Jul 18, 2012

Transformational Resources: An Interview with J. Kent Crawford

Posted by Jeannette Cabanis-Brewin in Project & Program Management, Resource Optimization | 0 Comments

There are project managers and program managers … and then there are mega program managers.

Q: Lately many of our corporate discussions have centered on the role of the “transformational resource.” Can you tell us your thoughts about that? What makes a resource “transformational?”

Crawford: There are project managers and program managers … and then there are mega program managers. These are the players who have had other roles – CIOs, VPs, operational managers – they’ve been in positions of decision-making, they are broadly experienced. So whether or not they’ve done the same kind of effort, they are able to apply approaches and techniques that carry over. They are skilled enough to transform how program delivery is performed.

Q: Your description reminds me of the way we described the role of Senior Program Managers in our Project Management Roles and Responsibilities book.

Crawford: That’s right.  These are the people who, when you are creating a plan, they are the architects. They know how to pull together the right people, communicate well with executives, facilitate that interaction. They have the political wherewithal to get the work done, to know when and how to escalate or push for decisions.

Q: In your opinion, is it “nature or nurture” that is the key – experience or personal attributes?

Crawford: It’s more personality and style, though experience certainly plays in – it’s the breadth of experience that matters, in a variety of areas. It’s NOT experience with technology that counts so much, but experience on the business side.

Q:  How does a company know who is a transformational resource?

Crawford: Their achievements stand out when they are present.  Their lack can be FELT in programs that extend and prolong firefighting as opposed to problem solving. For any enterprise-wide initiative – merger and acquisition or divestiture, ERM system deployment, CRM system, or international projects (project managers work well enough with localized or American cultures, but a cross-cultural project demands more interaction and conversation, more sophistication) – this type of leader is a must.

Q: It’s interesting that you’ve listed the types of large initiatives that have high rates of failure. That tells me that this type of resource must be relatively rare.

Crawford: True. Most organizations, if they have any transformational resources at all, they represent a very small percentage of the skill base. It’s more common to find a large number of more administrative and technical project managers. They are highly accomplished … but lack the communication, political, and business skills – as well as the broad experience in a variety of roles and industries.

Transformational work can be very strategic. Some of our senior consultants have worked on, for example, a massive facilities program that integrated five facilities into one new one; the divestiture of a division of a major manufacturing corporation; restructuring an organization that included 17 departments; preengineering of new technology manufacturing plant in South America. They’ve served as CIO, project manager, controller, program manager. They are able to move from place to place and adapt to cultures with ease.

Q: Listening to this description, I am reminded of our Project Recovery research, in which one of the findings was that it was the project manager who made the biggest difference between recovery and failure.

Crawford: Yes – transforming troubled projects into successful investments is one way such resources prove themselves.

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