W. Maye

That is amazing. And you know, you reminded me of something in all the times that I have said or I’ve heard people say something like, “Wouldn’t it be great if the elves would just come in while we’re at our hotels tonight?” And in your case, they do.

Alice Pollard

They do.

Stephen W. Maye

While everybody goes back to their hotels. I think that’s fantastic.

Alice Pollard

Yeah, our little elves are super special.

Stephen W. Maye

So I can imagine without any prompting from you some of the benefits of this kind of speed. You know, you think about the acceleration toward simply getting something to market. But I want to ask you about something else. Is the value only in the speed, or have you been able to determine that you’re actually getting a higher-quality output, as well?

Alice Pollard

It’s definitely in the output as well, but there’s other factors. So it’s not just the speed. It’s the level of seniority of the executives that come and participate. So one of the principles that we have is around massive inclusion. So anyone involved in an innovation decision needs to be in the room, and that helps the quality of the output because we’re not having to go somewhere and asking permission to do that. We know that we get much better outcomes that our investors are, you know, have confidences because their SVP has been on a team and involved in it.

So when it comes time for them to raise a paddle at the pitch and support one of these or more of these ideas, they have full confidence in the process that they’ve gone to, and they know that their company is being represented.

Stephen W. Maye

So we have appropriately focused a lot on what makes this approach work, what makes the CHILL labs effective, that process, that environment, the expertise, and many of those other things, of course, that you’ve described. There must be challenges though. What are the challenges that you encounter?

Alice Pollard

Some of the challenges are choosing the right partners and choosing the right customers to work with. It’s probably the most important decision that we make. And so, we really want to understand what is their level of innovation maturity. How do they look at innovation with inside their own organizations? Are they a great brand that has a great reputation? How do they move their outcomes forward? We want to make sure that we are partnering with the right corporations that share the mindset that we have, that can move at speed and that are able to and have the desire to really solve some of these challenges.

Stephen W. Maye

All right. I want to really press on you here. So let’s assume that I am sitting in a company where I either don’t have those kinds of resources or simply can’t make the case adequately at this point to bring those kind of resources to bear. So I’m going to have to try to apply the principles that you’re describing on a shoestring and without the level of expertise that you and the team that you work with—teams that you work with—can bring. Are there still things that I can take from what you do that will allow my innovation experiences to be more fruitful?

Alice Pollard

Absolutely. I think if we’re looking at innovation, you know, having a process is the first piece. Ensuring that there is someone in the business that is sponsoring these ideas or what are the problems that we’re trying to solve and tying them back specifically to the business. The more specific people can be, the better the outcomes. So thinking about what’s a specific problem, who in the business, then, really cares about that problem and has a mandate to solve it and can get behind these ideas? We do a lot of role play in these labs where we will interact, you know? Who would potentially be using these solutions? Why don’t we bring them in? And why don’t we have a role play about this idea that we have and test that idea with that actual person? So I think there are a lot of things that you can do on a shoestring. It’s just being thoughtful about the way that you bring it together.

Stephen W. Maye

And if you had one opportunity to give one piece of advice around innovation from everything you've learned—you only get to give one piece of advice—what is it?

Alice Pollard

Be bold. Think big. That you can have impact and that you can make a difference, even if it starts within your own group or within something that you do that it filters out from there.

Stephen W. Maye

Be bold. Think big. With that, Alice Pollard gets the last word. Alice is the chief of staff and innovation architect for Cisco Hyper Innovation Living Labs, or CHILL for the insider. It has been great talking with you. Thanks for joining us on Projectified™ with PMI.

Narrator

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