Transformation—Turning Innovation Into Reality

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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TEGAN JONES

Hello, this is Tegan Jones. We talk a lot about transformation here on Projectified. And it’s clearly top of mind for CEOs. But turning those big ideas into reality is a whole other thing. In fact, Harvard Business Review reported that 900 billion U.S. dollars was wasted in digital transformation last year.

So, to get a better idea of what organizations should be doing differently, I spoke with two leaders from the Brightline Initiative while I was at Global Conference. Let’s go to that conversation now.

[MUSICAL TRANSITION]
TEGAN JONES

This is Tegan Jones for Projectified with PMI, and I’m here with two leaders of the Brightline Initiative. I have Ricardo Vargas, who is the executive director, and Tahirou Assane, who is the director of operations. Thank you so much for joining me.

RICARDO VARGAS

Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be here.

TAHIROU ASSANE

Thank you for having us.

TEGAN JONES

So I know the Brightline Initiative is focused on bridging the gap between strategy, design and delivery. So let’s start there. What does an organization need to do, how does it need to shift its focus in order to successfully deliver these strategic programs and transformations?

RICARDO VARGAS

Yeah, I think that one of the key aspects is that a lot of people are talking about transformation, thinking as digital transformation. And they think that digital transformation is about technology. There is a massive cultural component and a people component, and what is our target now is to produce a framework or produce a compass that may help organizations to understand that without putting people in the center of transformation, you don’t move. You just don’t move. It’s not a problem with money. It’s not a problem with technology, but how you can bring people together.

Just to give you one insight, last year we produced a manifesto, called a People Manifesto, because we noticed that to bridge this gap between ideas and reality, a big component of that bridge is a human component. And we started thinking about that, and one of the statements, it’s a very polemic statement, is that people act on their own best interests. So by saying that, you cannot move transformation if you don’t get to people’s mind and hearts and show that organizational transformation is also an individual transformation. So you are bringing everybody together to a better future and not bringing the organization and leaving people behind. So this is the mindset for a successful transformation.

TAHIROU ASSANE

One thing that I will also add in addition to that was sometimes people feel like if they need to do the transformation in their organization, they can bring people external and then just get the transformation moving. You know? That doesn’t happen like that.

You need to find the champions within the organization that will help you actually move that transformation, and with internal champions, the buy-in also becomes easier and you’re preparing also the next generation for the actual operation of an organization when the transformation has kind of fulfilled what it was meant to fulfill. But people sometimes say, “Oh, let’s bring a consultant out here, a consultant there and let them just do the job for us.” It doesn’t work that way. Of course you may need a consultant for some specific things but not necessarily to drive a transformation for your organization.

TEGAN JONES

Absolutely. I think that this idea of winning over people’s hearts and minds is really at the core of the issue. One thing that seems to be a major challenge is this idea that what the transformation is actually going to deliver, what the new organization is going to look like after the transformation, is kind of a moving target.

So how do you communicate that strategic vision, that idea that’s the guiding light of a transformation, to everyone in a way that they internalize it, and it is part of their new identity or at least their work identity moving forward?

RICARDO VARGAS

A lot of people think that transformation has a starting point and an ending point, and I have a concept that I think that transformation is now the new routine. It means the transformation never ends. Maybe that piece of work that was the scope of the transformation will change, but your company and the journey of your organization towards the future is a permanent transformation. 

TAHIROU ASSANE

Of course as you’re getting the organization moving into that future state and as we think that future state is not a fixed point, what you need though is to build a muscle within the organization, the employees to be ready for the next change, to be ready for the fact that things will always be fluxing as opposed to, “Okay, I’ve done this. This is the way we do things, and we don’t change.” No, the new normal is accepting and adopting and embracing change because that work allows the organization to be ready to move.

Otherwise, what could happen easily is of course you can have someone sitting sometimes, let’s say in a garage, programming on the computer and disrupting completely your business because you are seeing trends, you are seeing things happening, but you’re not acting to address them. And that’s what happened. I mean you can think about H&R Block or you can think about Blockbuster. You can think about other organizations that exactly got disrupted because of that challenge of not necessarily being prepared to take action.

TEGAN JONES

So since disruption is now an ongoing process, something that has to be continually looked at, and there isn’t a beginning and an end, like you said, what is the role that project and program managers play in actually executing these transformations?

RICARDO VARGAS

Project and program management is the way of delivering things, is the way you get things done. Because when we talk about disruption, imagine how this shake the organizational system. So you need to have the capability to cope with this chaotic environment and get things done. And let me tell you, what happens many times is that people know they are close to being disrupted. They know that they are facing challenges. They know that, “Oh God, I will hit the wall, I will hit the wall,” but they don’t know how to press the brake or how to shift and move away. And project management is exactly that absolutely critical capability that allow you to make things happen.

TAHIROU ASSANE

If you have your strategy that you want to implement, at the end of the day, this strategy will need to be transformed into initiatives, into project, program, portfolios that you need to implement. So there is no way of thinking, “Oh, I have a strategy,” and then all of a sudden it happened. Project is a means of bringing change, change through the organization, and project management capabilities becomes the key to deliver that change. Right? 

TEGAN JONES

I’m glad that you brought that up because obviously that connective tissue is so important, but I know a lot of organizations still have some of their executives and their strategy people over here, and they have their execution and their project people over here, and what should be the connection between those executives, those senior leaders, and the people who are leading their project management charge?

RICARDO VARGAS

Yeah, this is absolutely what we are working on because Brightline, the main focus of Brightline, are not the current stakeholders of the project management practice, because they are fully aware of the value of what they do. The problem is that when they go back to their organization, their leaders are not necessarily at the same page. Their leader thinks that execution just happen, and then Brightline can exactly go into that piece, the leaders in organizations, first, increasing their awareness. Second, bringing a call to action.

And one thing that I want to add that is so interesting is that people love to talk about ideas. People love to share how the future will look like. And this is much more attractive than getting things done. Because execution is painful. Transforming things into reality is absolutely painful. So the first thing they need to be very much aware is, when I have an idea or a transformative initiative, I need to see how I can get this done. Which capability, I’m not talking people, but which capabilities I need to foster in the organization to allow transformation to happen. It’s not just put on paper and send an email to everybody saying, “Tomorrow we’ll work this way.” It doesn’t work that way.

TEGAN JONES 

No, it doesn’t. But I think the advice you shared here and all of the work that you do at the Brightline Initiative will help leaders look at things a little bit differently.

Thank you again for taking the time to talk with us today. Ricardo Vargas and Tahirou Assane, it has been a pleasure. 

RICARDO VARGAS

Thank you. Thank you.

TAHIROU ASSANE

Thank you. Very much appreciate it.

NARRATOR

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