Episode Description

Hemant I wish you all a very happy and a prosperous New Year our today’s subject of conversation is Project…

Hemant

I wish you all a very happy and a prosperous New Year our today’s subject of conversation is Project managers as CEOs their projects this subject I am sure would interest a lot of you and if there are project managers among you I am sure you will be able to make many connections you will have some views and we would like to would love to hear your views about them to talk about this subject with us we have Mr Sandeep Kumar who is a CEO and founder of productdossier Solutions Sandeep brings with him a long experience as IIT professional he has been entrepreneur and innovator and he is the CEO of a company providing

solutions for digitizing project businesses like IIT services so Sandeep is the best person to speak about projects about project managers and what their roles can be has been and should be so welcome Sandeep to our podcast.

Sandeep:

thank you thank you hemant and thanks for the New Year greeting I also wish everybody a great 2023.

Hemant:

okay before we get onto the subject Sandeep I ask you to firstly describe the scenario of projects in IT industry what kind of projects are taken up and how well they are executed what are the constraints they work what are the customers expectations what are the expectations of the companies the managements and also the people working on them how the whole scene looks like in general

Sandeep :

specifically for the I.T industry or I.T Services industry you know their mainbusiness is executing projects for their customers so today every company isexecuting projects and there is no choice uh there but the question is likeyou said how they are executing it so there could be different that’s where you know the company it differs from company

to company and that also shows in their balance sheets and the pnl that if theprojects are being executed right then their profitability is probably morethan their competition who is not able to execute it that well and Iwould say it industry today is tracking some of the Matrix required by theproject how well are you executing projects like the customer satisfaction index the resource utilize

index the project profitability while they are tracking it I personallywhatever I have seen I think there is a lot to do there to really get to theExcellence level so that’s the so the sad part is it is really not donethat in a great manner but the good news is today every organization or the everyCEO is basically going out and seeing how they can improve their businessexcellence and that means how well how they can improve their project execution which will eventually improveprofitability top line revenue Etc so I think it’s beginning to get there butthere is a lot to do still.

Hemant:

is this a talk of project managers should be theCEO of their projects is it in this context that has come up or it has been always there uh what do you what is your take on this.

Sandeep:

oh well it’s uh a while ago uh you know somebody was talking about project manager as a CEO of the project so so I personally I feel it’s a it’s a mindset change like in our organization we tell people look while you may be hired you are not just a QA person or uh what do you you are not just testing the software you are basically responsible for the quality at the customer place right one mistake can actually result in millions of dollars of losses so you are actually preventing that so I think the context in which this is being used is uh uh like you know we have organizations like uh you know which teaches a lot about project management Etc so they have sort of uh Define what is the role or the job of the project manager it’s like I feel it’s like caging like you can do only this this and this whereas I feel today the project manager is one person who uh can do wonders it is just a mindset change he or she doesn’t even know what they can do so I think this phrase that you should behave like a CEO of a project rather than the project manager uh will help in changing that mindset because like the word CEO the moment you hear CEO you think of like that person is at the top and he has the capability and the ability both I mean he is basically empowered and capability wise you know he or she has that so now we want to bring the same thing at a project level and that’s why this phrase probably would change the mindset and we will see a lot of upside

Hemant:

but does it sound like a rhetoric uh very often uh or you think it is meant that somebody who says that you should be a project manager or you should be the CEO of your project it should behave like one when that kind of a talk is going on is it a rhetorical is it more like a pep talk or is it really meant to be that way uh

Sandeep:

as I said it start it could be seen as a you know starting with a pep talk uh where uh mindset change and things like that but I  also think there is some science in it the reason for that is uh like a CEO right uh you know you come to the office with a different plan in your mind and when you enter Then There are a whole new set of problems waiting for you which you have not even imagined or thought about it and then you have to deal with it and uh also another thing is that you cannot pass the buck to anybody else like finally uh the CEO is responsible uh is for the failure or the success stops there so the same thing here I feel with the project manager the CEO is running a bigger project of the organization I mean let’s talk and then so same thing if project manager a lot of things which may pop up and you are not just responsible for communication with the customer or you knowstakeholder or doing the weekly progress report or you know but ultimately the success and the failure will stop at you and you should have that mindset and The Innovation that you can expect What problems will happen so in that sense uh there is a lot of Science in it why we should treat project managers as the CEO.

Hemant:

looking back at your experience you have considerable experience in IT industry you probably would have worked yourself on projects as project managers and then you have been uh it’s a supervising project managers in supervisory capacity you have also dealt probably with dealt with project managers of your customer companies those who are doing digital transformation projects uh have you seen examples of this kind of mindset that you talk about CEO mindset for those who are doing project management have come across some examples.

Sandeep:

yes I think uh I have seen I have seen uh a few of them where uh project managers the people who are managing projects you know they were not limited to what a typical project manager should do so they were going they were very entrepreneur in their mindset so they were looking at you know with this project their story starts with this that why I am doing this project so what is the value I am going to deliver and they always the decision of whether to do this or that will depend upon you know what is the value so I have seen those kind of project managers who basically were not limited by their thought process or you know what the world thinks of the project

Hemant:

did this come innately to them or it was they were brought up like that they were listed like that

Sandeep:

Yes that I would say those individuals it was very individual kind of trait which helped them to you know go all out and one thing I noticed there is in the beginning it was seemingly look like you know oh they are going they are stretching their limit they are going out of bounds and some people were not even happy with it they said you are just a project manager so stick to that but eventually what I found is that these people did very well in their careers the management was then becoming more and more dependent on these people because they were delivering right they were doing their manager’s job and they uh and then I think they were rewarded very well so from that perspective I think uh we should try to imitate those individuals in the project management Community

Hemant:

So what was more of a coming from those individuals innate to them or they

were like that

Sandeep:

right

Hemant:

is it becoming more of a organizational requirement institutionalized kind of a thing these days or still there is not enough momentum in that direction to make project managers as CEOs

Sandeep:

I would say you know this concept of you are the CEO of the project it is to start with it is a lot beneficial for the individual I mean eventually it will also help the organization but I would if today you know if I have to or if I am the project manager or if I have to talk to project managers I would say that you have to adapt to this as a individual because this will help your individual career your growth and everything and eventually because organizations may be a little bit uh slow uh you know it’s a hierarchy and like I said if a project manager does the job of higher up or something there may be some politically uh pull down but individuals should definitely try and when also what we are doing and what we are seeing with the uh customer places is organizations are interested in building project management culture and one of the ways of doing that project manager management culture is to think of concept like this so today I am seeing that CEOs and the real CEOs they are also giving start with the pep talk to the project manager to behave like this and eventually it is happening.

Hemant:

now then let us talk about uh the skill sets the attributes the traits required for a project manager and required for a CEO what are the uh what are the similarity in them to start with and then later on what are the differences

Sandeep:

yeah so if you look at it as I said the company is also like a project a much maybe a bigger project than a uh you know uh so the similarities is uh the CEO has to think strategically about the project and the entire uh basically uh they have to think of the growth and the progress of the organization and whatever my execution methodology I should be able to like I should be able to visualize it so same thing project manager also has to think through that this is my project this is my end game and then how how I am going to execute

Hemant:

so the project manager needs a good insight into the entire structure of the project the content of the project and you should be able to see through absolutely think it through uh to the end to the end game

Sandeep:

absolutely in fact a good project manager and like you know a good CEO should be actually executing the entire thing right in the beginning in their mind in their mind because once you know that you know this is you have seen that execution in your

mind Things become a lot more easier when they are actually being executed you know what can go wrong what can go right then

Hemant:

the project manager should be able to also like a CEO spot Talent good people

Sandeep:

absolutely so that’s the resources part now project manager knows and like today the CEO knows one of the

top jobs of the CEO is to pick the right people for the right job first of all what are the jobs available and then who

can do it the best right so a lot of their own success depends upon this particular skill

same thing here in the case of project manager they know the team they know the

people so they should be able to pick up the right people and then you know ultimately if I were them I would make

them the CEO of their still smaller project or the sub project so the same concept should run down

so that is another like you said the third thing I think is both which is very similar is the communication

so you know the CEO has to keep communicating with the outside world

with the inside world to make sure people are on the same page is able to

communicate the vision and the mission of the organization and the purpose so

same thing you know project it depends upon project manager you may be doing a

billion dollar project but if you’re not able to you know enthuse your team with

the purpose team will probably do whatever is minimum required so that

communication thing is extremely uh important another very similar thing and

this is where I think is the major difference in uh the two roles is the

CEO is thinking always holistically they just don’t think of the finance or you

know marketing or product development or so everything is kind of interlinked and

unless and until you are able to build that connections and thinking all of the things at the same time you know you’re

not going to get the results so similarly today I believe a lot of

project managers uh worldwide they think their job is more technical

in nature they just have to be worried about the engineering deliverables and things like that and then organizations

also today they have other teams like pmo teams or business

teams which are managing the financials of the projects so this information is

not visible to project managers because even project manager is thinking I am technical organization is thinking you

are technical so there is no empowerment as far as the financials and other decision making is concerned you can say

this is the Sim difference between a CEO and the yeah

Hemant:

before we go more in the

direction of differences in the roles one more similarity comes to mind and that is where uh you had hinted on it

that is about the mindset ah if I see the mindset of a good

project manager or a great project manager and CEO there is a certain level of obsession with what they are doing

Sandeep:

Absolutely

Hemant:

they are more or less 24×7 thinking about it they may not be doing any work but their mind is worrying

for a project manager it is about the projects about what is going to happen What new things are coming what risks

are emerging what might be my Solutions where I should be looking for resources

so that’s a thought going on all the time same thing if I draw up on my experience

as a CEO same thing SEO is 24×7 engaged with the job or her job so I think that

is where the mindset part comes from

Sandeep:

absolutely that that is where and it is the extremely important for the success

because as a CEO if you miss out on any one particular aspect you know that only

is going to hurt you back and

Hemant:

no one else is going to uh

Sandeep:

absolutely because the bug stops there

in fact so this is the same uh I think the attitude or the mindset we have to

build for the project manager which is today not happening so much because as I

said the expectations are yeah

Hemant:

their own expectations have and their organizational

expectations

Sandeep:

absolutely

Hemant:

and probably their customers expectation also yes

Sandeep:

yes absolutely so I think it is up to the

individual to rise up

Hemant:

one thing is sure from a customer point of view where a

customer of uh let’s say a project that

I am buying I would love to interact with the project manager who is behaving like a CEO because then I won’t have to

go to another

Sandeep:

absolutely

Hemant:

it is same thing and I am able to reach out to him or her and I am getting answers which

are uh not that I will come back that kind of answers I will tell you tomorrow we are trying our best and those kind of

things I would get more definitive answers app lying

Sandeep:

this is very very important hemant what you are saying

people will behave with you the way you project yourself if you project that no I know answers to

only these few technical questions then the other person will only ask you that he knows that this person is not capable

but if you start projecting no you are the CEO of the project you can talk financials you can talk resources you

can talk the deliverables or anything you know I am qualified to answer that

and I have interest in that I am empowered to do that then I think it gives a very good message to the outside

world including the customers and this thing that this organization is really

uh empowering its people and that’s the value system of this organization So eventually this helps

Hemant:

imagine the trust and confidence the customers would have

Sandeep:

absolutely

Hemant:

such organizations

Sandeep:

absolutely

Hemant:

moving on to the differences

Sandeep:

right

Hemant:

because you started with differences let’s develop that concept further

differences between the CEO of a company and a CEO of the projects uh what are

the differences in that

Sandeep:

so the first difference as I said is you know the mindset

the moment you say I am the CEO there are certain expectations linked with that small three letter acronym

Hemant:

yes

Sandeep:

and

the moment you say project manager then so the outside world is

Hemant:

project manger only two letters yeah three letters that’s one big difference

Sandeep:

correct

Hemant:

more than that yeah

Sandeep:

so that is the

expectations with these two roles are different from the outside world but that’s where we need to change so

project manager needs to understand that and uh the other difference is I mean while you

are managing as I said it’s seen more as a technical because this is what we are being taught where as this is more

holistic I mean the bug stops there

Hemant:

yes

Sandeep:

it is the difference between the project manager I mean project manager can say

you know there is somebody else who will ultimately take care of it if something goes wrong so I think the major

difference is in the mindset and the expectations of the outside world

Hemant:

but in terms of skills in terms of the mental

makeup not just the mindset don’t you think the CEO needs a far broader

understanding of the world around him or her the inside the outside and by world

I don’t mean just markets and competition I also mean the changes that are happening technological changes

economic changes political changes everything is affecting everything these days

Sandeep:

absolutely

Hemant:

you know Ukraine war can

affect Supply chains it can affect inflation it can affect interest rate it

can affect your profitability uh due to currency uh kind of

Sandeep:

absolutely

Hemant:

so uh the

CEO needs to be on Queue with a lot of things that are happening around the world in real time and you should be

able to shape a company’s he should be able to Steward a company in a right

direction considering the risk preparing it so in that sense it is a far different conceptual uh game compared to

a project manager

Sandeep:

absolutely and you said it right so that is you know all the expectations and the CEO basically

they start developing those skills where they have a holistic understanding of

the entire ecosystem in which they are operating both economic political and

everything so the same uh I think so this is a big difference and once you

change the mindset then this person the project manager if you want to be successful you have to develop skills to

be a sort of to start with the the minimal you need is a techno commercial kind of mind

Hemant:

right

Sandeep:

the skills you have

to develop you have to not just uh you know you have to look at what is the profitability of the project those kind

of aspects you have to look for then you have to also sometimes I feel the

project manager is so much focused on just finishing the project meeting the

timelines but what is missing is that they seldom talk about the value creation what they are doing

Hemant:

exactly

Sandeep:

that what is the purpose what is the value they are

Hemant:

what difference is going to make to the customer so

Sandeep:

absolutely so

Hemant:

it is not just I am delivering this project and I am collecting this kind of money and that is a car it is not a

transaction

Sandeep:

so I think that is completely missing where a CEO if you start talking to a

CEO he will always talk about what is the value he will never talk about anything else they start from there

whereas project manager is more concerned about the project plan and the

like traditional approach so this is I think a big difference in today the

skill sets and that’s I think it’s an opportunity for project managers to sort

of rise up to the occasion and start thinking uh and as I said everything starts from thinking at least this is my

experience in our organization we tell them look it doesn’t matter you are

young but you can think and once you start thinking then you will start

developing those skills but because you know now this is also part of your job

Hemant:

coming to from all this conceptual

things uh let’s come down to the operational level our project managers

recruited with this in mind uh is it a conscious requirement of hiring people

over job definition are we looking uh at the candidates with this kind of a thing

uh the CEO kind of her mindset deal kind of abilities if not on a major scale but

at least in their nascent form

Sandeep:

I would say no uh today and it is again it’s the

uh you know how we are thinking today the probably what they will look at are

you PMP certified are do you have this certification that certification and

then uh so that would be the criteria of selecting a project manager or recruitment uh but I think uh this will

all change this will all it takes time because the moment organizations start

thinking that you know we like you know today I will tell you our own story we

have hired a person and uh uh he’s at the customer place and the customer

tells me look he’s a good person very sound technical but he has to be more uh

you know walk the floors talk to the customer understand where is the gap

what is the value you can propose so you need to basically put up a person like that right

Hemant:

yes

Sandeep:

so it’s a it’s a very

good feedback for us so it’s not that you know whatever I’m talking but that

the mindset change you have to bring

Hemant:

so in the recruitment in the selection of candidates this Factor

Sandeep:

has to come it

has to come in

Hemant:

Absolutely

Sandeep:

and one you have to factor bring in and even

after you hire him then set the expectations like that you have to build a framework and then allow that person

to grow to that level

Hemant:

isn’t it a big challenge because on one hand project management

training by training it is still on the nitty-gritties

Sandeep:

absolutely

Hemant:

uh per CPM on

the critical part and of the various milestones and tasks and uh you know

updating Gantt chart and all those things

Sandeep:

this is a big Challenge and as I said uh today most of the project

managers are attending PMP PMI there is a big organization so whatever they

taught you know they will end up learning that so I think we need to even

make changes at that level where the curriculum itself I mean this shift we

are talking it is put into practice it is put into day-to-day trainings and conversations and expectations then only

we can get to that level so absolutely you are right

Hemant:

and I have read uh in several surveys that people

who ultimately progress in their careers and occupy The Corner Room

uh are largely coming from HR or Finance kind of a thing or in some cases

operations and project managers making that progress to the CEO thing is

relatively rare this is what I keep on reading uh is it a kind of a picture and is it

because of this mindset kind of a gap or what is it

Sandeep:

I think I mean it’s uh it’s a

good observation and I think that is quite true uh and the reason for that is

the expectations from a project manager because that person was probably more capable but since he was put into a

certain kind of role uh that person did not learn the overall skills like you

said the economy the financials and all those things didn’t Focus much on that Focus only on uh you know I was asked to

do this I did this but then there was a lot more which you were not asked and you had the

opportunity to do so those skills were not developed and that is why the entire

world looks at project manager as a very technical person and he continued to be Technical and missed that corner office

whereas other folks they were always seen as a business people and you know they could do and that’s why they

probably got into the Corner Room uh

Hemant:

it has always come as a surprise to me

because on one hand when I started reading these kind of things I said what happened in my case

I was working in projects as I worked as a project engineer then I worked I

managed several projects then I moved into marketing then I was a head of a

business unit and ultimately I became a CEO I said I could transition to become a CEO but how come and I thought this is

a very natural thing but the world out there the surveys after service tell us that this is not

that frequent as compared to a finance manager or HR manager uh so for me it

was a big surprise when I heard that and that’s where I thought I should ask you why is it uh that it should be a natural

progression in fact if you ask me if project managers are managing their project doing a good job they tend to

develop many of these skills we found many similarities and only major difference that you pointed out was the

level of the mindset and the intensity of uh things

Sandeep:

correct

Hemant:

so where is the gap

then

Sandeep:

so like you said you were probably one of the few individuals who had this

innate quality of going beyond what you were doing right so you did not limit yourself or your projects to only a

certain handling

Hemant:

process requires you do that it is it is a better and better project management if I am handling a

project I have no I don’t have a luxury of sitting in my little corner and waiting

for things to happen isn’t it

Sandeep:

yeah absolutely so that is why you know if probably the success rate of your

projects was higher because you were always thinking ahead that what is the value I am delivering then where do I

find the right resources what problems I could uh foresee and so you were doing

all that very uh agile kind of thinking not just limited in your deliverables

but across everything and you are more successful and that resulted you in going doing different jobs ultimately to

the CEO uh whereas I see a lot of project managers they limit themselves

because they are again coming back to this thing because they think this is not their job that is somebody else’s

job and they didn’t uh even question that that why I can’t do it they didn’t

show interest and even if they some of them showed interest there was this organization structure

which did not Empower them like I told you simple example today also when I

talked to management of I.T companies they say we don’t want to show

financials to the delivery financials to be seen only by the finance or the pmo teams right so you

they are not empowering them while on one hand I am asking your project was not profitable on the other hand I don’t

even know what is the profit I should have done so you can see that so these

are the reasons these are the cultural things and because of which the

individual has suffered they couldn’t become I mean more of a CEO and organization has suffered because they

could not create leaders out of that right so it’s a lose-lose situation which we are trying to change by saying

now we need to build a culture a project management culture where every project

manager is like a CEO of their projects and you know this will build Future

Leaders for us

Hemant:

that’s very important uh point you made Sandeep and uh just one

more point in this uh all this is there given the attribute the skills the

attitude the mental uh makeup are there any support systems required uh in terms of because a very good CEO needs a good

information uh system otherwise you are just going by a gut feeling and I am sure for uh once you have people

hundreds and thousands people you can’t just do a gut feeling you need some uh solid information so do you see any Gap

in that

Sandeep:

absolutely so like your question is how do we help build such a system so

I think it will if left to itself then we will have only a few individuals who

are you know uh innately they are uh brilliant but if you so we need to build and I

think the digitalization uh thing which we are driving uh or which is coming up

this will help build that culture where you know the information the data and

everything is basically available to the project managers and this will also help

them Drive making those decisions this will help them forecast things and this

will also uh you know help them Beyond uh their current duties of what is the

value I am delivering uh to the customer and all those things so I think that framework of digitalization where the

entire project management methodology right from you know start to end is uh

sort of best practices or next practices is built in and project manager Now does

not have to spend 70 80 percent of your time just collecting data compiling data

but they will be able to now use this data and make those effective decisions

which will change the course of the project so I think this sort of uh

mindset change plus the technology will together help us build this project

management culture and all these project managers will Thrive and eventually will

become the CEOs of wherever they

Hemant:

are I completely agree with you and thank you very much Sandeep for bringing up uh up two important facets one is the mindset and other are the systems that support people and if there are project managers listening to this out there I’m sure you would have picked up a lot of useful uh tips from Sandeep who is a seasoned not just IT professional but the season project manager and a CEO and entrepreneur and innovator so I think it has come from the one of the best in the game so I’m sure dear listeners you enjoyed this talk and if you have any questions or feedback please reach out to us we will be very happy to answer your questions

thank you very much and see you again

Sandeep:

thank you thank you Heyman thank you.

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