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Mark Phillips, Lead Evangelist of Vertabase, is our guest today and he makes an interesting statement. He claims that all project managers are agents for Economic Growth. Really? Cause I've managed mostly small and medium sized project thoughout my career and I didn't see myself as an economic growth agent. And most of the companies I've worked for also didn't have the appropriate corporate culture to make me one.
So you can guess that I was a bit skeptical, when Mark first suggested this topic. Let's hear what he has to say about these arguments and what skills and mindset such a Project Management Agent of Economic Growth needs.
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Cornelius Fichtner: Hello and welcome to this Premium Episode #158. I am Cornelius Fichtner. This is The Project Management Podcast™ and it’s nice to have you with us.
And because this is a premium episode it means that only you, our premium listeners have access to it. Thank you very much for your support.
Mark Phillips, Lead Evangelist of Vertabase, is our guest today and he makes an interesting statement. He claims that all project managers are agents for Economic Growth. Really? Because I've managed mostly small and medium‑sized project throughout my career and I didn't see myself as an economic growth agent. And most of the companies that I've worked for also didn't have the appropriate corporate culture to make me one.
So you can guess that I was a bit skeptical when Mark first suggested this topic. So let's hear what he has to say about the arguments that I’ve just made and what skills and mindset such a Project Management Agent of Economic Growth needs.
So, put on your dark sunglasses, stick in your earpiece, holster your Walter PPK and then, your project, should you decide to accept it, is to enjoy the interview.
Female voice: The Project Management Podcast’s feature Interview: Today with Mark Phillips, Lead Evangelist of Vertabase.
Cornelius Fichtner: Hello Mark, welcome back to the program.
Mark Phillips: Thank you, Cornelius. Pleasure to be here.
Cornelius Fichtner: You argue that project managers are agents for economic growth. What exactly do you mean by this?
Mark Phillips: First, I mean that any project manager should really instantly get a raise because of the importance of the work that they do.
Cornelius Fichtner: Okay! Everyone who’s listening to this now loves you.
Mark Phillips: So seriously, what I mean by that is when you look at an economy, the factors that contribute to growth, one of the prime factors that contribute to growth is innovation or change. It is because it’s innovation and change that brings something new to the market in terms of a product or that allows an organization to find a new and more effective way of delivering the product or service that they provide.
And project managers are experts at change and change management. And this can be through different skill sets. Everyone has a different skill sets on the spectrum of what they’re doing in the change process. But project management in its strictest and more classic sense is about managing something that’s new and something that they’re managing change.
Cornelius Fichtner: Are there any specific industries where you see this happening today?
Mark Phillips: It’s happening across industries and really across the world particularly in this economic environment and it even happens when things might be growing more robustly. There is always a drive to innovate and a drive to change whether that’s being driven by wanting to capture and maximize profits or whether it’s being driven by needing to survive and reinvent oneself.
Certainly here in Detroit, we’ve seen it in the auto industry over the last 5 years, the need for project manager specifically to kind of retool the process of what it means to produce a car. Besides industries where it’s being forced upon them, there’s a cycle that comes out every 10 years or so but it’s certainly very strong right now where there is a renewed focus on how to deliver innovation within the enterprise.
And there was recently an article on the Wall Street Journal about it and certainly it’s something that corporations, big corporations, small organizations and non‑profits are always striving for is how do we create a culture and an enterprise of innovation. Google has their famous 20% rule or the 20% time that they allow people to play around with different projects. Certainly, companies like 3M and General Electric are known for carving out time and spending a lot of money on R&D in order to spur innovation.
So this kind of drive fits in and I think dovetails very nicely in what a project manager can bring to the table in the innovation cycle and in fostering an atmosphere of innovation.
Cornelius Fichtner: Do you maybe have a project up your sleeve one that listeners may have heard of where the project manager was such an agent of economic growth?
Mark Phillips: It’s very hard to pinpoint a specific project manager because for better or for worse, many of us are behind the scenes a lot of the time. What you can see in general is when a quality process like an ISO or the such is working properly. And what I mean by that is where it’s not a bureaucratic or paperwork burden but is actually a process of quality and continual improvement where you see those happening. That’s where you see this kind of growth.
And I guess going off on that angle, when you see General Electric six sigma kings that they are, when you see them functioning at the highest level and succeeding when it was let’s say underneath Jack Welch not to say that they’re doing a bad job now but this was kind of his bailiwick, where regardless of the industry that the corporation went in to, whether it be medical devices or aeronautics or light bulbs, there was a drive to be number one or two. You can’t get there just by always wanting to hire the best subject matter expert in that particular area because managing an organization like that is a complete nightmare. You can’t do it underneath one roof. But managing it by setting up a quality process or a supercharged PMO that can set up processes that foster innovation and processes that allow the flow of information and the proper metrics up the ladder as it were through the subject matter expert then up to that project management or PMO or then quality office, that’s where you can see that they can set up a structure and really succeed in a whole wide variety of industries.
Another great example that I’ll pull is currently the richest man in the world is a guy named called Carlos Slim Helu, he’s from Mexico. Now in a former life, I used to work on Wall Street and I used to analyze his companies there. And you would see that no matter what industry he went in to whether it be mining, producing [indistinguishable] whether it be telephony, whatever industry he would go in to, he would target an 18% operating margin.
Now, it wasn’t to say that he was an expert in each one of these industries and it wasn’t to say that he only hired the experts to manage these industries. I think the reason that you were able to see it. As an analyst we were able to say, really with high degree of certainty with an x number of quarters of him acquiring company, their operating margin would be 18% is because he had the processes in place to track the metrics that drive that kind of innovation and that kind of growth to hit those targets and that’s something that project managers are expert in.
Cornelius Fichtner: Yeah! Let’s talk about these processes because one of your arguments about innovation is that what needs to be taught is how to develop processes that maximize innovation. Is your example that you’ve just given is that exactly what you mean by that?