PMTips: Today we are interviewing Jimmy Godard, an eminent and world-renowned project and program manager with over 20 years of experience.
Jimmy is a visionary IT program manager who is accomplished at strategic planning, process improvement, and re-engineering. With a solid background in business and technology leadership, Jimmy is one of the best globally recognized leaders for establishing organizational IT changes. For over 20 years he has led global changes with diverse teams, coached IT leaders, and helped non-profit organizations in making actionable decisions to support business needs. Moreover, because of his strong transformational leadership skills he is a popular international speaker, IT advisor, and project as well as program manager.
Jimmy, thank you for making the time for this interview with PMtips. We are honored that you have accepted our invitation.
Jimmy Godard: The pleasure is all mine, Ana. Thank you!
PMTips: More than 20 years ago you started your career at the Bank of America as a bank teller, and by climbing steadily and ambitiously up the ladder you now work as an SVP Program Manager. Can you tell us how your experiences of working in the banking sector have affected the development of your career?
Jimmy Godard: Sure. Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher, once said, "change is the only constant in life." I learned the statement to be true for me during my first thirty days in the banking industry. I started as a "peak time teller." My primary objective was to help manage the bank's daily cut-off times that used to be 2:00 pm. It is the time where the current business day ends. The next processing day begins and mark the "rollover" to the next business day.
I realized later that change could be fun if you embrace it. The best way to manage change is to be active in the process. It is to make it happened instead of letting it happen to you. The understanding of that statement has been the driving force of my career, professionally, and academically.
I welcome change and innovation in all that I do. I have, since my early teller years, developed my change management skills holistically to handle changes in my personal, my volunteer, and professional lives. My change management skills have become more relevant than ever, with my current engagement in digital transformation projects and initiatives with Bank of America. I would tell you that the advent of the Fourth Industrialized Revolution or Industry 4.0 has introduced various changes in organizations worldwide in many disciplines such as psychology, behavioral science, engineering, and system thinking. I’ve come to understand that we need effective change management more than ever to be successful and organizational changes do not occur in isolation. They affect the people, the processes whether they are existing or new, and the technology.
PMTips: At some point in your career you worked as a head coach at Sherwood Soccer League for 5 years. Did you bring some of the experiences and lessons you learned during that time into your project management practice? Were your coaching skills helpful when you started leading project teams?
Jimmy Godard: Oh, yes, definitely. And I even would like to start at the beginning, to express the gratitude and also the benefits of bringing emerging different skills from different avenues of my life. My leadership and project management journey started back in high school. I was an astute student president and led numerous events. I have brought the same eagerness and energy into my professional career and also my soccer career, my soccer coaching career. I have begun my journey at Barnett Bank in Florida, which is now Bank of America 22 years ago. My first function was the position of a peak time teller. In that position, I led the merger readiness with Nations Bank for our local branch. Today, I am blessed to hold several leadership positions in the company and other professional for-profit and non-profit organizations.
Whether it is being a teller, whether it is being coaching and my current position, I firmly believe we are on a journey, we are all on a journey. The journey has some highs and lows. I have developed new skills, tips, and tricks along the way. I have been able to successfully apply these skills in coaching my kids at soccer for the past nine years and also coaching basketball. I led a youth group in my early twenties. I led the Project Management Institute Portland Chapter to new heights. I support currently various PMI, and International Institute Business Analysis (IIBA) chapters, churches, and government agencies at strategy sessions, workshops, and seminars. I also lead major enterprise-wide projects with global ramifications.
The experiences, lessons learned, tips, and tricks that I have gotten over the years are always present in all areas of my life. I practice my project management skills in coaching 2nd through 6th graders at soccer. I also leverage the wisdom gain from coaching at communicating to stakeholders plainly and directly. Each area may have its required hard skills. The beauty is the right application of these skills at the right time.
The exciting part for me is that the journey continues. I am still on the journey of learning, of growing, sharing, and leading. I continue to deepen my experiences and lessons learned in implementing challenging projects, coaching soccer, mentoring, and hosting sessions in strategies, leadership, team building, and goal setting.
PMTips: What differentiates the work on projects in the banking sector from the work in other sectors? What are the most common challenges you as a project manager have faced while working in that sector?
Jimmy Godard: One of the benefits of the banking sector is that the work is not homogenous. I have had the opportunity to lead various programs and project types. Almost every aspect of the banking sector involves project management. It requires effective project management to manage the building of new branches, risk management, call center services, information technology, ATM networks and applications, card services, online and telephone banking, and even process improvements.
One of the main differences between the banking and non-banking sectors is the level of rigor and timeline by which we execute projects. Banks must operate within some guidelines and the oversight of change advisory boards, regulators, shareholders, third party vendors, and affiliates. The processes are more repeatable and constrained. The non-banking areas have more tolerance for risks, trials, and errors in my experience. In the government sector for instance, the challenges have to do with legislation and regulation that may require some activities that impact the agility of getting things done faster. In the non-profit and volunteering sectors that I have been involved, usually, the people who have the will may not have the skills and require a more extended time to complete some of the activities.
PMTips: During your Senior Change Manager role at the Bank of America you were responsible for leading the overall infrastructure of the global Desktop Transform program, where you led a team of business managers, engineers and developers working to upgrade more than 400,000 desktop and laptop computers globally to a standard Windows 7 operating system. What challenges did you face during the implementation of all these changes on a global level, and how important was it to complete the implementation successfully, considering that this was a banking sector project?
Jimmy Godard: Oh, sure. In the banking sector, for some projects, failure is not an option. The migration of the desktops from Windows XP to Windows 7 for me was one of them. Did I face challenges? Yes, I did. The challenges that I faced were not that different from other projects. The scope of cost was different in terms of the magnitude of the program. They were around as any other projects, scope, timeline, risks, and communication. The project team faced difficulties dealing with application discovery, application compatibility, adequate stakeholder engagement, and also training of users from an all operating system to a non-operating system. It is the program for sure that has defined my leadership philosophy. I was leading such a transformation for the organization at the global level juggling the intricacies of people, processes, and technology. It required strong leadership from our management as well to ensure we addressed these issues and delivered the project on time and on budget.
PMTips: While working as an AVP Technology Project Manager you led a cross-functional and multi-level team, where your work was focused on improving internal communication within the organization. How challenging was it to develop a highly performing global team? In addition, how did you manage to inspire a sense of loyalty and make the team members embrace the fact that in order to achieve success as a team they would have to collaborate with each other?
Jimmy Godard: That is an excellent question, Ana. And this portion of my career really is what gets me excited when it comes to team building. The first question, how challenging was it to develop a highly performing global team? In retrospect, I have learned a lot and I have grown since then. I work in a matrix organization. The development of a high performing global team is a constant challenge. Each project requires new members and most of us work virtually. The scenario is the same in other sectors that I discovered, even when we work non virtually and however we may not be co-located. Some colleagues of mine think the time I spend on team development is unwarranted. I do not minimize their skepticism. There are a lot of wasteful activities that many organizations do. I maintain the rigor on team building because of the results. Work teams that function at the higher stages of group development I have discovered that they deliver projects faster, have less distraction and focus on what matters most than groups performing at the lower stages of group development.
Now, the second question, how did I manage to inspire a sense of loyalty and make the team members embrace the fact that they achieve success as a team? First of all, I strongly believe that we manage things when we lead people. I cannot take the full credit for the team loyalty. Multiple international research have revealed that people like to work for leaders who have an inspiring vision for the future and lead with their values. I share the vision of the project with the team and I am an integral member. I consider them colleagues instead of manager and direct reports. I believe partnering with others creates a team spirit. Members are clear about the goals of the project. They know their roles and responsibilities. They work either independently, as a unit, and in subgroups when necessary. I am aware of the leadership styles that are necessary for the team to meet their needs. I encourage an open communication structure that allows all members to share their input with the team whether it’s on a one to one basis or openly with the team by doing short meetings or one hour meeting and so forth. Some other helpful, successful drivers that I’ve discovered are the team's structure, discussion, decision making, norms, individual differences, cooperation, and something I cannot emphasize enough is also conflict management. Conflict is not always bad, as long as we know how to manage well, to allow everybody to openly share their thoughts, their innovative ideas for the success of the team, the project, the and the organization.
PMTips: You have been known to be passionate about achieving long-term success and encouraging teamwork. In your experience what are the best ways managers can boost team morale and performance within the teams they manage? How can they maximize the efficiency and productivity of their teams?
Jimmy Godard: Awesome. I am a fanatic when it comes to long term success and how we get there. I love this African Proverb that says, "If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together." Therefore, we must embrace teams to obtain sustainable results. If managers can do it by themselves, then why do they need teams? If they cannot, why don't they invest time and effort in their group? There is not a silver bullet, to my experience and knowledge, of which I am aware of boosting team morale and performance. There are some principles. It starts with the leaders having an understanding of who they are. People in a leadership position should understand that they manage things, and they lead people. They operate a schedule, budget activities, but they lead people. Some believe it is semantic managing people, leading people. I firmly and strongly believe it is not. When we think we lead people, we then have to provide them a reason to follow us. The question I ask of myself is why the team should follow me? Why should your team follow you? If we were to remove my authority, would they still follow my?
Followers have the same willingness to follow as leaders to lead. Leaders must have a vision, a reason for others to believe. Then, dealing with people requires caring. Do the leaders see the employees as individuals or working units? I often treat my early morning meetings as a talk show. In the first ten minutes before the meeting, we get to know a team member. We ask questions about their hobbies, their families, and themselves. It is a voluntary exercise of course, but most people enjoy telling others about themselves. In my situation, I work remotely – we don’t have much time to do networking – so getting to know my teammates around the world it’s really productive. Leaders must treat their employees with dignity, respect, and thank them for their contribution. Be courageous to stand for the team and understand the value of the small benefits. Eliyahu Goldratt said it best, "Tell me how you measure me, and I will tell you how I will behave. If you measure me in an illogical way, do not complain about illogical behavior."
Now, the second question you mentioned is how can leaders maximize the efficiency and productivity of their teams. It has been my experience that most workers want to do their best at their work. When they discover the passion behind what they do, they will unleash their volition. The question is what type of leadership style is appropriate for the team. Some workers require guidance, some value laisser faire leadership – “I know what I’m doing, don’t macro manage me,” – and some other thrive for more responsibility. Leaders who understand their team well develop the norms to encourage high performance and quality. They set the expectations to be successful, they encourage innovation, and pay attention to the details.
PMTips: One of the most amazing aspects of your career is that you are working on service projects in countries such as Uganda, Cambodia, Haiti and Nigeria. What inspired you to involve yourself in projects in these countries? Can you share an interesting experience from that time that perhaps changed your view on project management as a profession?
Jimmy Godard: Oh, that’s a good one. Before we call ourselves anything, we must learn how to be human first. It has always been my enthusiasm to perform philanthropic activities around the world. I do find some enjoyment in helping, and giving back to others, and, most importantly, those who may be the least fortunate in resources. I am rom Haiti. The last decade I have gotten a new and stronger appreciation for my home country and culture. I believe to have the obligation to support the country in any ways that I can. I share similar desire with other countries such as Cambodia – that I have been more than three times – Kenya, and Uganda – that I’ve been couple of times now.
I did have an exciting experience of about five years ago. I completed a major program that was very intense and dreadful to me, personally and spiritually. Once I completed the program, I took a week off. I went to Cambodia in a service project before I started a new program. Our team in Cambodia assisted more than 750 people with health, dental, and eye issues. The people in those remote villages were happy, they were thankful, and grateful. It then occurs to me that we all have the power to impact someone’s life positively in any and all interactions. I soon develop a renewed passion for what I do and a new perspective. There is the human viewpoint of project management.
Project managers must deliver projects within scope, on schedule, and under budget, preferably. The question is, at what cost? Is it worth it to burn bridges, to be the bully in the room, to run over people to do something that is temporary in nature? Or, is it worth it to care for people, encourage them to improve, motivate them to innovate, and allow them the opportunity to grow first as people, which in turn will help shape their future success and the organizations in which they work? Project managers must know their leadership compass. They must understand they manage projects, the routine tasks, but they lead the people. They lead the people at delivering the project.
PMTips: You were elected president of the PMI Portland Chapter several times, where you were responsible for overseeing the chapter and the board and making sure they functioned in accordance with chapter policies and bylaws. Considering that you volunteered for the position, what led you to involve yourself in the work of the chapter? How important is the role of the chapter president in the implementation of the standards which the PMI organization stands for?
Jimmy Godard: I am very grateful for the project management institute, Portland chapter. I joined the chapter about thirteen years ago or so, because I was looking for excellence in project management. My first volunteer position was Director of Asset. I say asset without an "s" because the chapter then owned one projector. My function was to bring the projector to monthly chapter meetings and other events. I lobbied to add the "s" in assets, so that we would acquire more equipment. I moved from being the director of assets to VP of Operations, then VP of Programs, then President-Elect, President and Past President, and now I’m currently a mentor still volunteering at the chapter.
The chapter has significant importance and responsibility in the community. It is where people interested in project management, current practitioners should go to learn key PM concepts, learn new best practices, and shift to being a project leader. In my function as the President, I worked with the board, 104 active volunteers, expert speakers, practitioners and leaders in the community. Also other chapter leaders in the region. Our PMI mentor and support team, they have great resources and also I work with them to implement the standards of project management and best practices, not only in Portland, in our local community, the region – we belong to PMI Region 1 – and also globally, as I interact with other colleagues and also project managers.
PMTips: Having had the chance to speak at a number of PM events, you have become a globally recognized keynote speaker. What kind of impact has this experience had on your career development? Would you say that these events are an opportunity only for those who visit them, or is it a career opportunity for the speakers as well?
Jimmy Godard: In recent years, I have had the humble opportunity to speak at various project management events globally. It is a responsibility that I take seriously. I can recall when my young self was thirsty for knowledge. My passion is for learning. I conduct constant research on leadership, strategy, team building, digital transformation, and project management best practices. I practice the knowledge learned. I have tested many of the theories of leadership, strategies, and so forth. Then, I share my knowledge and experience with the audience.
The journey of keynoting and speaking has had a significant impact on my career development. I can relate to Steve Jobs, who once said, "Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish." I am hungry for knowledge, and I like to have fun. I seek for continuous improvement and curious about new ways of doing things. I have become more self-aware and authentic through those speaking engagements. My presentations, even my keynotes, are very interactive. Learning is not a one-way event. I learn from the attendees, as well. I believe if you stop learning, you will stop growing in time.
I encourage everyone to attend some workshops or seminars in their field. Maya Angelou exclaimed, "When you know better, you do better."
Great leaders understand the impact of the depth and the breadth of their knowledge on everything that they do. The depth of our knowledge is how knowledgeable we are about a specific topic, domain, or industry. Project managers must have the depth knowledge in project management, but the breadth of our knowledge is how knowledgeable we are, the know-how, and experiences about multiple topics, domains, industries, hard skills, and soft skills. Rest assure throughout one's career; the depth and breadth of your knowledge will increase, hopefully.
I hope the speakers understand the purpose of what they are doing. Anyone can make a living career in what they do. I am sure the attendees can identify what’s because it’s authentic and what’s because it’s not. What I will stress, speakers out there who speak about project management and so forth, please spend the time to research your topic, your knowledge, so you can share the right knowledge to the attendees, so when they leave the session they will leave with accurate information and they can implement it for their professional development growth.
PMTips: Jimmy, in one of your many presentations you spoke about Big Data and project management. Big Data is a game changer, and the new data-and-technology-driven era is taking huge strides in all industries. Can you tell us what, according to you, the impact of Big Data on project management is, and also what makes a good big-data program manager?
Jimmy Godard: I have been researching Big Data for close to a decade now. I am a data fanatic. I adhere to the notion of Edwards Deming that “In God we trust, everyone else brings data.” I have dealt with exciting data technologies. They sparked my interest so much that I am now doing my doctorate dissertation in digital transformation. They have also helped me become more aware of the upcoming tools, methodologies, and technologies that can bring new insights into massive data sets. The impact of big data on project management is on the organization itself, the technology, the processes, and the people.
There have been various types of big data projects. Big data analytics revenue will soon be beyond 200 billion dollars in healthcare alone by 2022, according to Statista. Many companies leverage the volume of data, the speed, the various type of data, whether it is structured, unstructured, semi-structured, the value, and the veracity to transform their business and gain some competitive edge in the marketplace. The digital imperative is real for many executives. I’ve talked to a lot of people in this area. An index of digital maturity from the MIT Center for Digital Business and revealed about 66% of companies are at the beginning stages, 14% of some are conservatives, 6% tend to take an aggressive stance in adopting these technologies without adequate coordination, and 15% have some experience in the emerging digital technologies.
Who will implement the upcoming big data and digital transformation projects? Project managers have the most significant incentives to familiarize themselves with the new technologies, to deepen their knowledge on the matter. They will then position themselves to deliver successful projects.
PMTips: During another of your presentations, titled Move Forward With 360° Thinking, you claimed that a thriving organization compels their leadership to think resourcefully and innovatively, and encourages them to embrace a 360° Thinking. What is the concept of 360° Thinking? How can the leaders of today transform their way of thinking?
Jimmy Godard: Wow, a very passionate topic of mine. The job of leadership is to move forward with 360 degree thinking. This means to think globally. This means to welcome your past experiences, other people inputs, and move forward. No longer can organizations afford a single, tunnel vision thinking. It is expensive, shallow, and demoralizing.
There is a bilateral interaction between Leaders and followers, and it’s not a one size fit all approach. For leaders to lead, they need not only exceptional talent but also the ability to attract followers. Regrettably, however, it’s becoming harder to get people to follow. The problem is that followers get described largely in terms of their leaders’ qualities. In other words, many see followers as merely responding to a leader’s charisma or caring attitude. It is a flawed thinking. Followers have their own identify. They are as powerfully driven to follow as leaders are to lead. Leaders cannot do it alone.
This African proverb that carries much weight for me and I mentioned it, “If you want to go far, you must go with the team.” Therefore leaders in order to implement and sustain significant change in the organizations, you need to embrace people around you. Leadership and organizational change start with thinking: thinking about problems, thinking about possibilities and thinking about capabilities. But thinking never occurs in a vacuum. Long gone are the days when you see a chief executive officer would go on a weekend getaway and with a towel over their head and come back and say “Yay, I’ve got the strategy for the organization.”
No, thinking is of course a social activity that leverage the power of people coming together to brainstorm, to generate ideas and to share those ideas. Everybody has a different reality due to their background, culture, work experience, intellect, and life experience. How does one take all of that into consideration when moving anything forward?
360 thinking means: [first], exercise mastery over the process of social thinking in order to engage others to participate and also to listen to them; second is to embrace your past, live in the present, and courageously step into the future; third it is to generate innovative ideas and to bring changes that is needed, not only in your team, in your organization, but also into our world.
PMTips: What kind of advice would you give young professionals who are at the very start of their careers in project management? Which skills should they focus on developing in order to lead projects successfully?
Jimmy Godard: I used to be a young professional back in the days. I think I still am. I see myself in the crowd at each of my presentations. I see those new college graduates, those young project managers, those young professionals – they have the fire. I speak to them. I speak their language. I understand them. I mentor them. I tell them to develop and know their leadership compass, know and develop leadership compass, because they are on a journey. I concur with John Donahoe, who said, "leadership is a journey, not a destination. It is a marathon, not a sprint. It is a process and not an outcome."
Becoming a successful project manager begins with the understanding that successful project managers manage things, and they lead people. Leading people requires a framework, a set of principles, guidance, a toolkit on what leaders must know and do. Leaders must lead with their values. A leader's underlying values have an impact on soft aspects of leadership. They have to be genuine, honest, and honorable, responsible for the clarity of roles, expectations, goals, and requirements. They must create involvement, commitment, and motivation. For instance, it is advantageous for leaders to be self-aware, to be authentic and trustworthy.
I label that the SAT of leadership, self-awareness, authenticity and trust. It is beneficial for leaders to have a vision they can articulate. It is not enough to tell people to deliver a project. Why should they? Yes, they have bills, they must pay the bills so they need a job. But, besides that I would go further and encourage young professionals to have a vision for their life. It takes courage to have a vision in which first you have to believe and then to make it available to others to see and to believe. Think about this quote from Aristotle, "You will never do anything in this world without courage. It is the greatest quality of the mind next to honor." Great leaders do not stand behind the decisions that everyone supports. They stand behind what they believe is right, regardless of the amount of conflict, limitation, and criticism.
Then, I would advise the young professionals, they must comprehend the depth and breadth of their knowledge. They must deepen their knowledge, their understanding by attending conferences, seminars, volunteering, and glean up to people who know more than them. They need to seek to be in a room with people smarter than them; it would be a sign that they are seeking for knowledge. Finally, they must know how to lead others, build collaboration, and teamwork to get things done. They must lead a team different from how they lead a group of people, because how you lead a group, and how you lead a team is not the same thing. I have many colleagues, other project managers who do not understand the practical difference between those two, groups and team. They treat the overall project stakeholders, which is a group of people the same way as they manage their direct project team, which should be their team.
The leadership compass, which is my signature keynote and workshop, is a reminder that the journey of leadership does not have a prescribed path. More than 600,000 people on a yearly basis embark on a leadership journey. It is time to stop winging it and learn some best practices.
PMTips: Jimmy, thank you for making the time to speak with us today and most importantly, thank you for broadening our views on project management. It was a great pleasure.
Jimmy Godard: Thank you so much, Ana. The pleasure was all mine.
Interview conducted by Ana Mitevska