Building a New Generation of Multicultural Project Managers
Vice President of Contract and Project Management and Head of the Global PMO
Our commitment to project success is rooted in the very values that have made Comau what it is today. With more than 13,500 employees distributed among the EMEA, NAFTA, LATAM and APAC regions, for a total of 33 locations in 17 countries, Comau has had to work better, smarter and more effectively with increasing focus on global project management. Roberto Guida, Vice President of Contract and Project Management and Head of the Global Project Management Office (PMO) offers an insight into project success on a multinational level.
Over the last few years, Comau has significantly strengthened its presence in the international market as a global provider of advanced manufacturing systems, innovative automation and service solutions for automotive and non-automotive companies. In 2007, due to this complex structure, a new central entity was created: the Contract and Project Management Office. Its purpose is to ensure the standardization of the processes related to contract management and facilitate the sharing of resources, methodologies, tools and techniques.
According to Roberto Guida, Vice President of Contract and Project Management and Head of the Global PMO, Comau chose to create a PMO with a central office, the Corporate PMO, and a number of offices at a regional level to support the company and facilitate the exchange of experiences among different countries and business realities. This solution not only ensures the proximity to the Steering Committee, and therefore visibility, but it also creates the possibility of acting effectively at a local level. Comau’s Project Management model, created following the standards of the Project Management Institute (PMI) has been spread throughout the global company and is now being shared with Customers and companies all over the world.
How does Project Management develop within Comau?
We developed a project – the Project Management Academy – and since 2007, more than 1,000 people of our project management team have been trained. Comau PM Academy was created to develop a culture oriented towards project management and skill and enhance the knowledge and culture of the PM family. The trainers of the Academy are Comau’s most capable employees. Comau PM Academy is a PMI-approved Global R.E.P. (Registered Education Provider) which means that Comau has been certified and can hold courses recognized by PMI. On the basis of the success of the PMO, in 2010 we extended the same approach to the management of risks, of contracts and of the activity at our Customers’ sites. In the Corporate Project Management organization, we created Risk Management, Contract Management and Site Management to assist our project managers – and not only – and to develop a “new generation” of project managers able to influence and manage, within the projects under their responsibility, both the strictly technical aspects and the human and relational aspects of the teams they guide.
Could you summarize the importance of Project Management for Comau in three key points?
I’d certainly say complexity, necessity for structure and urgency. I’ll try and make myself clearer. Complexity is what we face daily during our projects, and this regards at least two aspects: the complexity of the systems we have to build and the complexity of the context inside which we operate, which can be distributed and multicountry (both for us and our clients). This results in the necessity for a structure, without which we would not be able to organize and carry out our daily work. Let’s add that the market requires us to deliver results in times reduced by 30-50% compared to ten years ago. Competition among our clients has become very strong and this inevitably affects us. I think that we would not survive for long if we didn’t use project management.
We are talking about an increasingly chaotic global context. What does this imply in terms of challenges for the years to come?
The internationalization of our projects is an irreversible process. Our teams typically consist of people of at least 4-5 nationalities who work together on the same project, and this happens more and more now. Over and above the issues we encounter throughout the development of our projects (which are inevitable given the nature of our business) the fact that our teams are so diverse can make it hard to execute our work and can strongly affect the final results.
Speaking of multicultural teams, we know you have created a Multicultural Project Management Program. Could you tell us more about it?
As I was saying, the meeting of different cultures within our project teams has become crucial over the years. We noticed that working on processes, tools and methodology is essential, but it’s not enough. You can have the best formal project organization, yet if you fail in achieving cooperation inside the team the outcome of the whole operation will be inevitably spoiled.This is why we launched the Project Management Multicultural Program, with the ambitious objective of developing a new generation of project managers and project team leaders. These new managers and leaders will have to develop increasing sensitivity for the influence that human factors have on daily project work. In particular, within an intercultural context, it is necessary to understand that different cultures don’t always cooperate naturally. To do so, they need to have a specific condition that is deliberately created.
Could you provide further details about the Project Management Multicultural Program?
We started from a very practical concept. We knew that we could not deal with this theme only theoretically, so we put our efforts into developing practical tools that can be used by our project managers to carry out their projects. We created a toolbox to support our project managers and their teams. This toolbox consists of three parts: Building a Project Team, Managing a Project Team and Learning from a Project Team. As you can see, we provided our PMs with practical support to improve the integration INSIDE their teams throughout the entire life cycle of their projects.The program also includes a series of international workshops, during which the project managers can test the application of the toolbox. At the end of these workshops, we expect to have a real international network of project managers who are ready to adopt a new approach for their projects.
What does Project Management mean for your Customers?
Our projects are executed precisely because there are clients who require precise outcomes. We certainly benefit from being efficient in the delivery of these outcomes, but this benefit is extended to our Customers as well. The success of a project is a win-win situation for us and for our Customer just like failure turns into a loss-loss situation for both. Our Customers are well aware of this today, their level of maturity and self-awareness is much higher than in the past, and they are the first to ask for high-quality project management. They are also the first who, acknowledging the quality of the project management we provide, confirm that we are going in the right direction.
Does the maturity of the clients result in opportunities for Comau?
Undoubtedly, the first big opportunity is being able to sell our projects. Trust me, for many of our Customers one of the crucial factors when choosing suppliers for an important project is their project management maturity. In addition to this, since 2008 we have been asked to take care of the training aspect of project management, which is another indirect acknowledgement of our efforts.
About training, let’s talk about the PM Academy.
Yes. Creating an Academy, an internal structure dedicated to the development of the Project Management family, was definitely a winning choice. Over time, the PM Academy has become a Center of Excellence in project management inside the FCA group. It now offers training courses and support programs for the introduction to project management activities, not just for Comau or the FCA group, but for any client who might need it.
Could you provide some examples of the results you have achieved recently?
I’ll make a connection to what I said about the PM Multicultural Program. The toolbox we created for internal use was turned into a book, Managing Challenges Across Cultures - A Multicultural Project Team Toolbox, that was published in October 2015. In this book, the result of our work on multicultural cooperation is made available for everyone who might be interested. After an overview on the possible challenges, models, solutions and approaches to face multicultural issues, we include the actual toolbox and tools we developed. These tools are relevant to companies and managers outside the Comau world because they enable anyone to face the complexity of multicultural project management starting from something that can be used immediately.
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