Robert Joslin is an engineering graduate. He is a project and program management consultant. He is an international trainer and an academic researcher. He has experience in designing and initiating and program management delivery of large scale business, transformation, reengineering, infrastructure, strategy development including winning prizes for ideas and product innovation. Previously he has been a consultant for a wide range of industries including telecom, banking, insurance, manufacturing and direct marketing while working for McKenzie and company. He is currently studying for a PHD in strategy program and project management in Schema Business School in France. He has coauthored a book called Program Management a Lifecycle Approach. His input was around information structuring methodology. His upcoming book is Portfolio Program and Project Success Factors. Welcome Robert.
R: Thank you Penny.
P: Tell us about your background and how did you get involved with this.
R: Thank you. I was born in London. I had a strict mother and moved to Switzerland about 20 years ago. It started when I was in the cubs and scouts. I won many awards and it taught me that I really enjoyed leading people and having an objective. We did a lot of games. Mind games. I carried on into business. Projects in business. When I was in my apprenticeship I was part of the production line and operations. I found there was a big difference between people working in projects and people working in operations.
P: What would you say is the big difference?
R: People who work in projects they live with uncertainty and are prepared to take risks. People that work in operations like to know what they do in the morning in the next day, week, month. In projects, every day is different. Really it’s the uncertainty.
P: Interesting. It’s about uncertainty. I was thinking that the difference is in the projects, I have been involved, I thought that it would be more of people that have more of a bigger vision and are able to, I can see the uncertainty element, and you have to get the moving parts to work at the same time. It’s like cooking a massive meal for everybody. And timing is just right. Is that the uncertainty that you mean?
R: You have a pretty good idea of what you are cooking. All of the uncertainty in what you are trying to achieve and how you are trying to achieve it. The uncertainty in the people.
P: The uncertainty is the dynamics in all that is involved. And how to juggle those. Project management and program management, Can you tell us the difference?
R: Project management started back in the Egyptian times with pyramids. Large projects. And also small projects like cooking dinner. A program is a collection of projects that are related in some way. The benefits of doing them together under the umbrella of program outweigh the benefits of doing them individually.
P: You said small projects can be things like cooking dinner or whatever. People may not think of it but a lot of things we do day to day can be considered projects and combined together can be classified as program management. Don’t you think?
R: Yes, you just need to scale it up. There are many project managements that are brought up to program manager. Its ten or fifteen cooks working on different courses. The grand finale is when dinner is served. A program delivers benefits over a period of time. The same is in cooking. You have your entree, main course, desserts, you are delivering the benefits to the people eating over a period of time.
P: Drawing that analogy, I knew it would be interesting to have you on the show. People can relate that analogy to their own life. Whether it be cooking or the value and the benefits they are providing to themselves, family, organization and how they manage all of that. And how the resources change. The uncertainty of having different people involved. That is what we are doing here today. Drawing some parallel.
R: During the course of my thirty years, one of the best project managers who was a secretary. She was also efficient with her time. She was good at running projects. But when it came to certain complexity, she started to struggle. She didn’t have the experience of that. She would get to a certain level by managing that project extremely well. Another is when I was working in London. A CEO of a company who had a secretarial background. She was an incredibly fair and efficient CEO. She was a mother as well.
P: Some parallels for our listeners. If you are a man, you will not fall into that category. I’m just teasing. As a mother, I can appreciate that. We juggle a lot. Project management and organization and planning and the skills going into that can be learned. Would you agree?
R: Project management is anywhere in life.
P: The more you practice the better you will be. I want to go back to complexity. I was talking with a client about how he has been able to get back time. By reducing the complexity in his business, he has a huge assortment of goods he provides, he decided to cut away from his inventory the things that we not big sellers. By greater organization and reducing the complexity, he was able to really simplify things to hand them over to someone else and also to be able to manage things better. Do you think that is an important part of the process? Looking to simplify things?
R: One of the areas I am looking at in research is complexity. A lot of management research. Found out there is necessary complexity and unnecessary complexity.
P: We did another show with Steven Drews around value and adding value. There were 8 wastes. The Kaizan Process. It is interesting and would love to dig deeper into that. I don’t want to blow people’s minds if we go into the depth of that. i can see that keeping your focus on what the goal is. Profitability is the goal in my client’s case. There is a certain amount of necessity that is required then there are items that are not necessary. Is that what you are saying?
R: You can’t reduce complex problems or make them simple either.
P: We use quotes from Einstein. It’s amazing how many years ago and his discoveries are more profound today. I would like to talk about your upcoming book that talks about key success factors in project management and program management. Can you share what are some of those key success factors? Everyone wants to know!
R: The differences of success factors and criteria. I did research on companies. If you look at a success factor in a project it is the elements and parts of the project that can be influenced to increase the likelihood of a successful outcome. That is what everyone wants to achieve. What needs to be there and achieve the outcome? There is no point starting something if you have no chance of succeeding. What is success? I had a program where on the cost of budget the time, the iron triangle where you have the scope, the cost, the time, were all met. What constitutes success? How do you measure it? There is not a quick answer. But if you put a gun against my head, I would come up with an experienced project manager. Manager support, good communications and a good schedule. There are many more as well.
P: People who follow this show and my ten critical elements in time and energy management, I found four items I can rate under championship psychology. Three of those items after listening to your success criteria, one is Purpose. You have a clear goal that drives everyone. The second is Focus. You know what it is that you are looking to achieve. The third is language. Communication. All of this needs to make sure everyone is alignment. This is critical when managing multiple people and projects at the same time. A championship psychology is so important not only for yourself, but as a team. Whether delivering that as a management team or a project team. I love that description because there are so many of those things that draw back to the ten essential elements.
R: I would like to add that research shows the most success project managers are the ones that is over 50. He is actually able to motivate his team. A happy team will achieve more. Experience is important as well as motivation.
P: I would like to talk more about motivation when we talk about time and energy management. I see motivation as part of energy management. We talk about the success criteria, what is the first step you do when you are planning for a large project or a program?
R: Create a project chart. It’s like a two or three page document with the essentials of why you want to go into this project. The objectives, the sponsors, the risks, etc. Once you actually document it, you get a much better idea of what people are trying to achieve because it’s in writing. Bigger companies can use it as a base of conversation.
P: The Why of this. Connecting to the purpose so that we all have the drive and motivation. We need this because of the benefits, impact, etc….For the listeners that is the most important thing for anything you do. Whether you consider it a project or not, sitting down to look at strategy for business, your family, whatever area of your life, this is cross contextual. You want to connect with what is the purpose. What is the why? You will have an inner connection.
R: In larger companies you need to make sure when you align the vision, the mission, the objective of the company, you will achieve directional intent. You could jeopardize the investments if not done correctly.
P: We are running to our first break. For our listeners, we are talking about program and project management and its relationship to your projects in your life. Stay tuned. This is Penny Zenker with Take Charge of Your Productivity.