Leadership—Improving Project Results

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.
For an easy way to stay up to date on Projectified with PMI, go to iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play music or PMI.org/podcast.

STEPHEN W. MAYE

Hello. I’m Stephen Maye, and this is Projectified with PMI. I’m here with my co-host Tegan Jones, and in this episode, we’re talking about what it takes to deliver successful projects. 
Of course, there are many factors that define a project’s success, and, ultimately, how much business value it really delivers. 
Is the project transformational or incremental in nature? Is the team capable of the required speed? How are decisions being made? Does the governance and oversight model match the project needs? These factors and a few others define not only how work gets done but also what strategies and initiatives are even possible.

TEGAN JONES

Right, and it’s up to project and program managers to take a big picture look at all of these factors and determine what is the best approach to run projects within this environment. 
They need to understand how to use multiple project delivery methods and decide which is going to help them deliver the most value.

STEPHEN W. MAYE

And that’s a big job, and one that a lot of organizations are struggling with. The 2019 PMI Pulse of the Profession® survey found that organizations wasted nearly 12 percent of their project investments last year due to poor performance, and that is a lot of money.

TEGAN JONES

It is a lot of money, especially on average. But there are some organizations that are wasting less money than others.
And the Pulse report identified a few key factors that separated top organizations from their less successful peers.
So high performers, which PMI calls innovators, prioritize digital skills and knowledge while also creating a strong project management culture. They have a higher project management technology quotient, which PMI calls the PMTQ, and they’re able to adapt to changes in the business landscape with the right tech at the right time. Plus, they’re always looking to the future when it comes to talent, trying to identify and develop the skills that will be in demand in years to come.

STEPHEN W. MAYE

You know, the Pulse report also found that innovators are much more likely to use hybrid and agile approaches rather than sticking to traditional waterfall techniques. Innovators are also more likely to embrace design thinking and DevOps. 
For those unfamiliar, design thinking is an iterative approach to problem-solving. It also involves co-creation, usually with a broad team of stakeholders. DevOps is a delivery approach where engineering and operations teams work together throughout the life cycle of the project. This is really related to what we used to call joint application design years ago.

TEGAN JONES

So, it sounds like the bottom line is the more willing an organization is to experiment with a broader range of approaches and strategies, the more successful its projects are likely to be.
And that makes sense to me because every project faces completely different challenges, and to deliver the best results, you’re going to need to tailor your approach to your project’s specific needs.

STEPHEN W. MAYE

And how you make that assessment is something I recently discussed with Nelson Rosamilha, head of project management at Ericsson in Sao Paulo, Brazil. We also talked about how to build support and commitment for different approaches across the organization. We’ll get to that conversation in just a few minutes.

TEGAN JONES

We’re also going to hear from Emily Luijbregts, who is a project manager at Siemens PLM Software in the Netherlands.
Emily talked about how learning different delivery methods can open the door to a whole range of new career opportunities.

STEPHEN W. MAYE

But first we’re going to talk to Andy Kaufman about what it took for him to accept and adopt a wider variety of project management approaches. Andy is president of the Institute for Leadership Excellence & Development Inc. in Lake Zurich, Illinois. He’s also host of the People and Projects podcast and has been a past guest on this show. We spoke to him last year about how leaders can maximize the potential of their project teams.

TEGAN JONES

I remember that. That was such a good interview. And Andy, in general, is always such an interesting guy, so let’s go to him now.
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ANDY KAUFMAN

I started my career as a software developer, so a move towards agile you’d think would be a natural thing, but, frankly, I was highly skeptical about agile outside of software.  
And, I don’t know, maybe it was the dogma that came from some of the most vocal proponents that made it sound like, oh, this is the only way, and if you don’t hop on board this agile train, you’re destined to be a dinosaur. Maybe that’s what it was. But eventually, I’ve got to tell you, I stopped writing them off as just trying to be the cool kids and tried to be more open-minded to the core of agile. And I got to tell you, I liked what I found. In fact, in many ways it wasn’t all that different than how we were running projects before. So, getting familiar with new terms and new approaches, it’s really just adding tools to our tool belt, so to speak. And there’s, like, zero downside to that. It allows us to connect dots better, and, ultimately, it’s all about delivering more effectively to the customers.
So, it really, to me, it comes down to culture, is how much can we take on as a culture here. And a lot of cultures are going to be like, we’re going to just put our toes maybe into the agile approach, and we’re just going to go more of a traditional way, and that can be just fine because there’s not that much uncertainty, and we don’t need to deliver it incrementally. 
So, when we engage with a client, typically what they are saying is, we want to go agile, or we want to get better at projects, you know, so there’s kind of a perceived need of what they want.
And one of the first things we will drill in on is not what forms do you use or even methodologies necessarily as much as just what’s your culture? It’s a very open-ended question, like how do you describe your project management culture? And so, it’s interesting what they come back with. Like sometimes it’s a confused dog look where they kind of tilt their head and are like, uh, what's that mean? Other times it’s, well, it’s just we wing it here. Other times, people are like, we are very disciplined, and we have a lot of process. So, questions around the culture are just critical.
If you ask somebody in the PMO or if you ask an executive, like, how do you do projects here, they go, well, here’s our binder or here’s our methodology, the written rules, those things we can see. But there’s all these other things that no one really says, but we all kind of assume is true. And that’s what is really helpful to understand. Like, what are these tacit assumptions? And a lot of times, there’s a lot of these unwritten rules about how the work gets done that it’s important for us to understand. Who are the influencers, who are the people that are likely to be against some sort of change. I’ve not really seen agile transformations or even just trying to get better at projects fail because agile is bad or project management is bad. It’s almost always the people stuff. And so, we put heavy emphasis on understanding the people-related issues and giving them tools to be able to deal with that, as well.
And so, for someone, if they’re trying to get past some opposition, I’d say acknowledge the opposition. Don’t try to squash it. Just try to say, hey, you know what, these are the concerns I’ve got as well. And start small, maybe a pilot. Give people some training so they understand the underpinnings of it. But really what it comes down to, is the line that people support what they create. So, get their fingerprints on the process.
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STEPHEN W. MAYE

Andy is definitely right. There is zero downside to learning new approaches, and there are certainly a lot of upsides to having more options on the table. For instance, when you think of all the people that are adding agile and hybrid approaches to their toolkit, well, we know that lower cost and faster delivery are two of the primary benefits of agile adoption. That is definitely a benefit worth having.

TEGAN JONES

And that makes sense because when you take a more iterative approach you can experiment with solutions to determine what’s working and what’s not.
And that lets project teams pivot when they need to and ultimately waste less time and less money.

STEPHEN W. MAYE

It’s always valuable to have more tools in your professional toolbox, and our next guest highlighted that value. 
Emily Luijbregts is a project manager at Siemens PLM Software in Den Bosch in the Netherlands. She’s found that the more skills and approaches she’s added to her repertoire, the better her project results have become.

TEGAN JONES

Our contributing editor Hannah Schmidt has the full story, so let’s go to her now.
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HANNAH SCHMIDT

Most people have a preferred way of working. But the way you like to do things isn’t always the best way to get the job done. 
That’s why Emily Luijbregts has invested in expanding her project management skill set. She says understanding waterfall, agile and hybrid techniques has helped her deliver projects more successfully—and improve her prospects.

EMILY LUIJBREGTS

The value behind multiple delivery approaches and actually understanding the different types of methodologies that you can use, I think is so important as a project manager in today’s market, not only to make yourself more versatile within your company but also to make yourself more employable. 

HANNAH SCHMIDT

When Emily launches a new project, she spends time with the team to determine which approach will produce the best results. But some teams are set on a specific way of working—even if it’s not the best fit.

EMILY LUIJBREGTS

I was recently involved in a project escalation. So I was brought in as a senior project manager to help a junior, and it involved a third-party vendor that was extremely strict on agile. So they were very firm that they wanted to use the agile methodology, they wanted to go into three-week sprints, and this is how they wanted to work. And when I started investigating, I actually realized that they didn’t have any agile experience. They were working agile, but they didn’t actually understand what agile meant. 
And this is one thing where I really had to be creative in not only convincing them around moving towards a more hybrid methodology but also how we could talk about this for what’s best for the project.

HANNAH SCHMIDT

Getting a team to change its perspective takes planning, expertise and a whole lot of tact. But Emily says she often gains traction by honing in on the intended benefits.

EMILY LUIJBREGTSI

go over to the stakeholders, either individually or in small groups, and then I explain to them the benefits. I get training for the team if needed. As a project manager, I am the leader. I am the forefront of a project. And if I can show them the benefits, and I can show them what this approach can bring to the project, and show its benefits, then that is already something that I can win with, and it’s a win-win situation. 

HANNAH SCHMIDT

And it’s not just assessing your team’s skills. You should also take a critical look at your own toolbox. By identifying and filling knowledge gaps, you can prepare yourself for future roles—and position yourself to outshine the competition.

EMILY LUIJBREGTS

I’ve recently been talking to colleagues and peers of mine who have been applying for jobs, and I’ve been told that there has been, you know, 50 or 100 applicants for a senior project management position. Now how are you going to make yourself unique? How do you make yourself stand out? The way that you can do this is by having a full overview of what is important and being able to be a more versatile project manager for yourself. 
[MUSICAL TRANSITION]

STEPHEN W. MAYE

Even when there’s a lot of opportunity in the job market, which is what project professionals are seeing right now, the most rewarding positions are always highly competitive, and, as Emily said, expanding your expertise is a great way to distinguish yourself from the competition.

TEGAN JONES

But it’s important to remember that these technical skills are just one piece of the puzzle. Project leaders also need to develop their leadership skills and their business acumen if they want to succeed.

STEPHEN W. MAYE

How all those pieces fit together is something I discussed with our next guest. Nelson Rosamilha is the head of project management at Ericsson in Sao Paulo, Brazil. I had the chance to talk with Nelson about his view on leadership and how understanding the organization’s culture is key to selecting the right project management approach.

TEGAN JONES

I’m sure that kind of cultural knowledge is particularly important in a large global organization like Ericsson.
So, this should be interesting. Let’s go to that conversation now.
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STEPHEN W. MAYE

Nelson, it’s common for people to have a favorite way of managing projects. I think very often their favorite is really the way they learned to do it, the way others taught them to manage. So, why should project and program managers get outside of that comfort zone and learn multiple project delivery approaches? What’s the value in that?

NELSON ROSAMILHA 

I was having a conversation here yesterday with a senior project manager, and he’s delivering on a very difficult project to another customer. And he came back to me and he was very concerned because he received feedback that the way that he was managing the project was not so good. They were expecting him to be more assertive. And I told to him that sometimes we need to think outside of the box and to change our leadership style to bring value to the customer. And sometimes we need to change our style to a different style in order to match to the customer’s expectation. And that’s the biggest change that is required for a project manager to do. Sometimes they don’t have the capability to do that, and they need to acquire those capabilities.

STEPHEN W. MAYE

That makes so much sense as you talk about the way people come to a project or maybe all of their projects with a set of biases, even a set of strengths about how they lead and how they manage, and the willingness and the ability to learn and adopt new styles and different ways of coming at that, different ways of solving problems, different ways of motivating people. Do you think that’s also true when we think about project management approaches, like more agile approaches or more waterfall approaches, or we hear a lot of people talk about using hybrid approaches? Is that true in the same way?

NELSON ROSAMILHA 

Yes, it is. At the end of the day, we are talking about people. I usually say that the best way to manage a project is the way that the company needs. Can be waterfall, can be agile, and I dare to say that can be on a piece of paper. If it’s bringing added value for the customer, it’s okay.
The style that you run the project—can be agile, can be waterfall—will not work if you do not use proper leadership because leadership is the way that you take the people and lead them to achieve a specific vision. We need to inspire them to achieve that vision. You can choose or pick up whatever methodology you need for the project. But if you do not have your correct leadership style that matches with the company culture, it will not work. 

STEPHEN W. MAYE

So, once you have really developed an understanding, and let’s say a good understanding or an effective understanding of different approaches that can be taken, how do you decide? Is there a three-step formula? Is there a simple process? When you’re first explaining to a project manager, maybe a newer project manager, how do you explain that? How do you explain to him or her how they decide which approach to take?

NELSON ROSAMILHA 

There is no silver bullet for that. They need to understand the stakeholders, what they are expecting in terms of value. And when I say value, I’m saying that what kind of added value the project is going to deliver to the customer. They need to understand also how the customer’s style is. Second, they need to understand how the team works in terms of methodology, in terms of styles of leadership, in terms of communication. And based on two dimensions, they can choose what kind of strategic approach they need to use. And this can be, for example, agile, can be waterfall, can be a stage-gate approach. Can be also, for example, collaboration work. Sometimes it’s necessary to have a team working together to achieve an objective, not command and control but as a servant leader. So, I usually ask them to ask theirselves what kind of customer they have, what kind of employees he’s working with, and based on those two variables, he can decide which approach is going to be used.

STEPHEN W. MAYE

We’ve already talked about the fact that it’s not a one-approach-fits-all world. And you’ve talked about how it’s important to select both a leadership style and a project approach that really does meet the situation. So, with all of these projects ongoing at one time and all of these project managers, how do you make sure that they’re using the right approach?

NELSON ROSAMILHA 

When we sell approach to a customer, there is a stage-gate where the people from selling team, they transfer the project to us, and during this transfer knowledge, there is a stage-gate where the project manager comes to us. They present the financial perspective, intent to deliver the project. They present also the methodology. And in this phase, we discuss if you are going to use a hybrid or if you are going to use an agile or if you are going to use waterfall. And those decisions criteria is based on the customer perspective. 
So, we try to work as a team in a collaborative way, negotiate among us, and have a consensus. Because also if we have a consensus, we have buy-in because everybody’s aligned and wants the same thing. 
At the beginning of the discussion, we start to level the expectations. We explain to the team that we are trying to have the right approach on the project, but we have a timeline to take this decision. So, we explain to them the rules of the game. And after this date, we cannot wait anymore, and we need to take the decision and live with that.

STEPHEN W. MAYE

Yeah, yeah. So, I want to talk a little more broadly for a moment about where project management is going and program management is going, and what that might say about the skills that people are going to need—whether technical skills or soft skills. So, when you kind of look into your crystal ball or you look out over the horizon and you think about where the industry is going over the next, say, three to five years, then what do you believe are the key project management skills and capabilities that are going to be most valued and most important for project and program managers who want to succeed over the next few years?

NELSON ROSAMILHA

It’s an amazing question. Everybody knows that the technology is changing every day. I would say that first, we should pay very much attention in how technology is changing the world. But this is something that you can acquire studying, you can acquire reading, which is very important for everybody. But I believe that for the guys that work in the delivery area, can be project manager, can be a project director or program director, they should think more about two words: customer success and customer journey. Normally, as a delivery guy, you just take a project, deliver it to your customer, and go back home and take another project. It’s good, it’s important, the customer will be very happy. But we as a project manager should think more strategically. We should deliver a project to our customer, but first we should ask them, What is success to you? And we need to hear our customer and deliver the project based on the customer’s success, not based on what is written in the contract, which is very important, but we know that is different. And we need to deliver the project to the customer, think about what is going to be the next step for this customer. We need to inspire them that what are the next steps, what are the next phase of the project that you can deliver to them. It’s a kind of marriage. 

STEPHEN W. MAYE

So, ask the customer what does success mean to you, and then chart that out in a meaningful customer journey that describes how that success is going to be delivered. And with that, Nelson Rosamilha, head of project management at Ericsson in Sao Paulo, Brazil, has the last word. Nelson, thank you so much. It’s been a pleasure having you on, and great to meet you.

NELSON ROSAMILHA

Thank you. Thanks a lot. Thanks for the opportunity to be here as well.

NARRATOR

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