Whenever Possible Have Great People Resources and You Can Deliver the Impossible

Cisco was a client we wanted to work with.  I’d gone with my project management course coordinator, Kimberly Wiefling, to meet with the leaders of Cisco’s project management educational initiatives to explore options of what training we had that they might want and that that they’d want us to do.  Every training organization wanted to get a contract with Cisco.  Competition was fierce.   Another (national) vendor was already well established doing traditional project management courses. What did UCSC Extension Corporate Training have that was unique and would serve a strong training imperative at Cisco?

Cisco has thousands of project and program managers and individual contributors who work on projects.  They wanted an ongoing training program open to all their engineers to encourage an environment of good project management practices.  They wanted a “lunch and learn” type of program that would be held in a large auditorium for perhaps a hundred project managers and engineers once a month. They didn’t want to spend a lot of money to fly speakers in.

UCSC Extension has a large number of project management instructors who all lived and worked in the San Jose area.  Without travel expenses the cost could be kept down and instructors could be available for just 2-hour modules, especially if it was something different that intrigued them to do.  Our instructors were not the kind who wanted to deliver just an ordinary lecture series.  If they were going to do this, they wanted it to be experiential learning and with “take-aways” that Cisco employees would put into action.  They would be asked to make commitments to action before leaving the workshops and “thinking partners” who would help hold them accountable for taking action.

The project grew  – “scope creep” anyone?  And before long, we were asked to have the contract cover up to 300 attendees and be webcast to other Cisco locations.   We set up a monthly program on topics from working in virtual teams to risk management.   We challenged teams to build the highest towers possible with nothing but sheets of paper.  One highlight included having teams of 5 or 6, each with a mousetrap (talk about risk management) and instructions about safely setting the 60+ mousetraps off without harm to any team members.  Another highlight was having all 300 attendees drumming on and with all kinds of implements as they learned to work as teams.

Jeff Richardson manned the webcasting technical requirements, doing voiceovers of some of the proceedings for the remote audiences and setting up appropriate exercises for small groups or individuals watching on their own.   Kimberly Wiefling was a speaker and recruited additional instructors to lead and orient them to this “edutainment” form of instruction.  Alan Tsuda and Francine Gordon both led workshops and were regularly present to help with breakout exercises and crowd control.  And so many other instructors took on the challenge over the 3 years of the workshop series.

Greg Brower and Alicia Lopez were amongst those from Cisco who had the vision and trust to convince Cisco management to allow us to do outrageous things to support their project management educational commitment.  Conrad Sinsay and Christina Munoz managed to bring in full attendance and support which made the impossible happen each month and never lost their faith in our ability to pull it off.

Many resources are needed for every project but if you have the right people resources, you can make almost anything happen.


2 thoughts on “Whenever Possible Have Great People Resources and You Can Deliver the Impossible”

  1. User Avatar

    Absolutely, Alan! Sandra unleashed the power of possibility thinking with her “Sure, why not?!” attitude. That made me want to work with her to create what was truly a breakthrough program. I still shake my head in amazement at what came out of those fabulous collaborations under her leadership. 60 mouse traps in a room of 300 people??!! Hundreds of Cisco program managers drumming together??!! Impossible! Except with Sandra and our fabulous relationship with our bold and daring Cisco partners. Wahoo!

  2. User Avatar

    Sandra, in your posts here, you have underplayed your leadership. It’s certainly an honor to be included in this team of resources and that’s a part your “secret.”

    What Sandra hasn’t posted here is that these people, about whom she has graciously written, want to work with her! This is no trivial achievement. Think about all these wonderful, high-achieving, independent, willful people Sandra has had to pull together. Talk about herding cats!

    Yes, inspirational people, people you trust, great people resources — definitely work with them… and leaders like Sandra.

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