Aug 8, 2016

Studying and Shaping Project Management: An Interview with J. Kent Crawford

Posted by Jeannette Cabanis-Brewin | 0 Comments

" The market keeps catching up with our thinking."

A few weeks ago, we shared an interview with Dr. Al Zeitoun, our new President in which he talked about the strategic planning we had recently completed, with a focus on the strategic value of project management (and thus of the services we provide, both in consulting and training). Today, we turn to Kent Crawford, our CEO and the founder of PM Solutions to get some historical perspective … and his view of the path forward.

Q: As one of the earlier employees of this company, I found myself having a little deja-vu during strategic planning. What about you?

A: Well, this is just what we see happening over and over again with this company. Over and over again, we have been just a little -- sometimes a lot! -- ahead of the curve. And it's true that ten years ago, we launched a strategic plan that centered around the importance of linking projects to corporate strategy. At the time, based on our research, we felt certain that this was the direction that project management should be taking. We published a guidebook to the processes and structure that would help companies align projects and programs with strategies -- Seven Steps to Strategy Execution -- in 2008. But neither organizations nor project management practitioners were, at that point, advanced enough in their development for these concepts to take hold more widely. Now, however, strategic project management is an idea whose time has come. The market keeps catching up with our thinking.

Q: The company history is full of examples like this, isn't it?

A: Right: We’ve absolutely shaped the trends as well as researched them. When I am teaching I talk to people about the PMO trends, and they describe to me what their companies are doing. And what companies are implementing now, are the ideas we promoted early on. That's true of PMO functions, of portfolio management trends, and of what we called value measurement seven years ago, which is now the rage, renamed benefits realization. It's very rewarding to see these concepts take hold and be implemented, because they are ideas that have a serious positive impact on how companies do business.

Q: Okay, since you seem to have a crystal ball, where do you see it going now?

A: I don't know about the crystal ball, but from talking to clients and seminar participants around the world, I have to say that the "next big thing" is simply for organizations to get serious about optimizing the value and impact of project management practices. I'd say that perhaps only 5% of organizations have implemented the full spectrum of project and program management capabilities. The remaining organizations need to come up to speed. Competitive edge will only be maintained when an organization becomes skilled at true value measurement, at resource optimization, and at portfolio integration with strategy. In most cases, organizations just are not there yet.

I was talking to a fellow from a bank just yesterday, very sharp, who had read Seven Steps. He asked me what are the key elements to integrate strategy execution. I told him that No. 1 is really aligning the portfolios with organizational strategy. And that means not just the enterprise portfolio, but multiple portfolios, down into the business units, each of which has a distinctly different portfolio. The second thing is, you have to understand where resources are being deployed and how they are utilitized because resources limit or enhance your abilitiy to deliver on the portfolio … and that includes internal or external, contractors, vendors and so on.

Third, we must stop merely giving lip service to the tracking of how projects and programs deliver organizational benefits! Right now we are doing qualitative research for a white paper and in all our interviews we discover that while benefits realization is a hot buzzword, almost no one is actually doing it. We must understand how the strategic objectives are delivered on a project by project, portfolio by portfolio basis. Did we accomplish what we said we were going to do?

We have developed amazing tools and processes that should allow organizations to execute strategy effectively not 20% of the time, as research indicates we are doing now, but closer to 100%. Right now, we are walking alongside the bicycle and pushing it along. We need to hop on and take off. That's the next challenge.


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