Making progress in project and program management
means educating the people and changing the culture.
So it’s a long-lasting investment, and it has to be
understood as a long-lasting investment.
What’s the best
you ever received?
A colleague once gave
me wise advice in the
form of a riddle: “How
do you eat an elephant?
The answer: bite by bite.”
In other words, don’t get
paralyzed by the sum of
What’s the one skill
every project manager
My wife and I are
involved in Scouting
activities. We help
experience nature, and
learn how to develop
themselves and how
That situation highlighted the need to launch a project management improvement plan throughout Airbus. We were far from the benchmark of delivering
that aircraft on time and within cost—which is not
a small matter if you look at the € 10 billion to € 12
billion investment of a new aircraft development.
It got to a point where any more delayed developments would have endangered the company.
So the crisis led the organization to look at its
project management processes?
The crisis mobilized us to recognize that proper
project management improves efficiency. We had
to take corrective action to improve drastically and
invest in our project management abilities. Inadequate project management was not the only cause
of the crisis, but it certainly was a major contributor.
How did the center help improve
On one key project, the A350 XWB airliner, we
performed a risk analysis and executed a risk mitigation plan. Last year, we delivered the project on
time to our customer, Qatar Airways, which has
expressed the utmost satisfaction with the product.
It’s now in operation daily.
Two years after we started the center, we
launched the development of the A320neo (new
engine option) aircraft. The first delivery is on
schedule for the end of this year. We have been
perfectly on time. There was a lot of coordination
of the supply chain, the engineering, the customers. We have been analyzing lessons learned from
our projects and applying all of them to implement
best practices. And we have determined that, in
the future, we can develop improvements of the
neo engine in 30 percent less time.
Your CEO, Fabrice Brégier, said that Airbus
last year became a faster, simpler, more
agile company. What does that mean for the
In 2014, the company invested a lot into culture,
asking people to work in agile ways so that we can
go from a business case to market in less than six
months for the A330neo aircraft launch. We’re
working in a much more agile way than in the
past, and that means a lot of changes in the mindset in the operation. Making progress in project
and program management means educating the
people and changing the culture. So it’s a long-lasting investment, and it has to be understood as
a long-lasting investment.
Can you talk about the challenge of changing
As a man with five children, educating my children
is a challenge in itself. Educating a company of
more than 60,000 adults is a bigger challenge. The
Centre of Competence has worked to change the
culture from one focused on technical engineering
skills to one that also features professional project
management skills and techniques.
When you get the first project successes, people
tend to think, “Well, we’ve done the job.” But we
have to maintain our efforts and continue to educate
them. Year after year, we try to find ways to reach
people and educate them more. We support project
managers to become certified with PMI. Once they
have the technique, we also develop the soft skills,
since project management is not just technique.
How does the center’s training program
educate project managers?
We have set up a full certification program, in
which project managers go from iron to platinum
based on markers such as, “Have I been responsible
for a project team? Have I interacted with customers? Have I worked in different divisions of the
company?” The Project Management Professional
(PMP)® certification takes place between bronze
and silver. The levels also depend on the number of
years of successful work. The highest level requires
more than 15 years of experience in many areas. So
the training program helps everyone understand
how they should develop themselves. PM