MARK A. LANGLEY
Economies around the world are experiencing a roller-coaster ride of surge and slump in their gross domestic product (GDP) growth. This trend is affecting the prospect of companies that are vying for growth to remain competitive.
Mr. Mark A. Langley, president and CEO, PMI, spoke about the macro trends that organizations worldwide are pursuing to gain competitive advantage. Organizations are shifting focus to emerging markets, investing in the downturn so that they can surge ahead when the times improve, adopting changes in their operating strategy, and staying nimble to identify opportunities faster, to get ahead of competition. Organizations are also refocusing their energies on talent.
“Organizations realize the importance of getting value out of their investments into projects and programs to stay ahead of competition. They are linking project success and value to talent, and hence there is a focus on building program and project management skills within the organization,” he said. There has been increased use of agile methods in project management, he added.
India, as a growing economy, will produce 400,000 project-related jobs for the next 10 years but the supply will not be able to match the demand. Recent research has shown that non-technical skills in project managers will weigh high on the minds of recruiters. Some of these skills are team alignment to the corporate vision, exemplifying integrity, and negotiation skills.
“Organizations are facing the triple constraints of technical, leadership, and strategic management skills. They want project managers who are technically competent, possess leadership capabilities, and understand the organization’s long-term vision,” Mr. Langley explained. He added that companies recognize the impact that project management training brings to a project. There is increased demonstration across organizations of how employing trained project managers results in greater project success, whether in terms of goals met, delivery within budget and cost, control over scope creep, and fewer projects deemed failed. “The greater focus on talent management is leading to better performance, which in turn, is improving the competitive advantage of organizations,” said Mr. Langley.
Mr. Vineet Nayar, vice-chairman and CEO, HCL Technologies, a man who lead the transformation of his company from a struggling $700-million entity to a $4-billion IT behemoth, posed a question to his audience: “Are you leading organizational change?” He believes organizational change starts with an idea, that idea finds a face, and that face finds followers. The difference between a leader and a manager is simple: a leader leads the change and a manager manages change.
He said the focus has to shift from an individual’s historical greatness, or in other words, the great work that one did yesterday, to what one can do today for the future. He classified people into two categories—one looks for imperfections and makes excuses, and the other looks for opportunities in imperfections. “Mr. Lewis Hamilton, Formula 1 champion, said something wonderful when I met him during the race last year in Delhi, which was the first in that circuit. He said races are run by computers and race drivers can predict how the race will go. A good driver waits for things to go wrong; otherwise competing in a predictable race is boring,” recalled Mr. Nayar Mr. Nayar outlined three steps to create an architecture for organizational change. First, “create unhappiness”, or in other words, make people realize how the present is imperfect; second, have a vision for change that defines the change benefits to each employee; and third, have deep-rooted conviction in what you believe in and need to do.
He believes the biggest asset for an Indian is his or her ability to manage adversity and achieve the end objective come what may. “India has an innate ability to emerge strong from a downturn because India is wired for adversity. We Indians don’t allow adversity to distract us. Indians are wired to navigate through difficulties and get what they want, when they want. It is our biggest asset,” he commented.
The tenure of senior bureaucrat, Mr. Amitabh Kant, IAS, as the head of Kerala Tourism Development Corporation and later India Tourism Development Corporation was marked by creative campaigns, innovative product development, speedy infrastructure creation, and organizational restructuring that turned lacklustre government departments into vibrant, profit-making entities. Now, as CEO and managing director, Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor Development Corporation (DMICDC), he wants to script a similar success story in urban infrastructure creation.
Mr. Kant believes the answer to sustainable development for the country is in its ability to create liveable cities which will be centers of growth and innovation for future generations. The rate of growth that India needs to post for the next four decades is more than what it did in the past 500 years. Quoting the late management thinker, Professor CK Prahalad, he said India needs to build 500 new cities by 2020, failing which every existing city will turn into a slum with unliveable conditions. “For consistent high growth, India will have to bank on manufacturing. The jobs that manufacturing creates will attract workers from villages. Our strategy should be to build cities as urban centers of growth and innovation that will not just fulfil the needs of its present dwellers but also accommodate the needs of migrant workers and their families for the next 100 years,” he said.
Building model urban infrastructure is about planning and designing. He stressed the relevance of project management skills to “plan, program, and projectize” these large infrastructure projects. He spoke about the DMIC project that will speed up transportation of goods from factories in Delhi and surrounding areas to the ports of Gujarat and Mumbai, and provide a boost to trade. “Today, 70 percent of goods move by lorries. By 2017 when the DMIC project completes, most of these goods will move by high speed container trains and bring down travel time from the present 14-15 days to 12 hours. It will also reduce the load off the road,” he explained. He stressed on the need for program management to pursue India’s goal towards manufacturing and urbanization. “We have insisted on PMI certified professionals for program management at DMIC. Program management is as much as passion as it is about science or art,” he added.
Mr. Lakshmi Narayanan, vice chairman, Cognizant Technology Solutions, provided a glimpse into the workings of two mega public-private partnership ICT projects in the country where the project goals and approach had to change as the project progressed.
The Government of India, the State Government of Tamil Nadu, and private technology companies set up the ICT Academy to train teachers of engineering colleges who will in turn impart the right training to students. The objective was to improve the quality of engineering graduates and make them more employable. “We started with a pilot project to train 20 teachers in Chennai for a week. But when we wanted to replicate the same experience to train 5,000 teachers in the state, we faced several challenges. Teachers were unwilling to do the training; colleges were unsure of how they would benefit from it. So we had to simultaneously start several other projects to motivate teachers and convince colleges to bear the training costs. So what started as a project had to scale up into a program,” Mr. Narayanan said. Now, after the success of the project in Tamil Nadu, the stakeholders want to make ICT Academy a self-sustainable model and take it to other states.
He also spoke about the National Skills Development Corporation set up by the Government of India with the objective to provide skills to 150 million people in India in the next 10-12 years. “Here the approach had to be top down right from the beginning. We had to define the program and then the sub-components. Depending on the nature of a project, the goals may have to be redefined and the approach changed to make the project achieve its core objectives and be sustainable,” he explained.
Mr. V Sumanthran, executive vice president, Hinduja Automotive, who has spent many years in automotive companies such as General Motors, Tata Motors, and now Hinduja Automotive, believes frugal engineering will be the differentiator for companies in tough market conditions. Indians, who have grown up on lessons of frugality, have an innate advantage in harnessing this capability. Frugal engineering is about doing just about what you’re required to do to achieve the functionality that you want.
“The world is changing fast and there is no place for the predictable anymore. The new dimensions in program management today are innovation and dynamism. India, which has an advantage of affordability, is well poised to build an ecosystem of program management,” said Mr. Sumanthran.
Rejecting common perceptions that equate low-cost with cheap products, he said the cost advantage is an opportunity and organizations around the world facing resource constraints want to go low-cost. “The space constraints in Japan led to new management thinking such as Kaizen and Kanban. Cost innovation is not easy; it’s much beyond native jugaad. Ikea, that makes lowcost furniture, says making a $1000 desk is easier than making a $50 desk,” said Mr. Sumanthran.
Technology, which is driving cost innovation, is the main force behind the Tata Nano experience. “The Tata Nano is well beyond jugaad. It is an example of less weight, high functionality, and good ergonomics, and it comes at an unbeatable cost,” explained Mr. Sumanthran.
SRI SRI RAVISHANKAR
Sri Sri Ravishankar, founder, Art of Living Foundation, offered project management insights from Indian mythology and some handy tips to improve the spiritual quotient of project managers. Talking about the importance of managing projects, he said it is believed that Lord Vishnu, the manager of the universe, was born before Lord Brahma, the creator of the universe. The essence of the story: first manage your mind and then you can create well; before you start building, know how to manage it.
Sri Sri, who is also known as the guru of joy, believes a smile can do a lot for you and the people you work with. “A child smiles 400 times a day and an adolescent smiles 17 times a day. As a project manager, you probably smile a lot less than that. Keep your smile; people won’t take you lightly just because you smile,” he said.
The other human qualities that must be treasured but are often forgotten at the workplace are trust and passion. “Trust is important; how will your project be successful unless you trust your team? The other important quality is to have passion for work. Passion is about ownership, motivation, and inspiration,” he remarked. He made a distinction between passion, dispassion, and compassion, and said an individual must possess all these attributes. “Compassion helps us understand people but too much of compassion can be disastrous. Dispassion helps us handle criticism and failure better,” he added. He advised project managers to “breathe in passion and breathe out dispassion.”
His other advice for project success was following spirituality. “Spirituality helps improve confidence, and enhance intelligence and intuition. When the right thought or intuition is put into action, it brings about the desired results,” he remarked.
The guru, who is known the world over for his yoga and meditation teachings, gave a 10 minute demonstration of what he called “desktop yoga.” He prescribed “desktop yoga” to people who do not have the time for a long session and want to calm their mind and body and unmask their intuition to guide them through the day.
Dr. E. Sreedharan, principal advisor, Delhi Metro Rail Corporation, provided project managers insights on the challenges that large government projects in India face and the mantra that has helped him successfully manage complex projects. Dr. Sreedharan, who has earned the nomenclature of the “father of project management in India,” spoke about his experiences in the Konkan Railway and Delhi Metro projects.
Konkan Railway connects Mumbai in the west to Mangalore in the south through undulating terrain. The 760 km railway line passes through 93 tunnels and 150 major bridges, of which the longest tunnel is 6.5 km and the longest bridge is 2 km. The piers of some of the bridges are as tall as the Qutub Minar and one embankment of 25 m runs for 2 km. The project was completed within seven years under Dr. Sreedharan’s tenure. His next assignment was the technically challenging Delhi Metro project, India’s first modern metro rail. The first phase of Delhi Metro was completed 2.9 years ahead of time and the second phase was done on time. The third phase is currently on. The tracks cover 190 km on which 3,000 trains ply, carrying 22 lakh passengers a day. The service has been lauded as reliable, comfortable, and punctual.
Dr. Sreedharan credits project success to the work culture that he instituted in the organization. “The qualities that define the Delhi Metro work culture are punctuality, integrity, quick decision-making, professional competence and a sense of social responsibility. We have to be punctual for our trains to be punctual. I believe in delegation of powers along with responsibility so that people are able to take quick decisions. Transparency helped us gain the confidence of our stakeholders. If you know your job well, you have confidence in your own decisions. Delhi Metro being a technically complex project, it needed people with high professional competence. Social responsibility is about completing a project on time and within the budget allocated, as our projects involve tax payers’ money,” he explained. Dr. Sreedharan said he has found a touch of spirituality helpful in managing projects.
Mr. Ramkumar Pichai, general manager, Microsoft Office Division, spoke about the linkages between successful project delivery and achieving competitive advantage. Elaborating on the conference theme of “Project Management for Sustainable Competitive Advantage,” Mr. Pichai said sustainable competitive advantage was about repeated delivery of results through responsible management of resources.
“We need to have three Ps in mind while planning, designing, and executing projects, which are profit, people, and the planet. When these factors are ingrained in our projects, we will achieve competitive advantage,” said Mr. Pichai.
He pointed out the key forces that drive competitive advantage. Pricing alone cannot give a company competitive advantage. It needs to adopt innovative strategies, know how to market its products and services, and execute its projects well through project and program management. “The speed of innovation has gone up significantly in recent years. Organizations need to keep pace with that. In fact, innovation need not be within your own company. We must strive to create an ecosystem that enables and furthers innovation,” he added.
Mr. Pichai said the Microsoft project management offerings have evolved from a desktop application in 1997 to its 2010 version of the enterprise portfolio management suite of products and are a demonstration of the evolution of project management into the highly complex management of projects and programs.
Microsoft was the platinum sponsor for PMI India National Conference 2012.
Mr. Vineet Trisal, senior sales consultant, Oracle, spoke about the importance of enterprise project and program management to drive value across the economy. Organizations across sectors want to realize the value of their investments into projects, and efficient project and program management will help them achieve these goals.
An Oracle survey among executives showed that only six percent of projects are completed within time and budget. The reasons for this inconsistency in performance are many, such as conflicting priorities, lack of business alignment, lack of enterprise-wide visibility into projects, and redundant projects. “The lack of visibility into projects across the enterprise is a leading cause for project failure. It leads to slow reaction because information is not shared with the stakeholders on time. Organizations also struggle with timely mobilization of resources, which lead to resources being squandered,” said Mr. Trisal.
As projects get more complex, these issues will become more difficult to handle. “We believe the solution to project failure lies in financial discipline, operational excellence, and risk mitigation,” he added. He demonstrated with the help of case studies how Oracle has helped organizations across industries in achieving project success.
Oracle was the silver sponsor for PMI India National Conference 2012.