Winning on Strategy — The Power of Project Delivery

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 we're talking strategy—more specifically how to deliver on strategic goals. This is something that a lot of organizations both large and small really struggle with.

Tegan Jones

The Economist Intelligence Unit recently did a really interesting survey on this. In the study, which was sponsored by the Brightline Initiative™, they spoke with 500 senior executives from organizations with annual revenues of one billion U.S. dollars or more. And what they found was that 90 percent of the respondents said their companies have failed to reach their strategic goals because they just don't implement well. On average, they fail to reach 20 percent of their strategic objectives, and that's because, really, their projects just can't deliver.

Stephen W. Maye

And that can be really costly, both in terms of money spent, but also the opportunities that are lost.

Tegan Jones

And we have some numbers to show what that looks like. Because every year, PMI measures the cost of project failure as part of its Pulse of the Profession® report. And this year, the report found that 9.9 percent of every dollar—so this is U.S. dollars, even though it's a global survey—but 9.9 percent of every dollar spent on projects is wasted due to poor performance.

Stephen W. Maye

For every billion dollars spent, 99 million dollars are wasted. That is a lot of money to throw away.

Tegan Jones

So I think that's why we're seeing a lot of organizations looking for better ways to bridge the gap between strategy and execution. And a lot of them are turning to project management and looking at different project approaches in order to help their teams be more reactive to shifting priorities and really keep their eyes on those long-term strategic goals.

Stephen W. Maye

And that’s exactly what we’re talking about with our guests in this episode. We’ll hear from Felipe Daguila, the chief digital officer for Ooredoo Qatar, who will explain how his project teams keep the company’s strategic priorities at the center of everything they do. And Dev Ramcharan, a program director at TD in Toronto, will offer his thoughts on how teams can deliver successful projects—even when an organization’s strategy changes midstream.

This is becoming a more and more frequent phenomenon because we live in such a shifting marketplace. And some of that's very positive—opportunities that are emerging quickly, new technology that's emerging quickly, but also competitors are changing quickly. So very often strategy is shifting.

Tegan Jones

Right. It's all about trying to keep your project in line with the business case and understanding when that business case changes.

And that was something that I was able to talk to many different project leaders about at the PMI EMEA Congress in May. When I was there, I had the chance to speak with Amruta Oak, the executive director of program management services for Kaiser Permanente in San Francisco, and Heather van Wyk, who is a business program manager for Engen Petroleum in Cape Town. They both had a lot to say about what it takes to really implement in a way that will drive an organization's strategy forward.

Stephen W. Maye

This should be interesting. Let's give it a listen.

Tegan Jones

Strategy isn’t just for executives and business analysts. It’s a compass that keeps everyone in an organization working towards the same goal. But for project and program managers, focusing on strategic priorities can sometimes require shifting project plans.

Heather van Wyk

Every day, you reassess where you're going, whether you're aligning with strategy, and you change your critical path accordingly. You don't stick to a plan just because it's the plan. If the strategy changes, your plan has to change.

Tegan Jones

That’s where the business case comes in, says Heather van Wyk. Clearly documenting how a project’s deliverables support strategic goals makes it a lot easier to see if there’s a disconnect. And outlining a project’s intended benefits at the start also helps keep teams accountable for delivering results.

Heather van Wyk

The whole business case was really formalized to realizing the actual benefits. The new structure in the organization is really concerned with getting value out of projects. And so, even the KPIs of the division are linked to this particular project's business case and its realization of the benefits. And that's been formalized from the CEO downwards.

Tegan Jones

Amruta Oak and her team at Kaiser Permanente also focus on the business case throughout the project lifecycle. For long-term projects and programs, they review the business case each year and make adjustments that reflect what they’ve learned along the way.

Amruta Oak

At the beginning when you are developing your business case for the program, you probably don't know enough. And so, is there really an opportunity to update the business case? And so, one of the things we do is on the longer programs that are three, four, five years—anything over two years—we actually do an annual refresh of the business case to, again, double check. Have market conditions changed? Has our business model changed? Does it need to change?

Tegan Jones

Individual assessments are tied to strategy, as well. During annual performance reviews, for instance, Amruta asks each project and program management team member to outline how they plan to align their work to strategy in the coming year.

Amruta Oak

We have annual goals in our company and what every manager is encouraged to do is really to tie the strategy down to the goals for the department and the goals for the individual. And so what we do is really take every project and say, "What does this mean to you as an individual?” and, “How are you going to meet this higher department goal as well as the company strategy?" And so it really helps people relate, and they know what their work does or how that feeds into the strategy. So that’s how we try to keep it connected.

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Stephen W. Maye

Amruta made a really good point about tying strategy back to individual performance. I think it’s incredibly powerful when we can understand and articulate strategy well enough that the major projects are clearly connected, clearly aligned, and have outcomes that are a reflection of what we’re trying to achieve through that strategy. And then unpacking that to a degree that individual contributors actually see their goals—their individual performance—connected to the performance of both the project and the overall strategy.

Tegan Jones

Yeah, and it also changes the way that people look at project data, right? If project teams or project managers are going to be judged on the strategic benefits that they deliver—and they know that from the start—they are going to be more likely to raise the red flag if things start to go off track.

Stephen W. Maye

And with as quickly as markets are shifting it makes sense that business cases for projects often have to change as well.

I think what we really need is a focus on entering into major strategic projects with the idea that we will need to course-correct—being clear that that process of course-correcting is everybody’s responsibility and that we have to respond and adapt to what we’re learning and to what’s changing around us.

Tegan Jones

That’s exactly right, and that’s something that Dev Ramcharan, our next guest, knows a lot about. He’s a program director in the financial services industry, and he’s spent a large piece of his 25-year career focused on aligning projects and programs to organizational strategy.

Stephen W. Maye

And I’ll bet he’s learned a thing or two along the way. Let’s hear what he’s got for us.

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Dev Ramcharan

Hi there, this is Dev Ramcharan, and I am a program director at TD Bank in Canada. And today we're talking about delivering on strategy.

When we deliver our projects, we're actually delivering projects that have been selected by organizations because of the fact that they have a strategic payoff. They align with the key concerns—the pillars—of a strategy for an organization. Often as these things are planned, as portfolios are put together, they leverage big data that allows data scientists and planners to isolate key trends, key concerns, operational insights that can then be addressed in the projects that you often have to manage as a project manager.

One of the things that you may ask yourself as a project manager is how can project teams make sure that they're staying on track as strategic priorities shift.

For instance, you're working on a software project, and suddenly there's a merger and acquisition that is announced in the organization, which has a critical impact on the project you're working on. Well, your job as a project manager now is not just to run forward with the project under your arm, but to go upstairs and talk to the leaders to say, "Listen. This project can still be delivered, but we're going to have to reframe the scope based on the fact that we've now had a merger and acquisition that's going to have an impact on what we're actually delivering."

Is that bad for you as a project manager? Well, no. It's actually a good thing. Because it takes us up and out of the operational weeds and gets us thinking about the strategic impact, framing and meaning of the projects that we're actually managing.

Well, another thing that you might ask yourself is this: What about calculating and ensuring that the return on investment for the projects you're managing has actually been achieved?

Well, that's a key responsibility that we have as PMs today. We need to own that process of ensuring that activities are defined to be able to complete the ROI calculation process. So we may have to put some structures in place. We may have to assign and tag to individuals the completion of that ROI activity. But we would be derelict in our duties as PMs if we didn't ensure that that happened.

So we as PMs today aren't just operating on a default, mechanical, run-forward-with-the-ball-under-our-arms. We're actually people who are intelligently, thoughtfully, mindfully and analytically delivering on strategy, and it's a wonderful evolution in the profession.

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Stephen W. Maye

Dev is so right that project management isn’t just about moving the ball forward. It’s about understanding and validating the direction you’re moving in.

Tegan Jones

And it goes the other way, too. I mean, we’re seeing more and more strategy people seeing that they need to communicate with project delivery teams while they’re creating big-picture strategies. Because if a plan can’t be executed efficiently, then that strategy just isn’t going to be successful.

Stephen W. Maye

That idea is something I recently discussed with Felipe Daguila, who is the chief digital officer for the telecom giant Ooredoo Qatar. And until recently, he was the head of strategic products and partners for Google Singapore. So he had a lot to say about the importance of collaboration and communication in regard to strategy execution, especially at large global organizations.

Tegan Jones

It’s always interesting to get inside the head of someone who spent time at Google. Let’s hear what he has to say.

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Stephen W. Maye

Felipe, you’ve had a very diverse career. You’ve consulted with entrepreneurs in start-up incubators and worked with large global companies including Google. I’m really looking forward to hearing how your experience has shaped the way you think about strategy development and delivery. Thanks so much for talking with me today.

Felipe Daguila

Thank you very much for the invitation.

Stephen W. Maye

One of the things I’d like to learn from you is what are the common elements of projects and programs that do successfully deliver on strategy. If you look across sectors and across project size, what have you observed, and what has been your experience around the key factors that keep teams strategically aligned?

Felipe Daguila

You do these strategies, or you do internally, or you hire a nice consulting firm—McKinsey, BCG or Bain—but they leave you a paper, right? So how are we making that paper reality?

So it’s extremely important that early in the process during the creation of the strategy, you do this co-creation with your staff. Because if you’re not able to connect to what they are doing, and they are not able to give you input—I’m not saying that every input you need to take into consideration 100 percent—but you need to be able to connect what is the goal to what you are doing on a daily basis. And this is one of the crucial pieces to make big transformations work.

If you look to mergers and acquisitions, which is an area that has constantly been growing worldwide, more than 80 percent fail. And this is probably one of the best examples of a large strategy or a large transformation in a company. And they fail for one simple reason: It’s all about the change management, right? So you need to understand that if you’re not able to connect that strategy or what is happening on the floor, and you do a early engagement with the staff, you’re not gonna be able to succeed in the strategy.

Stephen W. Maye

So tell me a little bit more about how do you view this co-creation. How far down into the organization does this go when we start thinking about the idea of co-creating strategy and co-creating the sort of implications of strategy with people throughout the organization?

Felipe Daguila

So let me give you this example that a project that I led, right? In a very simple way the context was, so we had two different organizations providing specialist support to different segments of clients, okay? In the same company, two different organizations using different systems, different skill sets of people, different metrics, different clients, right? How can we combine these two organizations and find some efficiency in terms of systems, metrics and skill sets?

So what we did in this context was exactly to say, “Listen. We bring a set of people who are, let’s say, advisors from the floor from each one of these teams and say, ‘We want to design a strategy to solve these two problems. How can we serve these clients—different and segmented—from an external perspective, and internally how can we be more efficient?’”

So we bring these people early to the process. So they are not the experts in strategy. No. Probably they never did that before. But the input that they bring to us to say, “This is what really matters for us. This is why we do this using this platform or this one. This is how I spend my time.” This help us so much to shape the strategy.

Bringing these advocates early not only bring us the insights of the execution that we need to tailor on the strategy, but also they become co-responsible. We made them co-responsible to help us to execute to that strategy later on. So, it was not anymore a strategy off of the VP- or the C-level. It was a strategy built in conjunction, co-created by the team. So those kind of approaches are the approaches that actually are being more successful, in my experience.

Stephen W. Maye

But why do you suppose we’re still too little too late when it comes to bringing the right people to the table as part of that co-creation process—as part of that broader strategy process?

Felipe Daguila

We try to avoid people that think different from us. That’s the reality.

If you’re a strategy guy, if you go to any consulting firm or any company, the strategy guys, and you ask what an operation guy think from the strategy guy, they don’t like each other. This guy doesn’t know how to execute, and this guy dreams, and vice versa. You are trying to merge two different mindsets, two different worlds, and two different work styles, and this is hard.

In some cases I get frustrated because the role of the project management in many countries, in many situations become more like, let’s say, do documentation or just to run meetings, and send emails, and presentations. But the real value of the project management right now is exactly, okay, how can I connect the priorities of these two worlds, and how can I be the person who really can ask again and again and again, “Why are we doing this? Why are we still doing this project?”

Stephen W. Maye

Felipe, how do you know when it’s time to end a project? How do you know when it’s time to simply pull the plug?

Felipe Daguila

For me mainly there are three reasons, okay? So, the first reason is if what I’m doing, it’s not delivering the outcome expected from my customers or stakeholders.

The second one, in my opinion, is when you don’t have the right team or the right support or the right assets to deliver the project, I think you need to stop to force that project to have the right priority or the right assets.

The third reason is mainly when you have some kind of regulatory or legal or compliance challenge in your project, which it lately, because in technology projects especially we are challenging so much new boundaries and new things that was never thought before, I think this is something that usually could happen, right?

Stephen W. Maye

How do you maintain commitment and energy and morale and momentum with teams that are experiencing that kind of disruption?

Felipe Daguila

I think what usually happen, we try to make general decisions and we don’t try to understand or share with the team the reasons behind it. I think if you bring them on board to understand, “Don’t worry. Whatever you did up to this moment, you’re going to be recognized, you’re going to be rewarded for your effort and for the results of the project.” And on the side, really bring them on and say, “Why do you think we stop it? Let’s review those reasons, so then when we restart this project, or when we start a new one, how can we mitigate or how can we try to avoid the same kind of mistakes?”

Stephen W. Maye

I think that’s fantastic, the idea that we can separate the direction of the project and even the fate of the project from the performance of the team members. I think that’s a brilliant point.

So, Felipe, you have been incredibly generous with your time. I want to ask you one more thing before we let you go.

So if you had to condense it down to one practice, one mindset, one technique, one approach, what’s the one thing that you would advise project managers or program managers that are leading initiatives that are truly intended to deliver on strategy, what’s the one thing that they need to be focused on more than anything else?

Felipe Daguila

Probably the key thing for me, it’s literally always assume that you don’t know what you are doing.

So why am saying this? If you always have the feeling to be a little bit uncomfortable of what we are doing, even if you did the project ten times in ten different regions in ten different clients, and you think you have the experience, always feel uncomfortable. Because when you feel uncomfortable and you have a little bit of, the piece of fear, I think you’re gonna be curious. And you’re gonna be challenging the questions, challenging what you are doing and your deliverables and your milestones.

The sense of being uncomfortable when you have experience is crucial to guarantee that you always reviewing and analyzing again and again if you are delivering against your strategy.

Stephen W. Maye

And with that, Felipe Daguila gets the last word. Felipe, you have been a wonderful guest. I know I’ve learned some things, and it’s been a pleasure talking with you. Thank you for being here.

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Narrator

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