“We built a team focused on program planning and
implementation that could partner with the broader
organization to get projects across the finish line.”
What’s the best
advice you’ve ever
that you’re passionate about and
everything else will
work itself out.
What’s the one skill
every project man-
ager should have?
Flexibility. Process is
important, but always
be adaptable enough
to get the job done.
Your favorite family
Every night when I
get home, all my four
sons want to do is
wrestle or play
football or basketball.
It’s good to end the
day with that.
age a change request? How do we assign ownership?
How do we construct a project plan and manage a
schedule?” We were behind the curve on a lot of the
essential elements to deliver a great product.
What did creating the PMO entail?
In the early days, a lot of it was what I call putting
plumbing in place: governance, structure, processes—
even a project inventory. We had to transform all of
that into a mechanism supporting executive decisions. We asked, “Are we aligned strategically with
what we’re trying to accomplish?” We executed
everything we set out to do on an enterprise level,
rather than a siloed fashion within a department.
How did employees initially respond to
the new PMO?
There were a lot of early responses like, “This PMO
team is a policing function. Are they really adding
value?” It took both project successes and people
seeing that these folks are capable of planning more
broadly and focusing all the parties on common goals.
How did those successes inform the PMO’s
position within the organization?
It got much more involved in business planning,
so that when we’re making an investment in a new
business or making a big change initiative, everyone is going in the same direction.
What has most enabled successful
Having executive sponsorship so that you can
make decisions quickly. Also—and maybe even
more important—having bright, capable, hard-working change leaders at the company.
How do you ensure that your project
practitioners have the skills they need?
We established something we call the PM Community, an internal community with best practices,
knowledge sharing and mentoring. Right now more
than 500 employees are part of the PM Community.
They have the opportunity to apply for a one-week
training program paid for by Southwest that helps
prepare people for PMI certification exams.
How has so much change affected South-
Because employees have realized that change is a constant, an ability and willingness to change has become
part of the organization’s DNA. As we implement
more change initiatives, we try to be very purposeful
about doing appropriate training and communication.
We also hire people who can embrace change.
How do you determine whether a change
initiative has worked?
At the highest level, we’re always looking at operating
revenues, return on invested capital, on-time performance and net promoter score—an outward-facing
customer metric. Those are four huge dials. We also
do a massive employee survey every other year.
Describe a change initiative that
improved project management
processes helped deliver.
We made a major shift in 2011: Instead of managing
everything at a system level—from how we manage capacity and fares across the network to how we
advertise—we built a geography-based regional management infrastructure. A transformation like this can
easily take a decade. We were able to make the turn in
What has that meant for reaching
2014 was our strongest financial performance in the
airline’s 43 years. Our executive team would definitely say that executing the strategic plan we laid
out five years ago has been the driving force in the
carrier’s current success. PM