1/5/12 - Interview with Lisa DiTullio, Principal of Your Project Office

Today we're featuring the highlights of a recent interview with Lisa DiTullio, Principal of , a project management consultancy that focuses on simplifying the complexities of project management.  Lisa has helped numerous hospitals reassess their project management philosophies and approach to realize significant improvement in the facilities' technical and clinical projects.

Here's her bio:

Lisa DiTullio is the principal of Your Project Office, a PMI® Registered Education Provider and consulting organization dedicated to introducing project management as a business competency and enabling organizations to improve decision-making, instill accountability, and enhance communications. Her group offers training programs and advisory services supporting project/business management and team-building activities, as well as project office support services to organizations that do not need a full-time PMO.

As past director of the PMO at Boston-based Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, Lisa was a core member of the turnaround team for an organization that went from being placed in state-supervised receivership in 1999 to being the "Number One Health Plan in America" in US News & World Report seven years in a row.  She documented this turnaround in her book "How 'Enterprise Project Management' Supported Harvard Pilgrim Health Care's Journey from Near Collapse to #1."  she is also the author of "Project Team Dynamics: Enhancing Performance and Improving Results."  Both books are available on Amazon.com.

Learn more about Lisa at

Lisa, your approach is unique, in that you come into situations consultatively at a very high level, with executive sponsorship to help define (or redefine) an enterprise-wide approach to project management in hospitals.  How does it benefit the organization to have buy-in on project management at the highest levels in the hospital?

If project management is not sponsored somewhere high up in the organization, it can't create visibility around successes, failures, and near-disasters.  Hospitals must be effective in selecting the "right" set of projects and efficiently delivering them; the pace is too frenetic and the consequences associated with project failure is too high to not be taken seriously.

How do you take that C-level sponsorship and then get genuine buy-in on changes to the PM approach and methodology from the actual staff performing the project management? 

When senior leaders show genuine support for, and publically endorse project management practices, other staff buy-in to the approach.  Let's face it, introducing or evolving project management methodology often represents significant change to any organization.  Hospitals must put processes and tools in place that allow the organization to get things done efficiently.  Having a system to communicate priority projects (the agenda), apply consistent project management practices (the methodology), and monitor project progress (the pulse) is imperative in today's healthcare arena.  Staff are more apt to accept project management required practices when they see the connections and feel the effects.  When you introduce practices that enable you to carefully define and manage project scope, and to carefully manage timeline and limited resources you will have staff engagement.

How do you measure success for yourself in these sorts of engagements? 

We measure our success based upon the level of cultural change in the organization.  In other words, many organizations measure their success by how quickly they implement a methodology, a set of tools and project management practices.  We, on the other hand, measure our success on how quickly the organization succeeds in four key areas:  Decision-making, accountability, communications, and understanding interdependent work efforts.

In your book "Simple Solutions," you advocate a number of short, direct documents to drive project management with success.  In fact I think you give these away to anyone who may want them.  All are Word files or Excel files if I'm not mistaken.  How did you come around to creating and advocating the use of these documents rather than some of those massive Gantt charts I've seen so often?

Before we talk about the tools, let me first say that successful project management is never really about the tools.  It is not even about the content of the tools.  It is about thinking, acting, and managing factors that will determine the project's success.  Having said that, we know that organizations work more efficiently through repeatable, predictable practices; standardized practices and tools do allow you to learn from past experiences in a simple, predictive manner.  Creating a small set of simple, effective tools that directly correlate to your methodology will allow you to realize results without over-investing in project management systems.  We give away our tools because we know they work and they are simple to use-what more do you need?

You do something I find very interesting in a field dominated by buzzwords and mumbo jumbo, which is to challenge people to rethink the word "simple."  How did you come to be the "simple" evangelist?

I believe the simpler we keep our practices, the more likely we are to follow them with regularity and with ease.  When introducing project management in any organization, the simpler it is, the more likely it will happen, which gradually changes the organizational culture.  We believe project management isn't extra work, it is the work.

In defining a "great" project manager, you wrote this:  "A first-rate project manager remains calm during the height of the storm."  For readers in search of just such a person, how do you suggest that someone identifies this talent or trait in a PM they are interviewing but don't know well?

Be careful not to over-emphasize technical requirements when evaluating candidates.  Limiting your search to individuals who have strong technical abilities, but lack professional decorum and interpersonal skills are not likely to produce optimum results when managing projects.  A project manager who can get the job done but leaves a trail of destruction in his or her path is a less-than-ideal candidate for any organization.  Always evaluate candidates thoroughly by introducing behavior-based methods when screening candidates.  I believe there are four primary characteristics every project manager must exhibit to be successful:

Enthusiasm:  A successful project manager must really want to do the job.  He or she must get pleasure from leading a project; if a project manager is not enthusiastic about the project, it's really hard for other team members to get on board.

Endurance:  Project management requires high levels of staying power.  A successful project manager must endure all stages of project management, from project definition through project execution to project closure.

Earnest:  Project managers must be sincere and serious in intention.  Sincerity will enable project managers to establish a strong coalition among team members, while keeping focused on getting the work done. 

Efficient:  Project managers must work productively with minimal wasted effort and limited resources.  The best project managers will keep an eye on the target and establish a direct route to get there.

Last question:  what is your all-time favorite movie?  We don't let anybody off the hook without a little bit of trivia.

How about favorite musician---Dave Matthews Band!

Posted by Jack Williams at 06:00


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