The Need for Speed—Delivering Rapid Response Projects

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, 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 rapid response projects.

These are the projects that help organizations successfully pivot when things are changing fast. And that's the situation for most organizations right now—so many are making big changes to try to stay relevant.

Tegan Jones

Yeah, most leaders do seem to understand that their organizations need to move a lot faster. But surprisingly few actually feel confident that they can do that. A survey that PMI conducted with Forbes Insights found that 92 percent of executives said their organization's ability to respond rapidly to change was a key driver of success, but only 27 percent actually consider themselves really agile. So I think that speaks to a big need for reinvention.

Stephen W. Maye

I think it also speaks to the need for new skills, or at least new ways of working. You have to look at: how are decisions made? How are teams communicating? How are projects managed? Everything. And you have to be ready to change what's not working. Of course, this is easier for some organizations than others, but it's still doable.

Tegan Jones

The fact is, sometimes the stakes are high and project teams just have to act fast. You know, we’re approaching the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Maria, and this was an instance where a failure to respond quickly cost hundreds, maybe thousands of lives in Puerto Rico.

The latest figures show that nearly 3,000 people died as a result of the storm and its aftermath, and a lot of those deaths were caused by a lack of power—the failure of the government to restore power in a timely manner. So, people who had health issues that were not related to the hurricane, people who were already in the hospital, died due to a lack of basic medical care.

Stephen W. Maye

You know it wasn’t until August that the entire island finally had power again? That was 11 months after the storm—and that is just way too long. Of course, there’s a lot of red tape, there’s a lot of bureaucracy involved in these types of government-funded projects, we all know that, we get that, but when you’re talking about people’s lives, and especially on this scale, you just have to find a way to get it done.

We’re gonna hear more about what that might look like when I talk with Everaldo de Souza Alves Jr. from Equifax in a few minutes. While financial organizations aren’t out there saving lives in quite the same way, I think there are a lot of lessons that can be learned from the highly regulated, global finance space that could be applied to all types of other projects. For instance, he and I talked a lot about communication and how much of being able to respond quickly comes down to how well project teams know each other—how well they understand who is responsible for doing what.

Tegan Jones

When things are constantly changing, you have to keep those lines of communication open and make sure everyone is moving in the same direction. And that's how you keep quality up too, which is something that Dev Ramcharan, a program director at TD, will talk about in a few minutes. But first, I wanna go to McDonald's and talk about a massive transformation project that its global PMO was able to execute on an extremely tight timeline.

Stephen W. Maye

You know there for a second, Tegan, I thought you were saying you actually wanted to stop now and go to McDonald's, which I was completely down with, but now I understand where you were going with that.

I also understand that McDonald's was one of the PMI Project of the Year finalists this year. Is that correct?

Tegan Jones

Yeah, it was. So that meant I got to visit its new global headquarters in Chicago and learn about their digital acceleration project, which was actually super impressive.

Stephen W. Maye

I also hear they have a very special global menu at that restaurant where you can get items that are normally not available in the U.S. It reminded me of when I was working in the Philippines and you could get the Longganisa meal at McDonald's, which you cannot get here in the U.S. anywhere as far as I know.

Tegan Jones

Yeah they had all sorts of stuff on their menu, some cheesy bacon fries from Australia, some strawberry ice cream thing that's really popular in Brazil, I guess. And you can order all these items on their new digital menus, which is part of what the project delivered.

Stephen W. Maye

You had me at cheesy bacon fries, very cool. Let's hear how they did it.

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Tegan Jones

Mobile tech has evolved consumer expectations—and no company is immune. Even McDonald’s, one of the largest quick-service restaurant chains in the world, saw itself at risk of becoming obsolete.

So in March 2017, McDonald’s CEO and President Steve Easterbrook made a big decision. He told shareholders the company would roll out mobile order and pay to 20,000 global restaurants by the end of the year.

Amy Martin, senior director of the company’s global PMO, says her team had mixed reactions.

Amy Martin

One is, “Oh my gosh, like, how are we gonna do this?” And the other was, “Oh my gosh, we can do this. We're McDonald's.”

Tegan Jones

Nine months. That’s how long the team had to reach its goal. Scott Badskey, McDonald’s director of portfolio and process management, explains how they balanced delivery speed with discipline.

Scott Badskey

We did that by instituting the concepts of continuous learning through retrospectives, by implementing agile capabilities and techniques into our methodologies and our disciplines, by establishing tiered governance, which allowed access to senior-most leadership to drive decisions, but also empowered the lower levels of the organization to react very responsibly to things that were in their purview of accountability.

Tegan Jones

To keep the project on track, the PMO paired flexibility with strict change control. The team only allowed adjustments that would impact the customer experience, and that helped stem the flow of change requests ahead of the already ambitious rollout date.

Amy Martin

If we had allowed for all of those changes to organically just fold into the work, we would have never gone live on time. So we instituted a change control board, and we meet every single week, and we discuss any change that wants to be applied to our future releases. They have to have good business justification, they need to be clear on who's paying for it, and making sure that it does align with our strategic direction.

Tegan Jones

The project closed nearly 10 million U.S. dollars under budget, and wrapped one month early. Daniel Henry, McDonald’s executive vice president and global CIO, says smart project management was a key driver of the team’s success.

Daniel Henry

Well, a project of this scale doesn't happen without project management. It doesn't happen without discipline. It doesn't happen without governance. It doesn't happen without managing the risk and concerns that happen every single day. And when you have that discipline in place, you have the entire team behind you, you have everyone marching to the same objective, and to me the core of that is having that project management discipline happening every single day.

Tegan Jones

And Amy Martin says the new technology is already changing the way customers see the 63-year old company.

Amy Martin

I sat there at a restaurant, and I watched these five teenage boys go up to this kiosk. They were all interacting with the kiosk, they were picking their orders, they were customizing, and then they went and sat down with their little tabletop number. And they had somebody hand-deliver their food right to their table. And they were all just giddy about, “Oh my God, did this just happen?”

It was just those moments where you're seeing your work actually materializing conversations and experiences with our customers, and that’s what I enjoy.

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Stephen W. Maye

20,000 restaurants in nine months. That is a big, big ask, but that PMO team was able to do it. And I think it comes back to what Amy said—that you have to be clear, you need a clear guiding vision to rally everyone around if you really wanna make these kind of big changes so quickly.

Tegan Jones

It's true. A lot of times project delays come from the fact that teams have competing priorities. Not everything can be done first. But if everyone is focused on the same end goal, it's less likely that really important tasks will end up waiting in a queue until someone can get to them.

Stephen W. Maye

It's really about committing as an entire organization to what's going to deliver the most business value in the shortest amount of time.

Tegan Jones

Yeah, and once you have that figured out, you need to have the processes in place that will help you ramp up your speed. Our next guest, Dev Ramcharan, has some thoughts on how organizations can actually pick up the pace on their projects without sacrificing quality.

Stephen W. Maye

It's such an important point, I mean, that we have to make sure that the project continues to be focused on its strategic intent. You could take something like speed and get everyone rallied around that and aligned around that, and suddenly realize you've lost the thread. We're delivering fast, but not delivering on the original objective of the project.

Tegan Jones

Yeah and you definitely don't want that, so let's hear what Dev has to say.

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Dev Ramcharan

Hi there. This is Dev Ramcharan, and I am a program director at TD Bank in Canada. Our subject is why we actually need rapid response projects today. What kinds of trends are driving these sorts of projects?

Well, it's been identified that many of the projects that we’re using traditional waterfall sequential types of methodologies for are taking too long to deliver. We're not getting to market as fast as we need to, or we're not delivering the return on the investment quickly enough to make it worth the investment for the projects that we're actually doing. We are faced with rapid technological advancement and change. And we're finding that also, for our organizations to remain sustainable and for our project management entities to be relevant, we need to be able to deliver and deliver fast, or at least have options of delivering in different ways that fit the project results, the scope, the particular benefits that are involved more easily than traditional waterfall approaches do today.

A question people might ask is, how can project teams make sure that they aren't sacrificing quality as they ramp up the speed of delivery? And truly, it is a danger that as we speed things up, things fall through the cracks, and we start having a degree of breakage. This is especially serious if we're working in the financial sector and the scientific community, in aeronautics or in the public sector, where compliance and regulatory guidelines and requirements are pretty deep.

So how do we then make sure that we're ensuring quality? Well, one of the things is that we need to align on what quality action looks like and ensure that everybody in the project team, together with the sponsor, agrees that that is what quality actually looks like. Next, we have gotta ensure that individuals on the team specialize in looking at and reporting on quality through the project lifecycle.

And you might ask, finally, "Well, okay. I understand all those things, but how does leveraging the full spectrum, or all the varieties of delivery approaches, help?" Well, it helps by giving us options that better suit the kinds of projects that we're actually delivering. It also shifts the focus away from the methodology as a palace itself, where it's all about the care and feeding of itself and where all that we find ourselves building in our project management communities is process factories. Instead, what we shift to is the actual business value of what we're doing, so that whatever means we have at our disposal, the varied project management methodologies that we can leverage, help us to best deliver those business results.

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Stephen W. Maye

It's easy to assume that your definition of quality is shared by everyone on your team. But I think Dev made a really good point in saying that you have to be intentional about clarifying what quality looks like. And not just at the start of a project. You have to come back to that all along the way.

Tegan Jones

I think that's especially important when you're working with dispersed teams. So whenever you have people in multiple locations—when a team is spread across cultures or time zones—you have to make time for those conversations that highlight the “why” behind your work.

Stephen W. Maye

And that's exactly the type of virtual environment that a lot of project leaders are working in. Our next guest, for instance, is the PMO manager across all of Latin America for the credit reporting agency Equifax. Everaldo de Souza Alves Jr. is based in Santiago, Chile, and he had a lot to say about what it takes to innovate quickly and carefully when you're working in a heavily regulated space like the global financial market.

Tegan Jones

I'll be interested to hear what he has to say. Let's give it a listen.

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Stephen W. Maye

Everaldo, I would like to start by asking you about the trends that you’re seeing that are causing us to accelerate project timelines. What are you seeing that’s driving that acceleration?

Everaldo de Souza Alves Jr.

I think of continuous innovation. So I think that internally, companies are recognizing and perceiving that there’s a need of being more effective in terms of processes and procedures. So, driving innovation as fast as we can.

Internally Equifax has a strong reputation for driving innovation. And that is—we have metrics, actually, around how fast and how quick we innovate around our products and services. And I think that’s part of survival trend these days.

Stephen W. Maye

And when we think about that need to innovate, being driven by innovation, the need to create and identify new ideas quickly, to implement them quickly, what is different or what impact does that have for the teams that are executing projects within Equifax, particularly in Latin America?

Everaldo de Souza Alves Jr.

So my team, my project managers, need to be able to understand the business and the role of innovation practices affecting them, right? We cannot only look at project management as a practice or planning and executing a role only. So I need to understand the business. Otherwise, I will not be able to translate or to give value from project management to the business. So that’s number one.

Number two, I think there’s a lot of discussions these days on waterfall versus agile methodologies. Usually when we think about innovation, I think the first answer to that comes on, you should use agile methodology, right? I don’t really think that’s always the answer. I think we need to be smart enough to balance this out. So there are projects that we should be using waterfall. There are projects that we should be using agile. So I think there’s benefits for both in the innovation scenario.

Stephen W. Maye

What are the obstacles that you’re seeing that keep teams—project teams in particular—from responding quickly to shifts in the industry, shifts in strategy, developments in technology?

Everaldo de Souza Alves Jr.

I think the biggest obstacle or challenge is how you balance out short-term versus long-term goals, if you will. At Equifax, the way we are organized, we don’t have a, let’s say, organization which is dedicated to innovation itself or set aside of day-to-day business, right? We do things in a embedded or mixed way. So our teams can either work on business as usual, maintaining and sustaining our existing products and services. And at the same time, they might be challenged to innovate, to think differently and to create new products and services.

So, it’s like, we have one eye on the short-term goals, which is meeting our results today, and we have another eye on where we should be growing towards. You need to be able recognize business as usual versus innovative services or projects. And you need to be able to embed those into the way you measure and evaluate your projects. I think that’s the main obstacles.

Stephen W. Maye

What have you found to be key in helping teams overcome that challenge?

Everaldo de Souza Alves Jr.

I think strong leadership, Steven. And again, that I think it’s only effective enough if you have your PMO inserted into the organization at the right levels, right?

If you’re able to pair with marketing, legal, HR, IT and all of the organizations within your company, you have to make sure that you are able to translate your portfolio project, that they understand which are those ones that are impacting the business as usual more immediate results, versus those ones that are bringing more future type of results, right?

Stephen W. Maye

How do you balance that rigor and those requirements implied by being in a regulated industry with the need to respond rapidly, to respond rapidly to customer demands and to changes in the marketplace and to developments in technology? How do you balance regulated—which tends to sound slow to change—with the need to be fast?

Everaldo de Souza Alves Jr.

It’s all about how we apply innovation, how we use the innovation methodology to make sure we fail fast and that we develop fast, right? So if you think of the concept of innovation, we are always talking about minimum viable products. And that means that we need to be able to break down our projects into smaller parts, right? We need to be able to do it fast. So recognizing that regulatory is an important element of it, when you break your innovation process into pieces, I think that usually you will, you start with a smaller implementation, sometimes with a pilot. So I think by doing this, you have a more controlled way of doing things, right? So you are able to test your idea, your products, your services in a much smaller environment, in a more simpler way, and at the same time, you have the chance to evolve on applying all the regulatory expectations for that specific or particular project.

Use the innovation methodology to help you with that. Break down into smaller pieces. Make sure you have a controlled, more controlled way in the beginning where you can be faster while still complying with regulatory elements and progressively incorporating more robust requirements as you expand the launch to the market, right?

Stephen W. Maye

So when you think about really staying with this theme of managing risk, of staying compliant, then how do you make sure project teams don’t sacrifice quality of any sort in order to move more quickly?

Everaldo de Souza Alves Jr.

I think there’s no magic there. There’s really no miracles. I think sometimes our leaders just push us on doing more in less time with higher quality, and we need to prove that sometimes that’s just not possible. I mean, you need to be able to balance this out, right?

So I think the key is always going back to the basics of the methodology, right? So you can do more by making things in parallel. So that’s, I think that’s just basic of waterfall project management. That implies on having more resources. That’s as simple as that sometimes. We all know that resources are limited within our organizations. But if you want to keep quality, you need to plan for it.

Stephen W. Maye

Let’s talk about decision-making for a moment. So what is different about, or what is the role of, effective decision-making in environments and in companies and in project teams and in PMOs where we must be responding quickly to changes in the environment?

Everaldo de Souza Alves Jr.

I think it’s imperative that we are able to do quick decision-making. I think that the best way of doing this are both aligning that decision-making process or decision-making scenarios to the process of innovation itself first. And secondly, making sure that the PMO has the highest visibility within your organization and is part of that decision-making as well, right?

So myself, I sit alongside with other leaders in the region—so marketing, legal, IT, HR, finance—and we discuss those things and we decide where our priorities should be.

Stephen W. Maye

What is the role in the PMO in ensuring that the company, the organization, the project teams are more responsive and ultimately more successful?

Everaldo de Souza Alves Jr.

I think the PMO should be able to play a role where we influence our regional leaders—in this case, Latin America—to make right decisions on where the priorities are. We need to be able to show them that we don’t have unlimited resources. So we need to bring this to the table and we need to bring discussions on where should we put our resources. They are valuable. They have limited time. So where should we assign them to make sure we are driving innovation where we want to, while we are still keeping an eye on the business as usual?

Stephen W. Maye

What advice do you give to project managers that really want to make their teams, their projects, their companies, more responsive to change?

Everaldo de Souza Alves Jr.

I think the first one is really acknowledging the business needs or the business processes. In my example as we’ve been discussing today, understanding that innovation is a key element for the company, and that I need to embed this into my project management discipline. So get to know your business. Get to know how they operate and what’s relevant for the business and apply it to your project management or PMO organization.

Maybe closing it, I think that I would just say an effect thing, which would be just be close to the business and be close to the business and again, be close to the business. I could not emphasize that more. I think that’s how we bring value from project management to the market.

Stephen W. Maye

Be close to the business. Be close to the business. Be close to the business. With that, Everaldo de Souza Alves Jr. has the last word. Everaldo, it has been a pleasure to meet you and to talk with you. And thank you so much for sharing your experience, your insight, your wisdom. Wonderful having you here today.

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Narrator

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