VIE WPOIN TS
VOICES ON PROJECT MANAGEMENT
FROM THE BO
How a team of individual contributors came up with a strategy that saved
millions and delighted executive management.
BY PHIL PATRICK, PMP
schedule was our initial focus. Naturally, the team’s enthusiasm
grew as we began to see how our work would improve the
organization. The initial scope was cost savings for one specific
region, but senior managers agreed to expand the scope to the
entire enterprise and requested an action plan.
3. Present a compelling action plan.
When the time came to put the enterprise-wide action plan
in front of management, the goal was to cover all bases. I
didn’t expect many follow-up opportunities to impress. The
action plan targeted senior management in all relevant departments and included material for finance management and
customers. Senior managers had to have a firm enough grasp
of the activities and benefits to be able to convey the value
proposition to others. As a practical matter, they also needed
to understand how the benefits (e.g., cost savings, increased
productivity, improved quality, etc.) would be measured and
I used my understanding of governance processes and
interdepartmental relationships to develop a resource model
encompassing project team members throughout the organization. The IT structure was dynamic, so I continued to share
the resource plan with team members to ensure accuracy.
The action plan was developed with three principal goals:
1. Provide sufficient background to understand what was
required to complete the key milestones and demonstrate command of the technical tasks
2. Explain the total quantitative and qualitative benefits
4. Obtain organizational buy-in.
3. Specify the resources required
We developed an easy-to-follow, leave-behind document
after each meeting with management to facilitate their com-
munication with others.
There’s an old saying that goes, “If it’s to be, it’s up to me.”
But while leading change as an individual contributor in a
large organization, that couldn’t have been further from the
truth. For example, I relied heavily on the vice president of
network services to lead a coalition of senior managers over
vital engineering resources. I struggled with how and when
to follow up with executives to whom I rarely had exposure.
It all began with a chance elevator pitch. At the not-for-profit healthcare consortium Kaiser Permanente, projects are evaluated at monthly meetings to address the need for additional resources, funding and
the like. After a presentation in 2009, I ended up alongside
the senior vice president of the infrastructure management
group. I seized the opportunity to tell him about an idea that
could save substantial infrastructure operating costs. At the
organization, innovation and creative solutions have become
part of the culture, but its sheer size can make escalation and
That brief exchange blossomed into an action plan for a
multi-year, multimillion-dollar cost-savings initiative that is
helping achieve one of the organization’s key strategies.
1. Align with the executive vision.
As in many industries, executives in healthcare are tasked with
doing more with less. Improving cost structure was a recurring theme in our CIO’s message at town hall meetings. I saw
value in reducing operating expense tied to that vision—and
therefore determined my idea would likely be welcomed by
the senior leaders governing project funding.
I began discussions with project team members about
details. There would be a high level of complexity and risk in
dismantling a large, restrictive-legacy, private wide-area network. It had been patched with hundreds of expansions spanning more than a decade and equipment made by a bankrupt
supplier. After preliminary analysis, we began to see scenarios
in which the network cost savings would indeed be substantial
and new patient care technologies could roll out much sooner.
With that preliminary analysis and an informal vote of
confidence from the senior vice president, we intensified the
2. Assemble a skilled exploratory team.
Leaders at the bottom of the org chart can be highly influential. You make the first move, and others gradually join
in. My team pulled a few people together for weekly strategy
meetings. I began by reminding everyone that our mission was
tied to the CIO’s vision of reducing operating expense. Quantifying cost savings, scope of work, resource requirements and