What’s the one skill
every project manager
You need to understand different people
and different cultures.
Without that, you
won’t have a functional
What’s the best
you ever received?
“The tail always follows the head.” I never
ask my team to do
something I wouldn’t
What’s your favorite
activity off the clock?
Golfing—there’s no better place to golf than
What leads a client to sponsor these
A company might have grown—either through
acquisitions or organizational growth—and it might
now be in a situation where one part of the organization isn’t working the same way as another part.
So executives want to streamline or consolidate
how they do business. They look to us to recommend what the new process should be. It could simply mean they need to modernize the technology
they use. But typically they want to change the way
their people work. That’s the transformation.
What’s the primary challenge you encounter?
Resistance to change. In every organization, there
are always people who don’t want to change what
they’ve been doing for many years. You can always
make the technology work. The challenge is changing the habits of people who have to use it.
How do you change habits?
Everyone is more receptive to change if they are
involved in the process. You need to make them
feel they’re a driving part of it, even though it
might have been with a guided hand. That requires
a little finesse. Trying to change people through
brute force hardly ever works.
Can you offer an example of finessed change?
I had a project with three very independent business units that were equal in terms of what they
brought to the company. Before I could put a new
system and process in place, I had to reach consensus among them. I had a number of workshops
where I had equal representation from each business unit. Through these workshops we got to an
agreement about how the transformation would
work. Then we staffed a joint project team with
representatives from all three units.
So you give all stakeholders a voice?
A voice—and also help. Everyone needs to know
How do you ensure project benefits are
they can’t just voice their opinion and then sit back—
that’s the easiest thing in the world. You also have to
get their active participation and commitment.
Before you start the project, you have to get an
agreement on what project success is—not just
finishing on time or on budget. Without clear
agreement, you might complete the project, but
along the way people have made so many change
requests that what they wanted in the beginning is
not what they actually get in the end.
How do you interact effectively with the
To communicate effectively with the C-suite, I
familiarize myself with their industry and their
industry’s challenges. I have to speak their language. By clicking with them, I establish trust.
As someone from Denmark who’s been
working in Asia for over a decade, how do
cultural differences affect your work?
In Europe, people are very straightforward in
expressing what they’re happy or unhappy with,
or what’s working or not working. In Asian cultures, there’s a reluctance to say there’s a problem. The answer is normally “everything is fine.”
You seldom hear a “no.” So you have to probe a
little bit more.
How do you negotiate the language barrier—
given how crucial stakeholder buy-in is?
You become really good at reading body language
and emotions. And you don’t need to be fluent in
the local language; if you know a little, experience
will tell you if there’s something you need to drill
into. You also need to have a couple trusted people
on your team who will tell you what the problem
really is, even when something else was communi-
cated to you. PM
“You can always make the technology work.
The challenge is changing the habits of
people who have to use it.”