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Project Management…Starts with Relationships

Project Management…Starts with Relationships with Clint Padgett

Project Management...Starts With Relationships with Clint Padgett

What is the key to Project Management?  The right software? The right PMP?  No, RELATIONSHIPS! So how do we start those in a socially distanced world?

Clint is a seasoned entrepreneur with over 30 years’ experience as a project manager and leader. He is a published author, teacher and expert in team building and the art of conversation. Clint is a ForbesBooks Featured Author, ForbesSpeakers Thought Leader and frequently speaks on project management and teamwork.  In addition to becoming an entrepreneur, Clint is an adjunct professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Twitter: @ClintPadgett

LinkedIn: Clint Padgett

Amazon: “The Project Success Method”

Author page: http://www.clintonmpadgett.com

Project Success site: http://www.projectsuccess.com

Listen to the podcast here:

Read Along as Karla and Clint discuss How Important Relationships Are at The Beginning of a Project

Karla Nelson:  And welcome to the People Catalyst podcast, Clint Padgett.

Clint Padgett:  Thanks for having me.

Karla Nelson:  All the way from Atlanta, Georgia. On the other side of the continent.

Clint Padgett:  That’s right.

Karla Nelson:  So, I’m really excited about our chat here today, Clint, because we have a lot of things in common in working with teams and cross-functional teams and collaboration. But I really think that we have some really other unique things we could talk about with the intangible and tangible products. If anybody has been listening to the podcast for quite some time, we did a podcast called Don’t Be a Scrum Bag, and the most recent one was about working remotely. So, you can go back there and dig some nuggets of what we talked about there. But tell us first, Clint, what’s your entrepreneurial story?

Clint Padgett:  So, it’s quite interesting, actually. I did not want to be an entrepreneur. My dad was an entrepreneur. And so, growing up, I remember having a job working for my dad, whether it was picking up trash or sweeping the lot or whatever. From the time I could… Six years old even, I was doing that. So, he had probably seven or eight different businesses before I was 18. And I thought, “Man, I want to punch a clock, get my paycheck. And this entrepreneurial stuff is not for me.”

Karla Nelson:  It’s kind of hard, isn’t it?

Clint Padgett:  Yeah, especially when you’re family, you don’t get a paycheck. That makes it even tougher.

Karla Nelson:  That’s a good point, I remember those days.

Clint Padgett:  Yeah. So, it kind of became circuitous. But basically, back in ’94, I came to work for this company, Project Success. And over the next 11 years, I kind of worked my way up the ladder. And then in 2005, the current owner wanted to basically exit the business. And so, I was able to put an offer together and buy the company from him. So hence my entrepreneurial thinking 360, even though it wasn’t my intention going out.

Karla Nelson:  Well, that’s interesting. And so, you purchased it in 2005, so you’ve been the CEO and the owner of Project Success for quite some time now.

Clint Padgett:  Yeah. I’ve been 15 years as the owner. And then another 11 years before that as an employee. So, 26 years all total, with the company.

Karla Nelson:  Nice. You don’t hear that very often anymore these days. You must love the work that you do?

Clint Padgett:  Now, I only had three jobs. Outside of my dad’s stuff, I had three jobs. Six years in the Navy, six years at Coca Cola and now 26 years at PSI. So, I do love the work. I think it’s challenging work, but the beautiful thing is we have a process that we know is successful. And we get to try it on different projects with different people in all parts of the globe. And it’s a lot of fun.

Karla Nelson:  So, share with us a little bit about that process. Because it looks like you actually run the projects, but then you guys also teach a certified process, right? That is really the Project Success method, right?

Clint Padgett:  Yeah. We teach a course called the Project Success Method that basically is the basic blocking and tackling of how do you get projects done. So there are certainly things that we don’t get into, like you may work your entire career and never need to use earned value because you don’t work for the government, so it’s not required. So, we took that. We ended up taking that out of our course, and one of our clients put it best, which I love. He says, “You can take these other classes and they teach you to use a drill and a hammer and a saw. Then when the class is over, you’re really the expert in using those tools, but you can’t do anything with it.” He said, “With what you guys teach, you teach us how to build a table. And along the way, we learn how to use all the tools necessary. When I’m done, I could build a table and I could even see my way through to building chairs and stools as well.”

So, we have a process we follow. And then after that, the process itself is just a couple of days. But then after that, we actually come and help our clients. We basically try to work ourselves out of a job. So, we come in after, we’re there for a short period of time now, short could be relative, right? So, it could be a six months’, short might be three years to the client, but we’re there for a short period of time. And our job over that period of time is to mentor them as much as possible. So, when we exit, they are fully self-sufficient, fully functional, able to do it on their own.

Karla Nelson:  Absolutely. It’s about skills transfer. And I always tell, depending on when we’re working with a client on the term, if it’s a 12-month, 18-month, just like you said, a couple-year gig, that if you can never not have me there, I didn’t do my job. Our job is to give them the tools they need. And it’s not a one size fits all. Every project is still an art and a science.

Clint Padgett:  It is. There’s the process side of things that are important. There’s the people side of things, which I’m very passionate about, which is important. But there is always going to be a bit of an art. And as long as you get to the same end result, it doesn’t really matter that much how you got there, as long as you were successful.

Karla Nelson:  Yeah. I love it. So, share with us a little bit about… I had mentioned earlier since we had a couple minutes to connect before getting on the podcast, about the podcasts that we did, Alan and I did, Don’t Be a Scrum Bag. And the application of project management with intangible and tangible products, because I think that’s really important when you look at what type of tool you’re pulling out of your toolbox to apply to a challenge. Because again, it’s not one size fits all. I know when you’re a hammer, everything’s a nail. But I think that not understanding that art and the science and how you can apply different methodologies for tangible and intangible products.

Clint Padgett:  Yeah. I work on mostly tangible products. So, we do big construction projects. We developed semiconductor chips with our clients. We do new product development for bulldozers and ag tractors. So, these are tangible projects. And each of those projects may indeed have a software component, which I would consider more intangible. And I love agile for software development. I think it’s fantastic as a user of that product. And we have a toolkit that we use on Microsoft project, and our developer uses agile and the sprints to do that with. And as a consumer, as a customer, that’s great. Because I can play with the code every two weeks. I could test features, give immediate feedback. But I think that it has a place. And then when you get outside of that, it’s really hard to show me a sprint for a kiosk or show me a sprint for a 75-story building. To me, it doesn’t work as well. And I think to use your words, basically now agile has become the hammer and they’re going to use everything to be the nail. And I just don’t think that’s where it really belongs.

Karla Nelson:  Yeah. I agree. You have to empower individuals because you solve problems with people. And I know you said earlier, Clint, that you’re really passionate about the people side. That is where I love to live. I’m not sure if you heard the interview with Bill DeMarco, the gentlemen who’s the chair for the college of the Air Force, but we’re setting it on fire because we’re just so passionate about this people part that I think is not typically the passion that the technical individuals have. So, share with us a little bit about not only your passion for that, but the type of work you guys do in that team building aspect.

Clint Padgett:  Sure. So, our approach is really more of it’s based on the critical path method from the ’50s. And so, before anybody who likes agile turns the dial off, it’s a very agile like process. I would really consider it to be more of a hybrid approach. Where we’ve been around longer than agile or scrum have, we’ve been around since ’83. And what we really do is we believe in team-focused, team-centric. The people on the team develop the project plan that they want to go do and are going to promise to deliver. So, it builds accountability. We believe in short duration activities in the near term. Five or 10 days is what we typically recommend, which of course ends up being one- or two-week sprints, which people are familiar with. We believe in getting back together either weekly or every other week to update the project plan so that it’s not static.

So, what we do is not what people that like agile would consider waterfall. In fact, one of the classes I was teaching was at the Scheller School of Business at Georgia Tech. And we were doing one for the cable industry and the lady was asking about agile. And I said, “Well, let me get through the presentation and I think you’re going to see that we very agile like.” At the end of the two-hour presentation, she says, “Clint, I have to tell you. You are the least offensive waterfall guy I’ve ever met.” I wear that like a badge of honor.

Karla Nelson:  Oh, that’s good.

Clint Padgett:  But yeah, we’re really big on the people. We believe that the people are the reason for success on projects.

Karla Nelson:  Oh yeah. People support what they build. You said it right there just a couple moments ago, Clint, when you said, “They create, they…” When I was an early on entrepreneur, because I had no idea what I was doing as a CEO at 20 years old, but you figure it out. And the school of hard knocks is a hard teacher, but you learn it quickly.

Clint Padgett:  Most of the world today works in a matrix. And in a matrix, you think about that as a project manager, you don’t really have any authority over the people on your team. You don’t give them pay raises. You don’t give them job reviews. That’s our functional manager that does that. And they’re only dotted line to your project. And Oh, by the way, their dotted line to seven or eight other projects. Not only do you not control the people on your team, you’re competing for their time with others. So what that really means is your only chance to be successful when you’re trying to manage a project in a matrix, is when the people on the team hold themselves accountable because you can’t make them do it. They have to hold themselves accountable to get it done.

Karla Nelson:  Yeah. I always wondered why they didn’t adopt what I built for them, Clint. And I was like “I’m CEO” I was like, “Man, I stayed up until four o’clock in the morning putting this clarity chart together and everybody’s…” And then all of a sudden it was like, “Oh my goodness, why aren’t they adopting it?” Duh. Right? And I think there’s something lost there in team building. And we talk about it all the time on the People Catalyst Podcast is that we have 110 years of marketing research about human nature. It’s the largest body of marketing research that’s ever been created. And all you ever hear is how does that apply to the customer? But how do you get to the customer if you’re not collaborating with your team and them helping you then solve that problem for your customer? I just think it’s so interesting that in… Heck I even did that as a young entrepreneur and business owner too, is I’d go out with the customers and they think I was amazing, right?

I’d come in with my team and I’d start cracking the whip. I could leave dead bodies behind me because I wanted it done yesterday. But it was because I cared so much about my team. It was just that they don’t know that. Then you can go back and change… We’ve got all sorts of words for it, in corporate America, Clint, change management, culture, employee engagement, leadership, I can go on and on. At the end of the day, people support what they build. So regardless of what you’re trying to solve, I love that you guys…

Especially because you have a tangible product and you have the individuals that work more in… Because you said out of your team, there’s a couple of salespeople sprinkled in which tend to be the individuals that are better with people. But then you’ve got your technology or your architects, that they’re not usually as good with people. How do you balance that when you teach and train? Okay, with understanding the project owner or that scrum, but you know what I mean. The person that’s actually in charge of the project. And then in building that out with your team, with the technical people, and then the visionary bigger picture individuals?

Clint Padgett:  I think the person that’s running the project as the project manager or project leader or whatever terminology you want to use, two sides of the brain have to work. Because part of project management really and truly is math based. Activity A takes five days, B takes five days, C takes five days. They’re all sequential. The project is 15 days long. So, there’s a math component to it to be able to say whether something makes sense or not when you look at your project plan. But I think the bigger piece that most people struggle with, because what I find a lot of times is the project manager ends up being the technical person that gets promoted to be the project manager. And then the skill they may be lack is the softer skills, the human, the touch and feel skills of really being able to have a conversation with somebody and understand what motivates them.

And I think the other thing is you have to be protective of your team. So, going back to the customer comments, the customer’s going to want everything. And since they’re the one paying the bill, they deserve to want everything. But we can’t deliver everything. Or we can, but we need more time and we need more money. So, no is an inappropriate response in my world. You have to be able to say to the customer, “Listen, I understand this is what you want.” But in the work that we do, most of our customers are internal who are then going to sell it to the external customer. We’re doing a project to make a marketing director happy or a sales or a product manager happy. And they’re going to go out and sell it to Apple or Intel or the farmer. That’s their salesperson’s job. But we’re trying to make somebody internally happy.

And you have to be able to say, “Listen, I understand that’s what you want. And if you have that, you could sell 100,000 units in Q1.” The problem is nobody can do that. That’s impossible. You’re breaking the laws of physics. Or, “We can do it. We’re going to be nine months and you want it in four months.” So, you have to have these hard conversations to be able to add clarity and say, “Listen, I don’t want to tell you we can do it today and then not deliver. I’d rather tell you today, we can’t do it. And here’s what we can do and agree to that and deliver on that.” So, to me not saying no is appropriate. I think most customers, while they may not admit that out loud, they would rather know upfront what can and can’t be done and know they can depend on you to deliver, than to have you say, “Yeah, no problem,” up front, and then have no idea whether they’re going to get what they wanted in the end.

Karla Nelson:  I completely agree with you on that. And as a young business owner, an entrepreneur, that’s one of the most important lessons I think in working with one of my mentors and coaches was, “Karla repeat after me. No.” Because I tend to have the yes disease, and you’re right. You have to protect your team and they have to know that you have their back. I think that’s really important. So how has this, with now everyone working remotely and it’s becoming Zoom meetings, the standard more than the…

Clint Padgett:  Face to face.

Karla Nelson:  Yeah. And then face to face. How have you been able to then support either your internal team and or your customers in doing that? Because there’re things that you just can’t communicate on a video that you can get to that face to face aspect with that. So how have you guys been managing that? Not only with your internal team, but then also with your customers?

Clint Padgett:  Well for us, we’ve always had a virtual component. So, I would say that of the work that we do, what we have found in our time together is basically that you need to build relationships. That’s the key part is having relationships built up front. And those relationships get formed best in a face to face, in person environment. Now, luckily the good news for us is that face to face session could be as short as two or three days. And then the rest of the two-year project can actually be run remotely based on the relationships we establish in the first couple three days. So, let me give you a scenario for that. Let’s say that you and I have worked together for 20 years, and I’ve only known you through email. And I’m working on your project and I’m working on five other projects here at Acme Corporation, and I put my 50 to 60 hours in a week. I’m working really, really hard, doing the best I can.

And I feel I’ve definitely given more than my share to the company. And so, we’re working on one of six projects that are on my plate. And when I finish my task, my job is to give it to you, and you do some magic and the company ends up making money in the end. And everybody’s happy. Well, I happen to have a project right now where I’ve got one of those tasks and I need to get done for you. And it’s running a little bit late because whatever reason it fell down to the bottom of the pile and I’m just not able to get it done. And I’m thinking, “I did my 60 hours this week. It’s not like I haven’t done my job. Karla’s just not going to get it on Friday like I promised it.”

And let’s say, I gave it to you the following Thursday. So, I basically give it to you four working days late. But then you do your magic and the company makes money. I never hear anything else about it. So, I’m thinking everything’s fine. And then let’s say we’ve always done things that way. But then we decide to take a pause and let’s actually plan a project and have everybody face to face for two or three days. If you think about it, even if it’s just two days, that’s two lunches, that’s probably one team dinner, and that’s probably six or seven coffee breaks where we can actually have a dialogue and establish a relationship that we’re not going to get virtually. I mean, right now, even if we were on all day Zoom sessions, at some point, I’m going to put my headset down and go to get a cup of coffee in my kitchen and nobody’s walking with me.

But if I’m in a face to face environment, somebody is walking with me, we’re actually having a conversation. And so let’s say that we’re having one of these conversations, you and I, because we’re together for these two or three days, and I find out you have two kids about my kids’ age and we’re talking about that. And your kids are interested in soccer and baseball and my kids are interested in the same thing. And so now there’s a bond that’s beginning to form here. You’re no longer karla@acmecorporations.com, you’re actually Karla, the lady who has two kids, my kids’ age, and have a lot in common with. So let me go back into the room, and we’re looking at the project plan, and let’s say that my task, it feeds into you as one of those tasks, that if it’s late, the whole project is late.

And so I say to you, I say, “Karla, I don’t think this is right, because technically, I know for a fact on the last project we worked together on, I was three or four days late and the project didn’t finish late.” And you say, “Well, Clint, you’re right. You were three to four days late. And the project plan is correct because what happened is when I got it late from you, I had to make up for your lateness because I couldn’t afford to let the project be late. So, I ended up working two weekends in a row. And I got to tell you, you are not Mr. Popular around my household. Clint Padgett was a four-letter word for about three weeks in my house. Because over those two weekends that I had to work…”

You tell me, “Hey, I had to miss my son’s recital. I had to miss my daughter’s soccer match. These big events, I’m never going to get back. And I got to tell you, I was not happy with you.” And so now I start to feel bad. I’m thinking, “Well, that’s terrible. I would hate for somebody else to make me miss some big event in my kid’s life.” So when I go back to Atlanta and you stay on the West coast, you’re still karla@acmecorporations.com, but now the next project I have when I work with you, I’m going to make sure that I get my stuff done because I don’t want to be the reason that you’re going to be late and miss some big event in your kid’s life. So, when I’ve really done is, I’ve changed you from an email address, into a living, breathing, human being that I now feel accountable to.

And that relationship can be formed in just two or three days. And then literally the other 24 months of a project could be done 100% remotely, as long as you have established those bonds up front. So, for us, what we’ve found to be successful is we have those sessions up front, where we usually are together for three or four days, it depends on whether we do a training or not. And then the rest of the project, which some can be as long as two or three years. Now, we do all the Olympic planning for one of the major sponsors for the Olympics. We plan all their activations and we start planning those events two years in advance. But we go over two years in advance, and we have those face to face meetings that establish the bonds we need to be able to run the project.

Karla Nelson:  Yeah. I’ve noticed that, especially with all the working remotely now. I take physical handwritten notes with colored pens so I can remember things about people. Because when I’m face to face with them, I get the nonverbal, I get their face, just seeing their face in a 3D version. And I found that I have had to keep these notes next to my desk, plus everybody’s available. Now all of a sudden, we’re on… Six or eight, you’re getting Zoomed out throughout the day. And then I’m like, “Okay, who was that person?” And I never have that issue, Clint. I can remember my first clients, a lot of them I’m still friends with today. So, I think that’s really critical, and some really great points there and building that relationship. I think that’s amazing. So, with that, where can our listeners get of you, Clint?

Clint Padgett:  So, they can reach us at projectsuccess.com. Or they can find me at clintonmpadgett.com.

Karla Nelson:  Fantastic. Well, we really appreciate you being on the show and sharing your team brilliance. And also, the people part because as you know, on the People Catalyst Podcast, that in business and life relationships are everything. So, thank you for sharing, sir.

Clint Padgett:  My pleasure, thanks for having me.


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