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Powering the Project Economy: Innovation in Action
Ike Nwankwo is the managing director at Distinct Management Ltd., an independent project management consultancy focusing on information technology, construction and business transformation. He has supported multiple PMI initiatives and served on the Board of Directors of the PMI Nigeria Chapter as vice president of finance (2013-2014) and president (2014-2016) and was the PMI region mentor for Africa (2016-2020).
In his opening address, Ike Nwankwo spoke about the relevance of the conference theme, “Innovation in Action: Connecting Humans and Technology,” in today’s context when innovation can be the bridge that brings humans and technology together. Exploring the definition of innovation, he said that effort must go into making innovation actionable.
“Everyone is responsible for innovation and we are all innovators. However, people tend to overlook the importance of collaboration in attaining innovation,” he said.
Today, innovation is at the core of business practices, though often the attention goes only to technology or product innovation. There are seven types of innovation: process, product, technological, business model, service, social and architectural. But he cautioned against boxing oneself into specific areas of innovation since that would be a hurdle in translating innovative ideas into action.
Discussing the project economy, he said, “It is an ecosystem that facilitates turning ideas into reality and one in which individuals must have the right skills and mindset to run successful projects.” Overall, it aims at strengthening society and organizations and empowering people to bring ideas to life.
Nwankwo suggested approaches by which project managers can enhance innovation. Project managers must employ an agile approach to test ideas, use hybrid methods for different project components and act as facilitators of innovative ideas.
● Accelerate digital transformation to achieve organizational agility and innovation.
● Drive innovation to foster problem-solving capabilities.
● Prioritize data to understand customer needs and define solutions.
● Innovate project approaches and processes to create new values.
● Explore the concept of ambidexterity to take advantage of new opportunities.
Managing Cost Overruns in Indian Infrastructure Projects
Dr. Palanivel Thiagarajan is the minister of information technology and digital services of the state of Tamil Nadu. Prior to this role, he was the finance and human resources management minister of Tamil Nadu between May 2021 and May 2023.
A confluence of factors contributes to cost and time overruns in infrastructure projects in India. Dr. Palanivel Thiagarajan discussed the primary reasons behind cost escalation in government projects. Over-ambitious targets without a realistic assessment of feasibility are a top reason. He also attributed cost overruns to inefficient organizational design and transient government structures with frequent changes of the roles of elected officials and bureaucrats. A lack of expertise, institutional memory and continuity also hinder the ability to achieve meaningful outcomes.
Digging deeper into the status of projects in Tamil Nadu, Dr. Thiagarajan said projects in the state are being started without a prior assessment of land availability or cost effectiveness. Such lack of thorough planning leads to setbacks and cost escalations at latter stages of projects.
He recommended ways to address these challenges including the use of technology tools and platforms. Building, and continually enhancing, a data platform for tracking project progress and mapping vendors to requirements will enable organizations to proactively identify bottlenecks and determine the capacity of vendors.
Teams also need a mechanism to assess the availability of hardware, human resources and project management skills.
As parting thoughts, he said, “People in project management are likely to have a brilliant future because the demand for project professionals is only going to increase. I hope that even as you do well and prosper, you will continue to keep social responsibility in your mindset and contribute to the greater good.”
● Develop in-house expertise and institutional memory to engender success in ambitious projects.
● Use project management and infrastructure development to help manage complex financial systems.
● Avoid budget overruns by making processes consistent and increasing investments in technology.
● Develop project management skills to execute projects efficiently and deliver results that align with projections.
● Create mechanisms to continuously evaluate in-house capabilities.
Building Sustainable and Resilient Businesses for the Future
Kishore Jayaraman heads Rolls Royce’s Civil Aerospace, Defense and Power System businesses in India and South Asia. Before joining Rolls Royce, he was the president and CEO of GE Energy, South Asia.
When faced with an existential crisis, only those with fortitude and resilience can survive. An example is Rolls Royce in India.
While the Rolls Royce brand is associated primarily with premium cars, it also has a civil aerospace, defense and power systems business. When the United Kingdom company went bankrupt and was sold to BMW in the 1970s, the focus moved to other product lines.
Rolls Royce’s India business, which was built on cost arbitrage, needed reorientation. To win and sustain, it now needed to show value arbitrage. Rolls Royce India did it in two ways — setting up expert teams and convincing customers it could deliver.
The leadership set up a digital team of 140 people in Bengaluru to deliver value by building future-ready solutions with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). Winning a deal to fit Air India aircraft with long-range Rolls Royce engines gave the company the impetus to set up a 500-person supply chain design and engineering team in Bengaluru.
But the team knew it did not have all of the expertise to execute the project. It partnered with leading organizations in the digital space industry such as Tata Consultancy Services and Larsen and Toubro.
Rolls Royce also entered into a joint venture with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) to set up a unit to manufacture 300 parts in India that would be fitted into aircraft worldwide.
The next step was to find a state government that was progressive and hungry for growth. Tamil Nadu stepped up to help Rolls Royce and HAL with a unit in Hosur that would deliver the first part within 14 months.
The Indian entity is also growing rapidly by securing defense and power systems business. Jayaraman left project managers with a parting thought: “Become relevant globally by generating intellectual property in India, developing a product and exporting it. It is critical to control one’s destiny by showing value.”
● Deliver value from a cost center to obtain investments from leadership.
● Have a good plan, set realistic schedules and complete work on time.
● The project manager is responsible for the success of the business.
● To be successful, look at outcomes rather than actions.
The Journey Matters
Srimathi Shivashankar has more than 25 years of experience in managing and transforming businesses. At HCLTech, she has been instrumental in strategizing and leading programs such as establishing new delivery centers, diversity and sustainability practices, the HCL Foundation and the HCL Grant.
Some skills enable an individual to obtain a job or perform a role well and some other skills stay relevant — lifelong and across various roles within an organization. Srimathi Shivashankar urged project professionals to consider project management not as a mere job role but as a competency that is relevant to other positions within their organization, including CEO and CFO.
She drew an analogy between project management and a pack of playing cards. “The life of a project manager is a symphony of hearts, spades, clubs and diamonds, each with its own unique characteristics,” she commented. She compared hearts to spring, the season when emotions blossom and forge meaningful connections.
Diamonds relate to summer, the season of abundance and awareness of financial standing, property and overall material well-being. Spades symbolize autumn and are associated with change, action and wisdom.
Playing a spade card is a strategic move, suggesting one should be thoughtful and wise when faced with challenges in life. Clubs align with winter, a time for introspection and hints at new beginnings and growth.
Shivashankar said that the primary responsibility of project managers lies in empowering and managing individuals, not just projects. Project managers are seen as people managers, whether in HR or other roles.
Their focus should be on ensuring individuals perform well, which ultimately determines the success of projects.
● Focus on revenue, not on cost.
● Introspect about your role for your own development.
● Ensure a balance of emotions (heart) and analytics (mind) in project management.
● Be ready to take the first risk to catalyze project management transformation.
● Look beyond cold analysis and charts and put your heart into your work.
● Encourage project managers to be compassionate leaders who prioritize empathy.
Building a Culture of Efficiency and Profitable Growth — The Professional Services Automation (PSA) Way
Sandeep Kumar has 28 years of professional experience in the software industry. His expertise lies in professional services automation, project and portfolio management and operation excellence in IT/IT-enabled service companies. He founded ProductDossier in December 2005. It focuses on building enterprise solutions for operational excellence and digital culture in global corporations.
Sandeep Kumar used the tale of two hypothetical organizations to highlight how investment in people and technology could make all the difference. Surprisingly, Organization A grew 9 times more in revenues over 20 years than Organization B.
He attributed the difference to culture. Organization A embarked on a journey of finding inefficiencies early on and invested in technology to handle them, unlike Organization B, which did not.
Kumar talked about how redefining collaboration between sales and delivery teams by Organization A changed the very fabric of its business. The impact of this change was felt in winning proposals, improving productivity, empowering project managers, utilizing resources, reducing change requests, plugging revenue leakages, reducing daily sales outstanding (DSO) and winning new business through lessons learned.
Focusing on opportunities in these areas gave Organization A an additional 10% revenue. To make this collaboration people independent, Kumar advocated a single strategy to be put in place through connected intelligence that would span opportunity to cash. In other words, a technology solution between sales, delivery, HR and finance would drive excellence.
Such a journey made all the difference for Organization A, where the leadership adopted a positive culture and supported the plan. Technology created a culture of efficiency and helped ordinary people become extraordinary to elevate Organization A within the marketplace.
● Empower the project manager to be like the CEO of his/ her project.
● Foster a positive culture in the organization to succeed.
● Make problem identification and acceptance the start of the journey to excellence.
● Drive people change management for technology implementation to succeed.
●Automate repeatable tasks to achieve consistency and shift the focus to value.
Managing Innovation — The Bosch Way
R. K. Shenoy has been associated with the Bosch Group since 1986. He is responsible for mobility solutions at Bosch Global Software Technologies in India, overseeing the Vietnam and China centers. Shenoy is a member of the National Association of Software and Service Companies (NASSCOM) — Engineering Research and Development Council.
Bosch Global Software Technologies (BGST) began operations in India 25 years ago to capitalize on the country’s engineering capability and cost arbitrage. Originally a service organization, BGST has now moved to developing products for the world market. Shenoy talked about that transformation.
The first step was a change to the organizational structure. BGST went from a hierarchical to a projectdriven organization. A three-pillar approach made project management the core of delivery, followed by experts trained in domain and technology. Last, the talent management of developers completed the strategy. These three pillars instilled Bosch with the confidence to innovate and scale with ease.
Bosch had traditionally developed products in domain siloes. The world of mobility was exploding. People were expecting to work across domains.
The second step developed a vision to innovate by moving away from siloed to cross-domain work by leveraging people and new-age technology, globally.
Third, the innovation ecosystem was supported by a collaborative network, centers of excellence (CoE) and communities of practice (CoP). Going to market with start-ups made Bosch nimble. CoEs were started to nurture talent but were later changed to create cross-domain assets. The project management CoP was the most vibrant, it drove all projects in Bosch.
Fourth and last were the cultural enablers for innovation. Bosch instituted an innovation fund supported by innovation networks with experts to mentor people, a virtual innovation platform to collect ideas, hackathons to generate new ideas and rewards to incentivize people.
These steps resulted in the Bosch innovation framework (BIF) that brought experts from various domains together to develop products for the Indian market. Some subsequently won awards and were exported worldwide.
● Move from a hierarchical to a flat, collaborative ecosystem to create truly integrated products.
● The pandemic has proved that global teams can deliver effectively from home.
● Create a culture of innovation by considering new ideas, funding the good ones and giving them mentors to take the ideas forward.
● Combine people and technology across the organization to innovate.
● Work on giving users a great experience as innovation to succeed.
Art of Storytelling: Consumption to Creation
Sandeep Kochhar is a social media influencer and an alumnus of Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore. An electronics and telecommunications engineer with more than 22 years of corporate consulting experience, he is an inspirational speaker and storyteller.
What can a project manager learn from a fairy tale? The art of storytelling.
Sandeep Kochhar started his session by dissecting the storytelling techniques in the fairy tale, Hansel and Gretel, by the Brothers Grimm. “Storytelling is all about emotions; it’s not about logic. Emotions are the heart and soul of a compelling story. The goals of storytellers are to evoke empathy and create an emotional connection with their audience,” said Kochhar.
In the world of business and technology, professionals tend to apply logic alone and forego the role of emotions in communications and decision-making.He said the lack of a narrative and inventiveness make messages dry and uninteresting. To make communication compelling, it is important to incorporate the emotional and narrative elements of storytelling.
Kochhar explained the enticement, engagement and education (EEE) model of storytelling that comprises enticement, engagement and education. Enticement is about igniting the interest of the audience and awakening their emotions. It is the first impression you make that compels the audience to open up their mind. Engagement focuses on building strong relationships with the audience to keep them hooked. This is where you set the stage, introduce the characters, build the plot and reach the climax of your story.
The goal of education is to guide the audience so they act upon the narrative’s key points.
He recommended understanding and categorizing the audience into readers, writers and listeners. Each category has different objectives, attention spans and expectations. For example, readers enjoy the process of reading and are interested in how the content or words make a difference in their reading experience. Writers prioritize well-structured narratives with explanations, while listeners are primarily concerned with what impact the storyteller can have on them.
● Incorporate empathy in your communications.
● Forge an emotional connection with the audience through storytelling.
● Analyze the types of audiences you want to engage.
● Start stories with a hook to keep the audience captivated.
● Give creative thinking a higher priority than innovation when crafting stories.
Leadership in Times of Artificial Intelligence
DVio is a global creative technology and digital-first marketing organization. Beside being the founder of DVio, Sowmya Iyer is a start-up investor, TEDx speaker and chief mentor at the MADTech incubator.
Sowmya Iyer addressed four major questions through her talk: What technologies are set to transform the future? Are they just a fad? Or will they take over our jobs? And how do we handle new technologies?
The future technologies are artificial intelligence (AI), metaverse, blockchain and digital/crypto currency. Iyer urged practitioners to not consider these as fads, but as technologies that will have a lasting impact on our lives. “These futuristic technologies put power in the hands of the people. They are equalizers. While existing systems will resist them or there may not be sufficient infrastructure yet to leverage them, it is only a matter of time before we see them in action. We should be fully aware of their potential and look forward to them,” she commented.
Given the possibility that AI can easily complete mundane and routine work tasks for us, embracing AI can actually unleash human potential. Companies and individuals are already using AI or Gen AI tools like ChatGPT to do just this. Thousands of AI tools are being released in the market. Iyer suggests that leaders must look for people or “prompt engineers” who use these tools to obtain the best results for their business.
The future of business will move from a supply chain model to a platform business model. In the latter model, the platform will learn from every customer interaction directly through a network effect and acquire new information. An example is Alexa, Amazon’s cloud-based voice service. Businesses that win today are those that have the advantage of information arbitrage. Iyer discussed working with architects to design a system that learns from every interaction with the customer.
She spoke about a “futures wheel,” a method to find the impact or consequences of a change or development. Choose the technology and run it for your industry to see the upcoming changes. This will help your business prepare for the change or beat the competition.
● Run training programs to demystify AI within your organization.
● Recruit prompt engineers who can extract the best from AI tools for your business.
● Work with architects to design a platform business model that is self-learning.
● Run a futures wheel on your industry and AI to understand the upcoming changes.
● Analyze the impact of AI on your business and design strategies in order to embrace it.
Gulab Jamuns to Stars
Space Kidz India is a leading Indian aerospace start-up that is pioneering design, fabrication and launch of small satellites, spacecraft and ground systems. Dr. Kesan’s goal is to provide economical and sustainable access to space to cater to the needs of education, research and the industry. She is the only Indian to be decorated as ambassador to the top three space centers — National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), European Space Agency (ESA) and Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center (GCTC), Moscow.
Reaching for the stars is not for everybody, at least that is the common belief. Space exploration requires not just talent but also enormous resources and grit and determination. But Dr. Srimathy Kesan has proved that a lot can be achieved with out-of-the-box thinking.
Kesan explained how her team used 3D printing technology to invent a tiny satellite that weighs just 64 grams. It all began with a team of gifted young individuals, aged 14 to 17, from small towns in India. The palm-sized satellite reminded the team of the Indian dessert “gulab jamuns,” the small size the team chose to keep costs minimal.
Since sending a satellite into space is an expensive affair, it posed a significant challenge for the start-up. The question that always popped up was: “How do we do this?” However, the young talent with an unwavering spirit came up with a new concept. They decided to build lightweight, small satellites, all the same color, size and mass. This innovative strategy promised to significantly cut costs.
The next question was, “Who would give us a platform to launch the satellites into space?” Coincidentally, NASA had just announced a competition that was open to participants from across the globe. It sought to send 64-gram science experiment cubes into space. That was just the opportunity the team was looking for to demonstrate their capabilities.
In December 2016, the team submitted a proposal outlining its ambitious project of launching a satellite into space. It was not an easy journey, but their commitment paid off when they were declared a winner in March 2017 and launched the satellite 3 months later.
Kesan reminisced that during the development stage of the project, the team struggled with challenges. The students encountered poor internet access and connectivity in their home towns, forcing them to work from 7 pm to 4 am when the signals were more reliable. Driven by passion, they persisted despite the difficulties and fulfilled their dream.
● Dream big, and ultimately, the universe will conspire in your favor.
● Work hard and with passion; success will follow.
● Nurture scientific zeal and innovation in the youth.
● Embrace out-of-the-box thinking to overcome any resource or financial challenges.
● Emotion, and not just electronics, led the team to success.
Saveen Hegde is the founder of a boutique consulting firm that has successfully delivered innovation and strategic transformation engagements for more than 100 global firms spread over 22 countries. He was among the top 10 speakers in the World Championship of Public Speaking in 2017.
The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) conducted a survey this year asking leaders about their top three priorities. Most leaders cited innovation in that list. Yet the following two simple questions were never asked of employees in their annual performance appraisal: Did you innovate? How much did you innovate?
This indicated that most organizations did not consider innovation necessary for career advancement. Hegde’s interactive session covered reasons for innovation not being a part of organizational culture and conveyed a strategy to inculcate innovation through the acronym FAST. Fun: Create opportunities for innovation and make them fun. Anyone can do it. “The most important thing is to make something you believe is fun rather than something that would sell,” he said, quoting Shigeru Miyamoto, Game Director at Nintendo. For example, give points for every innovation.
Actionable: Event-based and reactive innovation events are not sustainable. Accept ideas by default and implement them as projects that solve real-world problems. Encourage people to collaborate and innovate.
Systematic: Innovation is not a one-time affair. Create a systematic process where everyone follows innovation diligently from the CEO to the trainee. Despite starting at a lower marketshare than Intel Corporation, Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) has accomplished this consistently in the last few years.
Tangible: The innovation process becomes effective when ideas are actioned systematically. Yet, they are not complete unless they are also measurable and tangible. For example, Hegde and his team ran innovation workshops for four batches of participants. At the end of the program, nearly 9,000 ideas were generated and returns were quantified at 360 times the amount that was invested. (If 10 rupees were invested, the return would be 3600 rupees.)
In summary, Hegde explained that an organization will prosper when it fosters a culture where failure is acceptable, novel ideas are actioned and innovation becomes systematic while staying fun.
● Run a hackathon for innovation to solve practical business problems.
● Set up a team to gamify innovation in the organization.
● Mandate a culture of justification for each idea that is turned down by a leader.
● Create an innovation framework that tracks tangible results for each employee.
● Include innovation in the performance appraisal process.
Connecting People and Technology Across the Value Stream
With two decades of experience, Namita Mishra is a passionate technology and product leader with experience in selling complex enterprise software across Asia. She is a subject matter expert in strategy management, project and portfolio management. Previously serving as a director of product management in the software industry for over a decade, she now takes an advisory role.
Mishra emphasized the importance of having time to think out of the box and innovate. An effective application or a solution can free professionals from the daily grind of spreadsheets and slide decks, enabling them to focus more on strategic and innovative endeavors.
Today, digital transformation has touched everyone’s life. Mishra discussed how it is impacting both personal and professional aspects of our lives. She also delved into the challenges faced by organizations in accomplishing successful digital transformation.
She said that disparate systems were not allowing various departments in an organization to communicate effectively with one another, thus hindering the overall progress and value realization. To effectively address these issues, organizations must adopt strategic portfolio management (SPM).
SPM empowers organizations to enhance their efficiency in achieving business outcomes. It acts as a control tower for transformation, connecting strategies, working across all departments and ensuring 360-degree transparency.
It enables greater planning agility, optimal resource utilization, improved team collaboration and the flexibility to work in any methodology.
Mishra stressed the power of artificial intelligence (AI) in realizing business value. AI can assist in setting strategies, targets and key results. She said, “Customers tell us that by using SPM, they can consolidate 90% of their strategic work and deliver it on time with added value. They can now align their requirements to their strategic business priorities.”
● Build a single platform for setting, tracking and evaluating business goals.
● Foster end-to-end visibility, align strategic projects and deliver business outcomes.
● Help business leaders prioritize their work to contribute to the company’s goals.
● Bridge the gap between strategic planning and execution.
● Connect people through technology across the entire value stream to achieve goals.
The Future of Project Management With Generative AI — Will it Ring the Bell?
Kewyn George is a technology thought leader with more than 20 years of experience. He is the author of “Digital First,” a columnist for Forbes India and has been published in several industry magazines. He is the India Technology Center Head for one of the largest freight forwarding and logistics organizations in the world.
Kewyn George discussed the evolution of Generative AI (Gen AI), calling it a 6-month-old baby that has rapidly grown into an adult in just half a year. Since unveiling the first version of Generative Pre-trained Transformer (ChatGPT) a couple of years ago, the creators, OpenAI, launched its most advanced, fourth version this year. It is an ongoing evolution, much like a child’s process of crawling and learning to walk.
With Gen AI, project professionals can smoothly navigate changes in the project landscape. They can introduce novel business models and strategies and launch collaborative projects. Gen AI will enable the creation of new revenue streams and cost savings. “The future is not just about AI, but about humans and AI working together. Leaders must be prepared for heightened global competition and collaboration in the wake of this technology,” George cautioned.
George highlighted two types of mindsets of project leaders concerning Gen AI: The first is a process mindset that is rooted in established processes. It may be a reliable way of working but may lead to rigidity. The second is a growth mindset that is open to change and ready to adapt, which is vital for organizations in today’s relentlessly evolving landscape. The absence of a growth mindset can hinder responsiveness to market changes. He advised leaders to strike a balance between the two mindsets.
● Embrace a growth mindset to adapt to the changing landscape.
● Adopt the top rising skills for 2023, including creative thinking, analytical thinking, AI and big data.
● Expect machines to handle 43% of tasks while humans will manage 57% by 2027.
● Focus on reskilling and upskilling to adapt to the technological revolution.
● Be ethical in how you adopt Gen AI by striking a balance between innovation and morality.
Meaningful Productivity at the Edge of Chaos
Rajendran Dandapani, a founding member of Zoho Corporation, is a business solutions evangelist. He has vast expertise in conceiving and nurturing creative concepts into full-fledged software applications. He is the president of Zoho Schools of Learning, Zoho’s ongoing experiment in alternative education.
Dandapani started the session with a tweet from a project manager, “Software estimates are one of the oldest lies we tell ourselves,” which garnered 1.9 million views. He acknowledged that software estimates often lack accuracy but people tend to pretend that they hold significance.
When it comes to software estimation, Dandapani said, “Remove words like ‘quick,’ ‘simple,’ ‘straightforward’ and ‘easy’ from your dictionary.” He cautioned against volunteering an estimate, especially estimating future work in hours.
Talking about Zoho’s offering of software products for managing projects, portfolios, risk, cost estimation, bug tracking and agile system, he said despite these tools, projects continue to fail and face delays. It is not a new challenge but one that has existed for over 2 decades.
He urged organizations to focus on simplicity to overcome these issues. Quoting the Apple Company’s philosophy, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication,” he said that sophistication did not equate complexity.
Discussing micromanagement, Dandapani noted that it is commonly perceived as a negative trait since it signifies a lack of trust and a fear of losing control. However, micromanagement has it benefits, such as fostering a learning environment when someone new joins a team or someone requires guidance. Micromanagement can be valuable in mission-critical environments or circumstances as well.
● Beware that software estimates lack precision.
● Prioritize process-driven over people-driven in project management.
● Consider procrastination as a strategic approach and avoid rushing into action.
● Embrace the Golden Circle Theory of “why,” “how” and “what” to achieve meaningful outcomes.
● Have clarity on “why,” be disciplined about “how” and be consistent with “what.”
Technology and Healthcare
Dr. Aravindan Selvaraj practiced orthopedic surgery for 15 years in some of the world’s leading hospitals in Ireland and the United Kingdom before returning to India.
Healthcare obviously centers around human beings, which means outcomes cannot always be predicted. An 85-yearold with many health issues may survive a cardiac bypass surgery, whereas a 48-year-old with no issues may develop complications and not survive. Selvaraj gave this example to explain that, in spite of technological advances, not all outcomes can be predicted and the role of doctors in managing healthcare cannot be diminished.
He also raised some pertinent questions facing healthcare providers and patients today. Patients want the best technology, but are they willing to pay? Will patients agree when a doctor wants to experiment on them with new technology? Do nurses, who work long hours and are poorly paid, care about technology? “Healthcare will be the last frontier to be significantly disrupted by technology because of the human factor,” said Selvaraj.
Cost effectiveness must be a critical determining factor when designing technology solutions. Beside that, Selvaraj said the technology must help improve outcomes, make the life of the stakeholders easy and provide a better experience.
Selvaraj explained how he set up an innovation cell in Kauvery Hospital before the pandemic. Innovation was discussed daily with the nurses and paramedics. It came in handy when the pandemic struck. The hospital was agile and created an oxygen plant producing surplus oxygen in 3 weeks. A 75-bed intensive care unit (ICU) was ready in 2 days. Involving stakeholders like nurses, paramedics, doctors and nonclinical staff in technology innovation initiatives prepared them for emergencies.
The team also applied innovation to nonclinical needs such as reducing discharge delays, telemonitoring ICU patients remotely and providing digitized care post-discharge. He recommended picking the right use cases to relieve human challenges.
Disease patterns change with time. By 2050, a large section of the Indian population will have aged, which means their care needs will be different. Selvaraj advised studying trends and planning future strategies with the help of technology, so the healthcare sector will be better prepared for change.
● Validate the list of critical stakeholders in your business.
● Design a solution with the stakeholders and explain the technology impact on them.
● Create an innovation cell in your organization to ensure agility in times of need.
● Study the future of your domain for the next 20-30 years.
● Prepare a strategy to handle the short- or long-term changes in your domain.
The Power of Straight Lines
Lt. Gen. (retd.) Arun Ananthanarayan joined the National Defence Academy in 1982, opting not to join the Indian Institute of Technology. He has about 41 years of varied experience, largely leading counterterrorism teams.
Ananthanarayan likened making daal (lentils) to managing a project. While cooking daal is a scientific process that involves a recipe, the taste varies depending on the person making it. That is the art of project management.
He believes that 70% of a project requires the use of the brain and only 30% involves physical work. Quoting the strategist and philosopher Chanakya, he said, “Greater care in preparation results in success.” “Executing projects is hard work, but the secret to success lies in the power of straight lines,” Ananthanarayan added. Simply put, follow the rules to achieve success. Everyone wants to take a shortcut. There are multiple wrong ways to do something but only one right way, with integrity. It may mean more hard work, but the results will follow.
Ananthanarayan advocated creating a positive project environment where people can debate decisions and openly discuss their problems with leaders. He advised project managers to inspire people by conveying their vision in simple and consistent terms.
He used the story of Mo Farah, the British Olympic gold medalist in distance running, to highlight the indomitable spirit of human beings.
Leaders never give up or change their aim just because the going gets tough. They take ownership and stay with the team. “The greater the faith in leadership, the lower the cost.” he remarked. Ananthanarayan also advised practitioners to keep the happiness quotient of the team high and help people find happiness.
After narrating a moving story of a soldier in his unit who put selflessness over everything else, showed integrity all his life and died serving others, Ananthanarayan left the audience with this final message.
“Projects will come, and projects will go. It is one component of life as you transit through it. What will people say of you after you are gone? That is the legacy you leave.”
● Plan a project starting with the end in mind.
● Prepare 5-10 years ahead as an architect 0f the future.
● Communicate your vision to the team at the beginning of the project.
● Identify weak links in a project and either help strengthen or remove them.
● Find the balance between detail orientation and letting go.
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