Episode 161: Interview with Gregory Balestrero and Mark Langley (Part 1)
This episode is sponsored by The PDU Podcast:
Earlier this year PMI announced that CEO Gregory Balestrero was going to step down. Later on it was further announced that COO Mark Langley had been named as his successor.
At the 2010 PMI North American Congress in Washington D.C. the members of PMI's New Media Council, which I am a part of, had the opportunity to sit down with Greg and Mark to discuss the past and the future. I brought my recording equipment and today you'll hear part 1 of this interview. Part 2 will come your way next week.
And just for your information, the members of the New Media Council that you'll hear asking questions are Josh Nankivel, Dave Garret, Bas deBaar, Chalyce Nollsch and Cornelius Fichtner.
Below are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only.
Cornelius Fichtner: Hello and welcome to Part 1 of Episode #161. I am Cornelius Fichtner. This is The Project Management Podcast™, nice to have you with us.
And yes, you heard me right. This is a two-parter. Earlier this year, PMI announced that CEO, Gregory Ballestrero, was going to step down. Later on, it was further announced that COO, Mark Langley, had been named as his successor.
And then at the 2010 PMI North American Congress in Washington D.C., the members of PMI's New Media Council, which I am a part of, had the opportunity to sit down with Greg and Mark to discuss the past and the future. I brought my recording equipment and today you'll hear Part 1 of this interview. Part 2 will come your way next week.
And just for your information, the members of the New Media Council that you'll hear asking questions are Josh Nankivel, Dave Garret, Bas de Baar, myself, and the first question comes from Chalyce Nollsch.
Chalyce Nollsch: I guess maybe I’ll start with a question for you, Greg, pretty basic but what would you consider maybe your greatest, your legacy, your greatest accomplishment if you had to pick one or two things? What was the key for you?
Gregory Ballestrero: You know I think it’s hard to take credit for any accomplishment, you know that I did this thing because everything that we did, we did as a team. It was impossible to do individually. In terms of what I feel is a great thing about PMI is that the community is whole. I think that is a great thing. There are 74 countries represented here and they know each other and we know that so we’ve gone up over three times in size and now in 180 countries and the fifth highest attendee group was Nigeria and they have as many members as China. And they know us because they’ve been back. They brought more people and so that’s a great community structure that I think is a powerful legacy that I feel I’m a part of, but not an accomplishment of me alone.
The second thing has to do with how PMI is viewed and I think that’s critical. Mark and I laugh about one of my first experiences with senior executives in trying to understand [why was it given the meaning] and would always talk about projects work. And it was followed up by a meeting with the dean of the management school and I said that the project management discipline and before I got the whole word out, he interrupted me and said: “Project management isn’t a discipline, it’s a course.”
And fast forward to 8 years, and we had quickly thrown together global accreditation council meeting, 65 faculty attended all wanting to be, figuring out how to be accredited in a university program, either as a bachelors or masters in project management. And we’re now getting calls without going out and hustling the field for people that want the experts to tell them about things like the upcoming Olympics, disaster recovery from the earthquake in Haiti, the mining accident and we’re now seeing the fact that we’re becoming far more influential and far more respected as experts in this field and that businesses are starting to realize it’s about execution which is what we are about - business results and that we have something to say. And so those two things are the things that really when I go to bed at night, I thank myself for having been able to be a part of that.
Cornelius Fichtner: If I might follow up on that. I have a very similar question actually but I would like to focus on: What is your fondest memory in the last 8 years?
Gregory Ballestrero: Mark becoming CEO. Yes, I mean I really do. I think that Mark and I built a very strong team. We were a strong team together, still are, at least for another month or so. He’s wandering in my office.
No seriously, I mean that.
Male Voice: You mean he’s already gone through…
Gregory Ballestrero: Yeah! I’ve evacuated a couple of weeks so I may get there in a go. No, your stuffs in boxes.
There are plenty of fun memories. The most recent that comes to mind is Mark’s because it’s so profound and so strategic for the organization. And fondness to me is fulfillment. And I absolutely, in a great way, feel quite fulfilled that we have prepared the organization for succession. So when I think about the decision, the board pointed a search committee. The board asked the search committee to work with the best, one of the top five recruitment firms in the world. The board said: There are no geographic boundaries. I think close to 300 applicants, very senior executives applied for this from the for profit, not-for-profit segments from all over the world. I went through the rigorous screening of candidates, interviewing Mark then went through the rigor of interviewing three finalists and then pick Mark. And they said: “We’re in a horserace and we want our horse, PMI, has to continue in this race and we need a jockey that’s going to run this race well,” and they had the respect. It wasn’t about me. Mark was prepared. He knew all the processes. He knew everything. But they had to get to know Mark and make the decision that he was the kind of executive they wanted going forward. So they did and they chose him and it’s great.
And on a smaller basis, there are two incidences that I have to tell you about that are my fondest memories. Two nights ago, a gentleman came up. And I’d seen him at previous congresses and he says: “Listen, I just wanted to say goodbye. Thanks for all you did,” which is a lot of people have been generous with their comments but he said: “One of the things I want to tell you about,” and I remember him from Atlanta. He says: “In Atlanta, it was my first time chapter leader and you were going to dinner with the board and being hurried off to dinner and you saw me standing alone,” and there were two groups of chapter presidents right next to him, both getting ready to go out to dinner, laughing and joking and he was alone. So I went over to him and I’d seen him at the Leadership Institute Meeting and I shook his hand and I said: “What are you doing?” He says: “Well, I’m just trying to figure out what to do for dinner.” I said: “Hold on a second.” And I went over to one of the groups who all knew me and I introduced him to them. And I said: “He is alone tonight.” And they said: “Oh! We’ll take him to dinner.” And they did. I’d forgotten all about that. So he came up and thank me for that. So that was a very special moment.
The other one which I think is what we have to remember PMI is about: I was in Sãu Paulo in 2008 for our congress there and it was jammed. They capped it at thousand, 1300 showed up. They said: “We can’t allow any more than 1300,” and they smiled and laughed and came in anyway. You know, there’s a fire hazard. Ah, fire hazard. They call came in. And I’m going up and a guy runs up to me and he says: “I have to talk to you.” He’s a young man. Well, they’re all young in Brazil and very handsome guy and looks like a poster child for project management. In broken English, he said: “I have to thank you,” and I said…and I’m thinking “Okay, helping the door for him.” And he says: “You know, I heard you speak 2 years ago and I was very excited about PMI after I heard you speak and I got involved. I got my PMP and now I have a much higher-paying job and I wanted to thank you for your help.” I said: “Well, that was PMI.” He said: “Yes, it is PMI but what it’s done is help for the prosperity of my family. My family really appreciates this.” So that gave me meaning for this and those are the human interest stories that we have that really make a difference for me and it’s all about people; Mark, those people, it’s all about people.
Dave Garret: An interesting follow-up to that would be sort of the vision angle from Mark’s perspective. Greg kind of listed out some very tangible examples, sort of taking people’s recognition of project management from the course level to the discipline level, doing a lot of things like that. By the end of your tenure, what do you see happening? What accomplishment would you like to have had happen during your tenure here?
Mark Langley: Do we know how long my tenure’s going to be, I’m not sure yet about that.
Gregory Ballestrero: You will have much more gray hair, I can assure you, it’ll happen in 6 months.
Mark Langley: No, not at all.
Male Voice: What is your vision for the future?