Enhancing PMP with Business Process Excellence – Part III Viable Lean Six Sigma Solutions

Enhancing PMP with Business Process Excellence

Part III (Final Part of Series)

Viable Lean Six Sigma Solutions to Validate Project Timelines and Increase KPI Linkage for PMP leaders

Dr. Shree Nanguneri and Mr. Gustav Toppenberg


Viable-Lean-Six-Sigma-SolutionsMeandering in a World Swayed by Certification:

In Part I, we addressed the vitality of the linkage of a PMP leader’s KPI to the business goals and objectives.  As a sequel in Part II we looked at some of the barriers such as changes in customer requirements which could impede the ability of PMP leaders to close projects successfully. In Part III we are addressing that there are viable solutions without any collateral damage in the project paths of PMP leaders via the approach of Lean Six Sigma as a methodology.

Be it a certified PMP or Lean Six Sigma Black Belt, the world is still swayed and swooned by certifications achieved by these leaders. Just as how ISO audits are a single point in space where evaluations are made and do not reflect the sustainable behavior of a culture or an individual so are certificates.  There is no assurance or guarantee on how they would perform once the auditing officer certifies the place till he returns the next time around.  Similarly, once the certificate is granted there are no stringent requirements on how the skills are either linked to some business benefit or delight to a customer.  PMP, LSS, SCRUM, AGILE, and similar programs of high skills are supposed to be linked with a business value or an opportunity to delight the customers.  Unfortunately they aren’t there yet from what I heard.

One of the authors was with a multinational IT company last week in Asia, while a senior leader in charge of competencies of entry level as well as experienced employees, quoted that their function had to justify and generate an ROI pattern for those trained as SCRUM Masters. After the training is done their team was not even close to generating an ROI. It was realized that these training modules were not associated with projects either prior, during, or post training periods in time.

Earlier we shared the philosophy that training is preceded by Project. Five years down the line the philosophy (from the famous “No Pass No Play” devised by college coaches for their athletes on scholarship) was modified to “No Project, No Training.” This was harsh and now it is gravitating to a “No Project, Why Training” philosophy. Customers do not pay for providers to get their employees go to college. Providers do that to motivate their employees so that when they possibly leave the company some day (they wished they didn’t leave) they have something to show to their future employers to gain traction using differentiators in the employee selection process. This has become so ingrained in the corporate world that employees today think of training and certification as an entitlement as opposed to a privilege to deliver a higher ROI to their organizations.

To add to the confusion, there are no approved or established standards, such as the Registered Nurse’s Certification Exam or the ACT or SAT or Teacher’s Certification Exam in the PMP or LSS space.  Each institution develops their own standards and grants their own certification.

Window of Opportunity Solutions:

Entry Level Talent:

In the world of Entry Level Talent (ELT) there seems to be a limited career choice as they need to gain experience in their professional world. They could have sought it in their summer internships however most of them did not take their internshhip projects very seriusly.  So as ELT professionals gain experience, they need to develop skills that will equip them to better their choice of employers, hiring managers and not be chosen by employers or hiring managers. With no insult to any profession, this simply means being in a state of career health to become invaluable wherever they go and able to deliver goods in less than 90 days after which the bean counters are in town counting the KPI measures.

So getting the LSS skills set and executing a project in parallel followed by continuing to execute projects in different areas is the first step toward being able to make choices in one’s career.  Any training at a certain level of knowledge is a one-time investment with a lifetime opportunity to apply.  ELT Professionals seeking PMP skills likewise need to pursue project related PMP training that has a direct linkage to their KPIs at work beyond the certification rigormorale.  These ELT professionals need to seek PMP as well as LSS skills in parallel, although getting the PMP ahead of LSS is much more beneficial in the short and long term of their career.

The ELT professionals can get started either during their college years while performing on internships or on day 1 as they start their first job. The sooner they get enrolled into this philosophy, the better off they are going to be when dealing with other team members in their enterprise. Advice to ELTs: Don’t wait any longer. Get on board the PMP-LSS train which is leaving town.

Experienced Level Professionals:

Experienced Level Professionals (ELPs not English Language Proficiency) on the other hand should not waste any time if they haven’t sought the PMP and LSS skills to date. They have supple projects available at hand within their functions and have an immediate place to apply and experience results for their customers and organizations.   ELTs on the other hand tend to change jobs at least within the first 18-36 months as they gain experience.  The penalty they face while switching employers could be a lack of understanding employer or hiring manger’s culture of making decisions.  So when they come on board and get enrolled in a project led by a PMP leader, they have no clue about the SCR, CCRs, and their inability to control the situation while failing to deliver the goods on time.  Frustration sets in and they get demoralized by the day and it appears as if a bigger salary somewhere else is a nice compensation for putting up with organizations misaligned in several directions.  They finally realize that questions relating to CCRs and SCR should have been part of their interview and job acceptance process as opposed to a one-way assessment by their hiring managers.  By now it is too late to do much in this job tenure without the PMP and LSS skills at hand.

To a certain extent they can use the hard and soft skills of LSS combined with their PMP skills and succeed in situations where SCR is reasonable and leverage their project success in their current job to seek a higher level of committment for project success.  This is the least they should be doing as ELPs.  On professional forums such as LinkedIn and others, they should be developing their network, and discussing with their peers, both, inside and outside of their organizations on how the world is operating out there when it comes to applying the skills of PMP and LSS.  As they transition to a new responsibility or role within the enterprise or outside of it, they need to get a better toe hold on the culture of that hiring manager as well as their organization on how decisions are made.  They also need to know more than what their salary package and stock options are when it comes to working with local and virtual teams.

High SCR values or a drive on the part of senior management to gravitate toward them and a culture to delighting the customer are positive clues to a seamless transition, lest the ELP can be heading toward the fire from his current frying pan.  The best indicator for a pgoressive culture would be to get their SCR process owners, namely the sales and marketing teams to be PMP and LSS educated and project complete. Once the sales and marketing team, the vanguard of any enterprise is enrolled into this philosophy, the operational teams downstream can function a whole lot better addressing the CCRs to the delight of their customers.

Responding to CCRs should not become a common cause within an enterprise for their customers, as it only reveals that the enterprise did not do a thorough job of understanding the voice of the customer or have a pathetic SCR. If the team has to address the CCRs, then as they complete the project and deliver it to the customer, they have to list the lessons learned and further on work toward what went well and fix what begs for improvements. This can be summarized as:

  • How do we compensate for CCRs in the future and what associated terms and conditions apply?
  • Do we hold the project timeline clock when addressing a CCR or do we ignore it?
  • Billing for additional staffing while addressing CCRs, yet not deviate from original schedule!
  • Avoiding CCRs by getting involved in a more direct relationship with the customer upfront!
  • Sales and marketing team in our enterprise will proactively work on new projects.

As PMP and LSS leaders work together in an organization while seeking a cross function skills set, it is vital that they pay attention to the decision making process of the culture as well as how integrated the sales force is when it comes to delivering the right SCR.  On no occasion should the sales force hold the team ransom or hijack the process by stating that once we get these projects delivered we will increase the SCR by going in for repeat business.  They should stop worshipping the sole customer and go add new customers to the project pipeline revenue by using the skills and toolset of LSS and PMP to achieve their goals and in parallel be held accountable by a KPI linked directly with business success.

Lastly, we have included a comment on KPIs. ROIs are measured internally as a benefit to the business while we discussed the 3 Ds as well.  Several organizations have failed in the long term deployment of LSS simply beause they meausred the deployment ROI based on billing fees doled out to the external consultant against the benefits from annualized cost savings trhough the LSS projects.  This ran into incredible percentages and so was accepted by the finance teams.  In reality, there are several better measures of deployment ROI of which few are suggested below:

  1. Each LSS project should have an outcome directly impacting the customer’s EBITDA.
  2. Customer’s EBITDA is a direct measure of project benefits (PMP or LSS).
  3. Customer EBITDA creates an increase in probability of repeat business for the enterprise.
  4. Customer is the least interested in the enterprise cutting cost without improving their 3 Ds!

Final Conclusions:

Understanding PMP leader’s KPI, validating project timelines, and integrating CCRs in a reasonable and customary manner is a tight rope to balance let alone walk for ELTs and ELPs.  Traits of a global leader in the second decade of this millennium include having skills much beyond LSS and PMP certification.  Knowing the culture of the enterprise that we work for or transition into, while getting a handle on how they make decisions and their intention to keep raising the SCRs are all signs on the roadway to success for these professionals.  Ignoring the signs midway or not looking for them while accepting attractive job offers or changing job functions can be suicidal with respect to delivering customer delight.

Some Dos for LSS and PMP professionals could be short listed as:

  • Get PMP and LSS skills as part of your growth plan but never enrol without a project.
  • Ensure project executed have a direct or indirect impact on the customer’s EBITDA.
  • Treat it as a one-time training and lifetime application regardless of where you work.
  • Be interactive in interviews and management appraisals.
  • Recall that soft skills on team’s sensitivity are critical while acquiring PMP and LSS skills.
  • Work on project areas outside of your comfort zone to gain universality in approach.
  • Enjoy, and show passion in what you do, while ensuring the culture has a high SCR.

Network and increase your web presence while you manage and optimize your career in parallel. Organizations need not agree with your view and you should therefore immunize yourself against uncontrollable factors as you gain success in your enterprise and the business communities you live in.

About the Authors

Gustav Toppenberg is a Sr. PMO Manager in Cisco’s Communication & Collaboration IT group. Gustav is currently responsible for leading the PMO and driving project and operational excellence in his team. During his career at Cisco, Gustav has led several projects in change leadership, acquisition integration, and globalization strategy. He is also part of Cisco IT’s transition to a services-oriented organization (technology, process, and culture), enabling a client-focused, value-driven, cost-effective alignment between IT and business. Gustav is a native of Denmark and serves on the board of directors at the Danish-American Chamber of Commerce in San Francisco and the NorCal chapter of ASP (Association for Strategic Planning). He has a background in strategy consulting, program/project management, and global change management. Gustav has an interest and passion for the convergence of business and technology; he is a natural change leader and constant disruptor. He continuously seeks to occupy the gap between business and technology, thereby leveraging technology solutions to strengthen competitive advantages in business. Gustav is an MBA graduate of the Thunderbird School of Global Management, ranked the #1 U.S. Business School for International Business by the Wall Street Journal and U.S. News and World Report. You can contact Gustav at gustav.toppenberg@cisco.com. “Some of the individuals posting to this site work for Cisco Systems, Inc. Opinions expressed here and in any corresponding comments are the personal opinions of the original authors, not those of Cisco.”

I am a business process improvement coach and consultant and have worked with several corporations in different continents over the last two decades. After having a successful 6-year work experience at GE, I started my own consulting company in 2000. I have been fortunate to successfully deliver across a variety of industries that include the fields of manufacturing, transactional as well as service type environments. I have published a few articles, authored patents and releasing a book in mid 2011. Although not an expert, I can converse reasonably well in Dutch, and Spanish, skills I acquired while working there. To date, the total annualized direct customer benefits from my services have accrued to several hundreds of millions of dollars. I enjoy outdoor activity, meeting people on a global level to mutually benefit each other. I am also thankful to my mentor as well as network members without which some of the achievement listed here would have been impossible.


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