Improving project delivery performance by developing strong project management capabilities for people at all levels of the organisation
Medtronic is a global leader in medical technology, services and solutions. With roots in Ireland since 1981, the company now employs more than 4,000 people across five sites in Galway, Dublin and Athlone. The Parkmore Business Park West facility features a Centre of Excellence for Operations and R&D to support Global Cardiac & Vascular Businesses, as well as a Customer Innovation Centre. The Mervue operations focus on the development of Respiratory & Monitoring Solutions. Medtronic Athlone manufactures airways products and also features an R&D Center of Excellence.
Medtronic is divided up into many businesses. In Coronary, we specialize in balloon and stent cardiac treatments. I am the Head of the Coronary PMO. So we develop products and process improvements to a project infrastructure for the business. I was right there at the genesis of the project management office in 2005 when there were just two of us and my first job was as a Project Manager.
From its infancy as a competency in the company, Medtronic has grown its people’s project management capability resulting in significant improvement in its project delivery predictability and performance and ultimately the results for the business.
When we started back in 2005, Medtronic hadn't invested in project management as a competency or even called it out as a specific competency. We had a problem statement in that we were not being very effective in our execution on our projects and we found that we weren't getting ahead of risks. We wanted to improve our performance because we were not executing and we weren't meeting our commitments. We were communicating a launch stage and we were missing deadlines with frequency. This was what sparked our journey.
We found we didn't have clear visibility of the critical path and issues coming out of left field. The team leaders of the various project teams would have doubled up as the Project Manager. We had invested a lot in the technical skillsets of our R&D pool and the general employee skill base. However project management was in its infancy in Medtronic and it wasn't a defined career path.
So the approach we took to addressing the problem statement was based on three tenets – Project Management, People and Process. ‘Project Management’ was all about tightening up project management methods and getting projects more structured and in control. ‘People’ was about making sure we're putting the right talent on the teams. ‘Process’ was focused around having good predictive engineering.
While we wanted to make sure that the projects were getting managed with the right tools and techniques that were out there, we realised we had to tighten up on making project management a distinct function and career in our business. Instead of Team Leaders doubling up as Project Managers - not only doing their project execution responsibilities but also managing the project management infrastructure, the Gantt, risks issues and all that goes with project management - we decided to split that out.
The core team leader would be allowed to focus exclusively on driving the project focusing on the strategic management of the project within the framework of the business. All the project management activities were assigned to a dedicated Project Manager. We also wanted to make sure that we were making and developing an attractive career path for people who want to potentially go develop as Project Managers. It was very mature of Medtronic to make a conscious effort to build out that strategy and make project management a discreet competency.
The first objective was to build our Project Managers - so we were looking to hire people and get them in, get them PMP® certified; PMBOK trained and deploy these Project Manager's effectively on projects.
Then we decided that the project management skillset is not the sole purview of the Project Manager. We felt that all the team needs to be trained to a certain standard with a minimum capability in project management. Our structure for developing a product or delivering a project relies on a core team. This is a cross functional, high level empowered team where some functions in those teams - be it Quality, Operations or, R&D - would have very large extended teams and a lot of responsibilities. So they need to be able to project manage their function as well. There needs to be project management capability deep in those teams with the role of the Project Manager and the Core PMO Team being to stitch it all together.
In approaching how we would train and develop people as project managers or in the subsequent stage in building the project management ethos throughout the teams, we considered using our own in-house training group. However, we felt that we were not the experts in that area and looked for an external specialist in project management training. It was from that selection process that Velopi first started working with us.
Initially we thought Velopi was just going to be another vendor delivering some training for us. However, from our initial engagement of Velopi, their collaborative approach, the rapport we developed and the quality of their training, we very quickly made the decision that this was our vendor of choice with respect to project management training. The really big part of Velopi’s value proposition to us is how open they are to collaborating with us and developing tailored packages to suit the different requirements of the teams. We are very proud of our resulting portfolio of offerings for core team members and the cross functional leaders who are going to be supporting products and projects.
Our relationship with Velopi has consequently grown over the last 14 years and the rest is history with respect to Velopi’s involvement with Medtronic and the very strong relationship we’ve grown to with Velopi today as a partner in developing our people’s project management competencies.
We're seeing the results where it matters - in the business metrics, in more predictable projects and in our people’s project management competencies. We operate a simple execution score model year on year for measuring our performance where each project team is asked at the beginning of the fiscal year to identify specific goals for each project up to a maximum of three goals per quarter up to a maximum of 12. A very simple calculation run monthly and an ongoing basis with monthly reviews. If we hit all 12, that's 100%. Either the goals are hit or missed. The PMO vets these goals as key indicators from the teams and are invariably linked to the critical path. If there’s slippage on one of these goals, there's a direct correlation potential for slippage on the full back end - so you can mobilize very quickly to address issues.
From where our aggregate execution score was down in the mid-thirties, we hit nearly 70% last fiscal year. What's the right number? You might ask the question and we don't know yet. We don’t think 100% is the right number as we’d clearly not be challenging ourselves enough with potential sandbagging in there or maybe we over resourced. 100% is not healthy. You need some misses. You need to be pushing to maximize your resources. Our aim is to get the number higher than last year and that’s what we’ve done each of the last five years. With our scores improving, we are becoming more predictable. Targeting 70 to 75% means we are not in bad shape and there’s a new level we can now plan for.
In terms of Velopi’s performance in helping us deliver these performance improvements, the objective metrics are the most telling. In a company where training happens on a daily basis, across a range of disciplines and Vendors, Medtronic uses a very standardized, consistent feedback tool. While it’s a bit of a blunt instrument, it’s very powerful in enabling comparison across vendors and this is what the Senior Leadership looks at, especially when they are setting budgets for the year. Any training delivered by Velopi is up there amongst the highest across the organization and the feedback has being consistently excellent over the last 14 years. Our people enjoy training with Velopi and they don’t see it as abstract, classroom type stuff. Velopi’s training is very, very practical and tactical whereby you can immediately start to create your registers and your structure and deploy it on your day to day work.
Martin Faherty, PMO, R&D Manager, Medtronic, 2019