Letter from Managing Director, PMI India   |   Download a PDF version     

It takes just a little extra to reach one’s goals – a little extra speed for Olympic glory, an extra degree of heat for boiling water to turn to steam, or a little extra commitment to reach project success.

Mr. Ricardo Triana, director, Chair 2014 PMI Board of Directors, implored practitioners to commit themselves to an extra degree in whatever they do. “It could be an hour spent with your children at home or an hour of volunteering, but that little extra degree of commitment will make a difference in your personal or professional life,” he said.

As the demand for project management skills grows in the coming years, project managers will benefit by investing a little more on their career. PMI’s industry growth forecast between 2010 and 2020 says that 15.7 million new project management roles will be created globally across seven different industries.

“For new projects to take off, the real problem is not money but people. Organizations and practitioners need to prepare to match skills with requirements. The economy is changing and you have to be prepared for any eventuality. Avoid a situation where when reality comes to the door, plan jumps through the window,” Mr. Triana said. There will be increased competition among countries and companies to acquire project talent. A lot will also depend on how organizations develop talent. He recommends talent management programs through training and development, welldefined career paths for project managers, integrated career management across the organization, and measurement of such initiatives.

He quoted the HOPE (Hands-on Project Experience) Project of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the training and inter-personal skills development initiatives of the Ministry of Infrastructure, Government of Chile, as fine examples of how organizations can nurture project management skills in-house.

Technical, inter-personal, and business skills formed the “talent triangle”. “Besides technical competency, the next generation project manager must focus on strategic and business management, leadership, and communication skills,” Mr. Triana added.

As the head of the world’s largest metro rail system in the making through the public private partnership (PPP) mode, there are bound to be as many brickbats as bouquets. Mr. N. V. S. Reddy, managing director, Hyderabad Metro Rail Ltd., gracefully accepted the tag of the “culprit causing traffic jams” in Hyderabad as he took the podium to deliver his keynote.

“I failed in my first project. We lost significant time in the first two years. But now we have made up the time lag and may complete the project before time,” Mr. Reddy said. The first phase of Hyderabad metro rail will cover 72 km across three corridors and is expected to be operational by March 2015.

“When I wanted to build Hyderabad metro through the PPP mode, there was a lot of opposition. Even my guru, Mr. E. Sreedharan (the man behind Delhi metro), didn’t agree with my business model. But I was confident and persisted. There were allegations of scams, protests by traders and environmentalists…it was demoralizing,” he recalled.

Labelling the metro rail project as a saga of grit, guts and gumption, he presented newspaper clippings screaming allegations and questioning delays. “Seeing all these reports, one day my wife asked me why I don’t follow what others are saying. I told her we just need to be patient. Slowly, as I had predicted, a positive mood started building,” Mr. Reddy said.

As the project finally took off, it garnered support and recognition. Last year, it won the best engineering project of the year award at the annual Global Infrastructure Leadership Forum conference in New York.

Closer home, community support picked up as Mr. Reddy’s team put in effort for consensus building among stakeholders. He countered the allegations of environmentalists by translocating trees in large numbers. He formed bicycle clubs for easy access to metro stations. The gigantic pillars for the elevated tracks are designed in such a way that they go well with the city’s architecture. For every religious structure that was removed, people were assured that the organization would build a bigger and better structure.

“We are creating something unique for Hyderabad that will rejuvenate the city, promote pedestrianization and cycling, and provide open spaces near metro stations for families to enjoy,” added Mr. Reddy.

A wedding date once finalized is non-negotiable, and everyone in the family works in such a way that all the activities for that project are concluded on time. Can’t organizations consider their project completion day as an auspicious wedding day and go all out to complete it on time?

With this poser, Mr. Ramesh Iyer, managing director, Mahindra & Mahindra Financial Services Ltd., highlighted the importance of completing projects on time, and the rise in frustration among people if a project goes into time overrun. “Project management is a unique way of creating something, be it a product, a process, or achieving a result. You need to clearly identify that one fundamental factor. People are the other important aspect of a project. Best talent is not just about experience but also the right skills and attitude to manage a project,” he said.

Mr. Iyer, a firm believer of analyzing failure and learning from it, feels organizations must talk about project failures so that others don’t make the same mistakes. “Success could get you into bad habits, whereas failure gets you to learn and change. Take joint and equal responsibility not only while creating a project ecosystem but also when things don’t turn out well,” he said.

Empowerment of people is a key ingredient for project success. When managers say they empower their people, they must truly honor it. Illustrating how empowerment can be practiced, he said, “In our business, the sales team deals with cash. If a sales person calls the manager to tell that the cash has been stolen, the manager must connect with the person on an emotional level (instead of questioning the veracity of the claim). Your questions must be supportive and enable the individual to go to the next level of execution.”

He advised project managers to be open-minded and develop strong communication skills. According to Mr. Iyer, in a project manager’s world, the true meaning of ‘impact’ is integrity, mannerism, passion, attitude, communication, and teamwork.

“Keep checking your relevance in the market. Skills that were relevant earlier are not relevant today,” he added.

When Mr. V. V. S. Laxman, former Indian cricketer, walked in to speak at the tail-end of the conference, he was reminded of “the fifth day of a test match that is heading to a draw”. But in no time he energized the audience with stories from his childhood, the cricket field, and the players’ dressing room.

“I made a plan to achieve my goals within a set timeframe; I continued to monitor my performances; and I adjusted my plan and game according to my coaches’ reviews. I implemented these principles in my life, though I didn’t know about (project management),” Mr. Laxman said.

As a child, he wanted to follow in his parents’ footsteps and join the medical profession. At the age of 17, as he was about to join medical school, his uncle and mentor convinced his parents that they must give him a chance to try out cricket as a profession. “Cricket was not a professional career then. But my parents let me choose cricket though people questioned their decision,” he said.

The profession didn’t accept him so readily and he faced many disappointments. During that phase, notes of encouragement from his parents helped him see through the tough times.

“My parents told me it’s not the profession that glorifies me, but I glorify my profession. They also presented me Thus Spake Swami Vivekananda. Swami Vivekananda said, ‘Take up one idea. Make that one idea your life - think of it, dream of it, live on that idea. Let the brain, muscles, nerves, every part of your body, be full of that idea, and just leave every other idea alone. This is the way to success.’”

Mr. Laxman stayed true to his belief, and at the age of 22, he wore the Indian team cap for the first time. “But I wasn’t able to establish myself in the team (for a long time). I did a lot of introspection. I decided to invest in myself, through coaches and sessions on neuro-linguistic programming,” recalled the former cricketer.

He finally made his mark in 2001. “Pride is an important ingredient for success. It is a personal commitment to get ahead of your own obstacles,” he said.

Stating that former cricket Sourav Ganguly was the best captain he played under, Mr. Laxman said, “A good leader is the starting point for every company. When playing for your country, you are under a lot of pressure. Having a good coach is important for team development, one who can change the mindset of the team members, and make them empathize with each other even though they are competitors.”

Theater personality and advertising film maker Alyque Padamsee put his audience engaging skills to good use as he took delegates on a short journey through current politics, literature, and history to enunciate unique qualities in leaders.

“The good news about our country is that 50 percent of our population is under the age of 25, which means we have youth on our side. But the bad news is that 50 percent of our netas (politicians) are over the age of 70,” he said.

The audience chimed in as he likened Shakespearean characters to modern-day politicians – Dr. Manmohan Singh as King Lear who wouldn’t retire, Mr. Rahul Gandhi as Hamlet who couldn’t make up his mind, and Mr. Narendra Modi as Macbeth who was highly ambitious. “The qualities that Shakespeare gave his leaders apply to this day,” he observed.

Mr. Padamsee said a leader must have the dynamic qualities of vision, charisma, courage, empathy, delegation, feedback, and motivation. For a leader with vision, he asked delegates to look no further than Mr. Chandrababu Naidu, chief minister, Andhra Pradesh, for his pioneering efforts towards e-governance. The leaders he ranked high on charisma are former US president Bill Clinton, Hindi film star Amitabh Bachchan, and spiritual leader Osho. For courage, he spoke about former prime minister Indira Gandhi; for delegation, it was former US president J. F. Kennedy; and for motivation, Singapore’s first prime minister Lee Kuan Yew.

“While leaders cannot always please people and risk being unpopular, fear is not a good motivator. Feedback is another important quality for a leader. Mrs. Gandhi lost the general elections after the emergency in the mid-70s, and the primary reason for this was that she didn’t take feedback and hence, did not learn (what was going wrong),” he explained.

Clothed in a saffron robe and carrying a staff, Sri Chinna Jeeyar Swami opened his session with a chant before moving on to some simple, modern-day mantras for project management.

“Everything in life is a project, be it managing a multi-million dollar enterprise or a humble household. As a Telugu saying goes, an elephant has a problem of its own size and an ant also has a problem of its own size,” said the Vedic preacher and founder of Jeeyar Educational Trust.

When planning a wedding, family members do not get nor expect any compensation yet they feel a sense of joy and gladly do the tasks involved. On the other hand, when managing a project at work, rewards and payoffs are expected and doled out, yet not all projects succeed.

“At the level of the home, your spirit, love and sharing come into play - everything comes from within. The people who conduct a wedding and those who partake of it are happy. How can you achieve the same result in a work environment? By being involved not just with your hands and mind but also with your heart and soul. When the heart and soul are put into the work at hand, we call it spirituality,” he said.

Swamiji shared videos of the philanthropic work undertaken by the Jeeyar Educational Trust. He explained how their various missions have become a reality because of the heartfelt efforts of individuals who came forward and helped in various capacities.

Imploring all present to be spirit-centred in their activity and approach, Swamiji said, “Let the bottom-line and top-line of your projects always be enriched with spirituality. Drop the ‘t’ that causes tension from management, so you ‘manage men’! Serve all beings as service to God, not just man alone, for your very existence depends on their survival.”

How does an organization stay true to the vision it set out to achieve? With a multiplicity of devices and platforms, how do you ensure people have access to a single version of the truth? Mr. Alok Lall, business group director, Microsoft Office Department, enumerated ways in which an organization can leverage existing technologies and drive growth to achieve project success. “New age project managers are well aware that what they did in the past may not work now. They need to look at the periphery when shaping the project vision,” he said.

Drawing from the success of Microsoft Project Online, an online solution for project portfolio management, Mr. Lall emphasized the ability to deliver value from virtually anywhere, and on any device. Project managers need a comprehensive toolset, accessibility across devices, work mobility, transcend hierarchies, and move to the cloud.

Communication and collaboration with teams online or via social media is the norm today. Connecting virtually also presents great opportunities for driving training and capability transfers. “Run the social media environment in an integrated manner and not as a silo. Build an environment where people can participate freely, and give their ideas freely. Crowd source the ideas - they can be from employees, clients, or partners,” he explained.

Another way to create impact is by using your data and your insights to make your reports personal. Mr. Lall added, “Present your data in the right format and in the right way, deliver it intuitively using familiar tools, via social media or virtual collaboration, so it is easy for decision makers to interpret.” A project manager can thus gear up to play an integral role as an anchor in multi-disciplinary scenarios, be it innovation management, app lifecycle management or collaborative lifecycle management.

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