Transformation — Risks and Rewards

PODCAST | With Guest Kevin Murphy | 18 April 2018

Transcript

Narrator

The future of project management is changing fast. On Projectified with PMI we'll help you stay ahead of the trends as we talk about what that means for the industry and for everyone involved.

Stephen W. Maye

I'm Stephen W. Maye, for Projectified with PMI. For an easy way to stay up to date on Projectified with PMI go to iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play Music and PMI.org/podcast. In this episode we discuss business transformation with transformation expert and head of Bain's Centre of Expertise for Co-Creation, Kevin Murphy. Kevin defines transformation, describes what's different for leaders moving through it and makes a case that project professionals do their best work when they attend to the physical, mental and emotional space where co-creation can be achieved. I came to Washington DC today to sit with Kevin Murphy. And behind Kevin is a, a painting that says "keep your coins, I want change". I like that, I think we're talking to the right guy. Kevin, thanks for taking the time to talk with me today I really appreciate it.

Kevin Murphy

Thanks Stephen good to spend time with you.

Stephen W. Maye

So I've had the opportunity to be familiar with your work from time to time and, of course you and I have had the opportunity to talk about your work, what you're doing, what you've been doing. Give me just an idea of how you'd define transformation. What are you, when, when you're talking to an audience that's largely project managers and project professionals, what do they need to understand about what you mean when you use that term?

Kevin Murphy

Well it's, it's really in the word, um, Stephen. You know, to transform. Um, to change to something different. Um, for me when you use the transformation word you're implying that something significant is going to take place. That at the end of this journey, this process, um, that the organisation will be different in market and significant ways to what it was when you started. There may be many reasons to embark on transformation, um, but at the end you've got to look back and say "we've made a difference".

Stephen W. Maye

Yeah, so, so give me an example of not, I mean don't name, um, anything specific, but, but what types of projects tend to fall into this space? What, what, what are we seeing right now? You work with a lot of, some of the largest companies across, uh, across north America, across, you know across the world. What are the types of projects that we're seeing today that, that encapsulate this idea of real transformation?

Kevin Murphy

Yeah, I mean transformation can come from a lot of, of different sources. Um, you know top on the list today would have to be digital and the implications and impact that digital is having and the disruption of, of businesses. So looking forward and, you know, not seeing clearly, um, or maybe perceiving a threat or even being in fear, you know, driving, um, transformation. But it's also opportunity. Um, transformation could be driven by merger and acquisition. Um, so two organisations are gonna come together to materially change the value that they collectively, um, create. Um, so most sizeable, um, merger integrations, um, have a transformation, um, component or transformation, um, feel, um, to them. Um, transformation can be driven by just business circumstances. Um, you know the need to radically change the, the upside on kind of revenue generation. Or to take significant cost, um, out of the business. Um, so many different sources, um, but all leading to that very significant change. I, I would say the other characteristic is of transformations are that they tend to touch all aspects of the business. Um, so it's, it's not fixing or improving or changing an area of business, it is touching, um, all parts, front, back, um, you know, um, all, all round. Which again contributes to that, it's when you look back at the end it's different.

Stephen W. Maye

What's different for people that are doing project work when they start to move into something that is either driving or part of a significant transformation in the business that they're part of?

Kevin Murphy

And let me start with, uh, you know, how common is transformational. Um, most companies do not go through many transformations in their, their history, they're, they're big draining things. So, um, it's, it's not something you undertake on a whim, there's got to be a fairly strong, you know, case for change, um, to dive, um, into it. Um, they're, they're, they're not, they're marathons not sprints, um, so when you're talking about transforming an organisation it's measured in years not weeks. Um, and because of that, um, most executives, most business people and most project, um, professionals probably don't get an exposure to many of them in their careers. And in fact, tho, those who have successfully led and guided and contributed to transformation, um, are in strong demand. Um, because it's just not many people who can put one let alone two or three of those, um, on their résumé. Um, and that's, it, as I said, to, to have that is a great value on the résumé but it's also a tremendous experience for the individual. Um, the learning that takes place during transformation is, um, you know, substantial. Um, so it, it's just, you know, if, if you have the opportunity it is great to get involved. Um, and not only will the organisation be changed, but you get changed by the process as well, by the experience.

Stephen W. Maye

So I hear you talking about this idea that really most project managers, most project professionals, most business professionals will not have the opportunity to experience very many transformation level changes across their career. Particularly in a single company. Well it raises a question for me which is, okay well if I seek out an opportunity within my company or maybe I'm early in my career and I have the opportunity to, to direct my work toward, toward a company that I know will be experiencing transformation because I want that experience, will I be able to apply that in less than transformational changes? In other words does that scale down as well, or am I now at a place where I say, well I've learned something about transformation, all I can do is run around trying to find transformations to, to be a part of?

Kevin Murphy

Yeah, if the latter were true it would be sad because you'd probably have a very frustrating experience. The, um, but, but, but that's why I mentioned that the, the experience, the, being part of a transformation changes you as well as the, um, as the company. Because I believe very strongly, that it makes a better all round leader, business person, um, contributor, um, to the organisation that, um, that you're in. The, the other side of transformation is, um, you know, successfully done, you know, it creates a powerful business entity on the, on the other side. And, um, I, I don't see many people who having gone through the transformational experience are looking to go somewhere else to create another transformational experience. What I see is them getting excitement and energy from the new business that they've created. And they want to apply what they've learned in more and in deeper ways. Um, you know, to keep that happening.

Stephen W. Maye

That's fantastic. So, rather than, uh, well I've learned some new things, I've had new experiences, let me rush out and try to find that again, what I hear you saying is that you actually find yourself more committed to the thing you've helped create?

Kevin Murphy

Absolutely. And if you've been part of the core team, um, in driving this, you, you now have those relationships, um, across the organisation, um, as well. Um, so there's a, there's a real kind of bonding that takes place. Um, you know, in, in the process and, you know, you just want more.

Stephen W. Maye

Yeah. So, it's been said a lot of different ways that, uh, you know, where there's, where there's great risk, there's great reward. So, is that true here too? You know, if, if I have the opportunity to seek out, to, um, either get myself assigned, to request, to become a part of something where I really do believe that at it's nature it's, has, it either is or has the potential to be transformational for the business. Is there risk in that for me as a project professional?

Kevin Murphy

Uh, unfortunately huge. Um, the, there's huge risk in the transformation. Um, you know, they are the most challenging of usually situations and opportunities. Um, to, you know, to, to address. We did a piece of, of research a few years ago. We talked to, um, three hundred plus companies that had gone through transformational, um, scale of, of change. And we asked them, basically a number of questions, but one of the key questions was, did you achieve what you set out to achieve? What was the value upfront you said you wanted to generate? What was the result, the outcome, the realisation? And did you deliver on that? Um, and the, the answers are pretty sobering. Um, because the number of companies that either delivered on or exceeded that promise was twelve percent. Um, so very small.

Stephen W. Maye

That's, uh, depressing.

Kevin Murphy

Ah, it's, it's, it's sobering. Um...

Stephen W. Maye

No I think it's depressing. I think, sure I'll, I'll take sobering but if I think about twelve percent are achieving what they've set out to achieve. And, and don't let me put words in your mouth, is that fair to say they didn't achieve what they set out to achieve?

Kevin Murphy

Absolutely.

Stephen W. Maye

Okay, yeah so there's something about that that, that bothers me a lot.

Kevin Murphy

Let me give you two other numbers. Um, so of those that weren't in the twelve percent, um, thirty eight percent delivered less than fifty percent of the value, um, that they promised up front. Now we look at those thirty eight percent and we believe there was probably something flawed in what they set out to do or how they set out to do it. And, you know, most likely it was the wrong change, um, you know if you're hitting kind of that low, um, on delivery. The interesting number for us is the number that remains. 'Cause it's fifty percent. Um, they got at least fifty percent, um, of the value but they didn't deliver, um, the the full value, um, that was out there. And by our definition when we looked at them, um, achieving the value was within their grasp. They just didn't play the game at the level that was necessary, um, to succeed. And, and we labelled it mediocre. Um, they settled for mediocrity. Um, and, you know, as I said transformation is not easy. You have to be as a leadership team, as a, an organisation, as a company, you have to be pretty dedicated, um, to, to, to take it on and to deliver, um, against it. And we're saying is, half the people who get into this, um, do not have that level of commitment, energy, you know, whatever label you put on it, um, to make it happen. And, and you know the one I, the one I think it isn't is, it's not ability. I believe the ability and the skills are available, it's the attitude. It is the, um, resolve to do whatever it takes, um, to get you there, um, that's, that's missing. Um, and it really, you know, in terms of the, the, the role and people we're talking about, it's, it's the willingness to up your game. Um, and I gotta do what I've done before and that's worked on, you know, the average incremental project. Or am I gonna step into this and really up my game to deliver?

Stephen W. Maye

Yeah, so if I take that as given, so you've said you think it's, you think it's more about willingness, not as much about ability. So am I willing to step in? Am I willing to take some chances? Am I willing to perform in ways I haven't before? Again, don't let me put words in your mouth. Is that up and down the chain? So, again if we're, we've started out talking about the idea of transformational initiatives by definition I'm going to assume you're, you're looking at the, the top end of the business in terms of senior executives directly involved. Down through, wherever that might, wherever that might go. Where's the problem? You know, if we say, well the skill's there, 'cause I hear you saying you don't need super hero skills to, to be involved in or to lead these kinds of initiatives. But you've got to be really willing to do what it takes. Where's the problem?

Kevin Murphy

So by start let me, just be clear, you've gotta bring a good game and you've be able to bring, um, your best game. So it's not like, you'd pick anybody off the street and they can go, you, you need good, um, people. Um, but the, you know the, the, the energy and the, you know, kind of doing what it takes, is a, it can be a challenge at all levels. But, but fixing, um, it, uh, or ensuring that it's place, is a top down. It is the, you know the, the leadership, um, team, um, and the alignment of that team and the, the commitment of that team, um, that's, that's critical. Um, you know, here, here at Bain I, I run a centre of excellence in what we call co-creation. And it is, you know, how we get individuals and groups of people working together in, you know, a constructive way where the sum is greater than the, the total is greater than the sum of the parts. Um, and, you know, they truly outstrip even what they expect, um, of themselves. And it's creating the environment and the interactions where, where that is possible. And, um, I spend a lot of time working with senior teams and large groups of leaders in organisations, you know, trying to get them, um, to that place. And one of the most frequent comments I hear after we, we run some of these sessions with, um, senior teams is somebody around the table says "we never talked to one another like this" you know today has been such a different experience for us. And we say, "well what was different about it?" "We talked to each other". You know, we didn't come in with our own agendas and our own, you know, list of topics and you know, you know, focus on a, a very fixed and limited, um, set of things, we actually stepped back from the business as it is today and we engaged, um, each other. Um, and I'm, I shouldn't be surprised at, you know, 'cause I've heard it so many times, but it still catches me, catches my attention every time I hear, um, somebody say it. And it is, it's a very challenge to run a business, um, you know, particularly a large, um, enterprise. And, you know the conversation tends to get silo-ed. Um, and pulling people out of that. And I mean, and that's the beginning. We, we usually start, um, very deliberately and explicitly with the senior team and getting them to have the conversations they need, need to to be in it together.

Stephen W. Maye

Yeah. So, so what, what's missing? So we know that, you know, it varies from company to company but we know that in a lot of companies, uh, senior people do have access to each other, um, not only do they have access to each other one on one but they often, not everywhere, but in a lot of places, they often have opportunities to be in the room together, to be on conference calls together. Um, so what's different? What's missing? And what I'm thinking about is, you know, if I'm a project professional today and I have the opportunity to influence how me move forward in some of these either project that are part of something transformational or even to be in the, in the heart of the transformational initiatives. What is the thing that I'm, that I'm trying to create across those executives that they're not getting today? Like why are they coming through the kind of sessions you would talk about and say, we're having a different conversation or we'd never talk like this, or we'd never talk about this issues. Why is that? What's missing in the interactions, you know, where, where's the trick to, to put a terrible word on it, that, uh, a project manager, project professional, someone in a PMO, uh, today. If they can influence it, what can they insert into that environment to help executives start to have those conversations?

Kevin Murphy

So, I, I'm gonna butcher a quote from, um, Dee Hock. Um, Dee Hock was the founder, inventor, CEO of Visa International. Basically the guy who invented the credit card system that we all use, um, today. Um, fantastic leader and, um, one of the things he said, um, and I won't get his words exact but he said, he goes, you know, it is the future that should have our attention and, you know kind of consume kind of the best of us but it's seldom does in the kind of stresses and strains of daily life, um, you know, we as I said, it is a lot of work to run a business day by day. And without some external influence, most leadership does that and they do it successfully. I mean it's part of what got them in the position, um, they're in today. Um, and, and the need is to get them out of that, to create the space for them to have the conversation. Um, you know, not often easy inside an organisation and several levels down to create that. But, but you don't, you don't have to start with the leadership, you can start by creating these opportunities among, you know, managers and VPs lower in the organisation to build the reputation and the experience, um, in doing so. Um, you know, I mentioned, you know, creating the space for that. I think of it as three spaces, um, that you, you've got to pay attention to. There's physical space, there's mental space and there's emotional space. And, you know, physical space is, you know, when I do this, I like to get people out of the day to day environment. Um, not our usual conference room or whatever meeting room, or board room that we sit down to talk in. Because that has associations with the conversations that we always have there. If I want to get you to have a different conversation, I actually like to put you in a different space. Just so the, the space supports you in kind of generating a different, um, dialogue. Could be somebody's home, it could be a space that you rent, um, preferably not a ball room at a hotel at the airport, my least favourite places to have these conversations. Um, but today [INTERRUPTION]

Stephen W. Maye

You just lost all of our, uh, hotel ball room sponsors I think.

Kevin Murphy

In the, uh, actually in today's um, um, kind of mobile worker, um, environment, there are actually a lot of great spaces that you can go online. I, I use Peerspace, um, for instance to just find locations to have, um, these meetings. The second I said is, is, is mental space and that's creating the, um, environment for people to have the dialogues that they need to have. And I say, everybody comes to these meetings from the to do list and the problem list and the challenges, um, that they were just facing. So it's, you know, kind of creating an environment to separate them from that. Um, you know we do these inclusion exercises. Um, which are about warming people up for the conversation they're going to have. But it's also about trying to separate them from the, the problems of, um, that, that they all brought into the, um, into the room. And, um, again many ways, um, you can do it but it's kind of setting people up, um, for the right, um, conversation. And the third one, as I said, is, is emotional space. Um, you know, if these people are mid or senior managers in, you know, a substantial organisation, as I said, there, there's a lot on their plates and a lot kind of in their heads, um, when they, you know, kind of come, um, to the table. Um, but not only that, there was a, you know, a tonne of work going forward for the next, you know, three, six months to the end of the year, um, that's already, um, kind of occupying their time and they haven't encountered it, um, yet. So part of what, you know, you're trying to do in that time, you know, with the team is, is to generate some new energy and enthusiasm and opportunity. You wanna get them excited and committed, um, to something. And, I talked about these three things as, as spaces and the reason I think of them that way is, what I've experienced over the years is if you get a good group of people into the right space, having the right conversation, um, together, it's kind of sit back and let them go.

Stephen W. Maye

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