The submissions for this assignment are posts in the assignment’s discussion. Below are the discussion posts for Richard Bocchinfuso, or you can view the full discussion.
Is it possible for a company to have such a strong technical community that technical integrity is more important than the project itself?
Yes, with greater than 200 of QCI’s 340 employees being engineers, and executive management being comprised of engineers this is likely.
Throughout its 30 year existence, QCI has been an engineering-led organization. The composition of QCI’s executive leadership team indicates that QCI values technical integrity. (Kerzner, 2017, p. 105 – 107)
While doing research, I was interested to find that “in the tech industry, just 8 percent of CEOs at the largest 100 U.S. firms have primary backgrounds in sales, and less than 30 percent have any sales experience at all.” (Hutson, 2018) I feel like in my 25 years in tech I know a lot of CEOs who hail from the sales ranks, I wonder if these statistics have been skewed in recent years as a result of the FAANG (Links to an external site.) phenomenon. With that said I also agree that many top-performing salespeople want to sell not manage.
QCI made an effort to implement a formal PMO (Project Management Office), but LOB (line-of-business) management reluctance had QCI adopt a fragmented project management structure. The value of a PMO is macro-level visibility across the organization. The fragmented structure that QCI adopted may have created some semblance of structure, but it did not address a macro level approach to project management.
Like most businesses, QCI’s business seems to adhere to the Pareto Principle (Understanding the Pareto Principle (The 80/20 Rule), n.d.), with 12 large customers in an estimated customer base of 52 total customers, ~ 23% of the customer base were large customers with ~ 77% of the customer base being small customers. (Kerzner, 2017, p. 107) While we don’t know the opportunity and revenue breakdown across QCI’s customer base if we apply the Pareto Principle, we can assume that 77% of the revenue and opportunity comes from 23% of the customer base. So many businesses struggle with focusing on the meaningful business.
It seems that the PMO was organized to focus on LOB (line-of-business) with focus on large and likely programmatic accounts, small and likely transactional accounts, internal R&D and capital equipment projects (which I assume are internal projects required to support the business).
What specific problems are present in the management of research and development projects?
Cross-functional project management with different organizational groups such as engineering, marketing product management, manufacturing, QA, finance and accounting all who lack strategic alignment and a vision of the desired outcome. (Kerzner, 2017, p. 108)
The lack of strategic and outcome alignment has caused a lack of organizational vision. The lack of strategy and defined outcomes has created organizational misalignment and opposing objectives, where marketing wants to move faster and push products to market more quickly, manufacturing intends to be more conservative and slow the process to provide proper time for quality assurance, while finance and accounting wish to move faster to accelerate the return on investment. Project management is spending time mediating opposing divisional goals rather than managing the project in alignment with the broader organizational goals. (Kerzner, 2017, p. 108)
Project management feels it does not have control over R&D projects, with marketing canceling project on a whim it makes it difficult for project managers to focus.
While not directly impactful to R&D there is an indirect impact on R&D created by small projects which are extremely difficult to manage, lack of project alignment and economies of scale across transactional opportunities, improperly set expectations, and a constant prioritization of lager customers over smaller customers make creating a positive customer experience very difficult.
I love this line from and a16z podcast entitled “From Research to Startup, There and Back Again”: “The more you charge, the more successful the implementation will be.” – https://a16z.com/2018/10/07/academia-industry-leading-matters/
I suggest listening to the entire podcast, but if you want the most valuable lesson, listen to 11:00 – 13:00.
The same is true of large projects, there is a lack of respect for project management, with marketing and account teams feeling that project management adds no value and underdelivers of commitments. Because of the organizational engineering culture, engineers have a louder voice than project managers. There is a focus on trying to make every project successful which leads to mediocrity across the board rather than jettisoning projects and customers where excellence is unachievable to focus on delivering excellence and phenomenal customer experience. QCI is not making good decisions when managing through the Triple Constraint Model or the Value Triple Constraint Model. (Baratta, 2006)
Even though QCI has segmented, there are finite organizational resources, a lack of focus and clear well aligned corporate objectives results in waste which in this case has an impact on a critical aspect of the business, R&D which represents QCI’s innovation engine.
What recommendations would you make?
Marketing should develop detailed requirements documentation, and there should be a formal process for R&D and market testing. With the proper requirement and specification documentation created and approved, projects can be placed into the R&D pipeline, canceling a project at this point should anomalous. Right not it seems to be a common event which leads me to believe that marketing and the product managers are not following a formal BRD (Business Requirement Document), MRD (Marketing Requirement Document), PRD (Product Requirement Document), FSD (Functional Specification Document) process. (Logtenberg, 2017) QCI needs to add operational rigor to their R&D pipeline; marketing is highly accountable for requirement documentation, marketing does not need to own project management, what they need to do is focus on proper requirements gathering and documentation.
Change the approach to small-customer projects. All program delivery should operate within a program delivery framework. For large customers, this framework should adhere to best practices, but remain adaptable based on customer specific project needs. Large customers can support from a revenue and opportunity perspective a program team that can deliver a nuanced project. Small customers need to be part of a well defined and rigid QCI program, where QCI applies rigor to the project management process, transparency is critical for smaller customers. If the smaller customer follows the QCI process, the quality and customer experience will be better. The Pareto Principle says that QCI is wasting valuable resources and creating risks by engaging in projects with customers that don’t move the needle. Engaging with the wrong customers impacts the macro business while trying to be everything to everyone QCI is executing the vision of mediocrity. If 50% of the smaller customers decide they cannot accept QCI’s new operating model, it’s not impactful, and it frees up resources to begin to delight customers and chase opportunities where QCI can deliver exceptional customer experiences.
Baratta, A. (2006). The triple constraint: a triple illusion. Paper presented at PMI® Global Congress 2006—North America, Seattle, WA. Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute.
Hennessy, J., Andreessen, M., Casado, M., Chokshi, S., Clark, S., Spisak, J., . . . Pande, V. (2018, October 12). A16z Podcast: From Research to Startup, There and Back Again. Retrieved November 14, 2018, from https://a16z.com/2018/10/07/academia-industry-leading-matters/
Hutson, D. (2018, April 06). So, You’re in Sales But (Secretly) Yearn to be a CEO. Here’s How to Make That Happen. Retrieved November 14, 2018, from https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/311519
Kerzner, H. (2017). Project Management Case Studies (5th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated.
Logtenberg, T. (2017, July 16). BRD, PRD, TRD… The case of the confusing requirements. Retrieved November 14, 2018, from https://medium.com/@TylerLogtenberg/brd-prd-trd-the-case-of-the-confusing-requirements-cebd5e54ff2b
Understanding the Pareto Principle (The 80/20 Rule). (n.d.). Retrieved November 14, 2018, from https://betterexplained.com/articles/understanding-the-pareto-principle-the-8020-rule/
Sharing this link because I thought it did a really good job of comparing and contrasting Kanban vs. Scrum.
Thanks, Scott. Weeks getting longer and longer, was in London last week, SFO this weel breathing in the campfire smoke and now spending the weekend in a medicine haze trying to recover from whatever bug I picked up. While these are are the macro-level changes I’d try to influence something tells me there might be a more systemic issue at QCI, as they say, leadership starts at the top. If we focus the business and start thinking through strategic initiatives and committing, but the outcome is nothing more then the status quo hopefully there is a board of directors who begins to make executive team changes.
I am not a fan of just another meeting, to JAM up my day.
I actually use the Amazonian 6-pager (Links to an external site.) approach to meetings (4-pagers are OK) and the two-pizza rule (Links to an external site.). I can’t stand powerpoint because thinking in bullets causes people to gloss over the details, aka the things that matter in the execution phase, so many meetings feel like the presenter is presenting a powerpoint mindmap which lacks a well-thought-out and detailed narrative. The ability to write a four to six-page narrative demonstrates a commitment to the idea, the need for a meeting, etc. and prompts participation from others attending the meeting.
Andrew, I am seeing an increasing trend by many engineering (software, hardware, cloud, etc.) firms to create a distinction between TPMs (Technical Project Managers) and PMs (Project Managers). Personally, I support the trend because I see it becoming increasingly difficult for a non-technical PMs to demonstrate value; wrangling the developers is getting harder and harder when you lack a well-calibrated bullshit meter.
A quick Indeed search for “Technical Project Manager” yields 1,355 jobs (https://www.indeed.com/jobs?q=%22technical+project+manager%22&l=), a search for “non-technical project manager” yields 7 jobs (https://www.indeed.com/jobs?q=%22non-technical+project+manager%22&l=), and a search for “project manager” yields > 300K results. I think many engineering companies are listing PM roles, but interviewing for TPMs. What do you think?
With regards to QCI do you think the issues at QCI are fixable via the PMO without major organizational and cultural changes? QCI’s business seems unfocused and uncommitted to a particular market segment. What do you think?
Job Search | Indeed. (n.d.). Retrieved November 18, 2018, from https://www.indeed.com/
IMO the worst kind of meddling is at work here; empowerment with a lack of executive direction and commitment. QCI suffers from executive expectations with the facade of empowered employees, but the expectation that it will just happen without executive leadership is painful to read. Executive leadership needs to focus the organization and ensure that all QCI employees are working towards the vision and mission of the company; culture starts at the top. If the target market, vision and mission of the organization are not crisp, everyone’s job becomes significantly more difficult.
Hubbard, L. (2018, June 26). Why Is Identifying the Target Market so Important to a Company? Retrieved November 18, 2018, from https://smallbusiness.chron.com/identifying-target-market-important-company-76792.html
Dr. Knight, IMO time is the enemy here. QCI is not in a situation where things will get better with time, they are also not in a situation where they can make incremental changes and wait and see. QCI has a fractured culture that needs to be quickly addressed. Executive leadership needs to marshall change here, identify departmental leadership who is onboard with radically changing the culture and remove any bad actors from the business. The changes need to be swift and effective.
Scott, what are the PMs pushing? It’s hard to push everything. IMO if there was organizational alignment the PMs would be viewed as contributors, but because there is a lack of organizational alignment each division is trying to create and protect their individual agenda, this puts the PMO and PMs in a horrible situation. I would first drive to achieve broader organizational alignment and focus, this will require engagement from executive management. In parallel, I would look at reorganizing the PMO by making the PMO a standards body and aligning individual project managers with different areas of the business (R&D, engineering, marketing, etc.). The mission and vision should govern the direction of the organization, project prioritization, etc., not the loudest LOB or PM.
Scott, I can appreciate your perspective here and I clearly don’t have the details on the situation you wrote about. The broader questions I would ask are as follow:
- Is the PM willing to accept the responsibility of failure for the project? If so this has to be incredibly clear and the VP has to ensure that others entrust he/she as much as they do
- While being a hard charger who takes charge of a project is a great quality, a PM also has to be able to build constituency and garner buy-in from stakeholders. It’s nearly impossible for every decision to be the right decision, acting unilaterally can create some real challenges.
IMO PMs need to be organized hard chargers, it’s their job to marshall the project and the resources.
With this said PMs also need to be good politicians and leaders. There is no magic bullet, I have worked on projects with great PMs who garner support from all stakeholders and manage expectations well with little technical acumen. I have also worked with hard-charging PMs who don’t politic well and what I will say is no one is that on their game, so you end up with resources and stakeholders waiting for a miss so they can exploit it. My advice is to be good at what you do, but do underestimate being likable.