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PM Leadership Connect

Lt. Col. L Shri Harsha (Retd.), Secretary and Treasurer, PMI Bangalore India Chapter

Coordinated by the PM Essence Editorial Team

Q1. Tell us something interesting about yourself. Maybe something that is not commonly known to most people.

I am a restless person, eager to do lot of things and move on in life. I believe in deriving maximum output from the 24 hours we have every day. Personally, I have kept myself engaged constructively by indulging in a range of activities. I have acquired multiple skills, experiment with new ones even today and push myself constantly. From cooking, to sewing and stitching, farming, driving trucks, organizing charity events, multiple sports with a decent representation at State and university levels are some of the areas where I have stuck my fingers in. I have launched multiple initiatives, but over the years I have realized that I need to spend time to stabilize what I start before transitioning it to the operations mode. That is why at the Chapter Leader’s role, I express my concerns on starting many things without a stabilization and transition plan up front.

Q2.What about your life in the Army? How has it influenced you? Has it made you a better Project Manager?

The Army is a game changer. It teaches you what life is all about. The discipline, team work, leadership development and focus on the job are some of the values that the Army imbibe in you. Yes, my service in the Army has made me a better Project Manager. In a nutshell Project Management is all about delivering results with what you have and not waiting for something that is not immediately available. Including war operations, every deployment of the armed forces is a project and we get the opportunity to experiment with all the tools and techniques defined in the PMBOK. At the end of the day all that matters is whether you delivered or not, and very rarely has the Army failed in delivering results.

Q3.Tell us about your journey and how you reached where you are?

My professional journey began as an experiment, doing whatever came my way, just for the heck of it. Starting as a contractor, my Army entry was an accident, but, when it happened, I said “let me try”. The trial continued for about 22 years, after which I decided to hang my uniform. During my final years in the Army, I was initiated to the world of organized Project Management. Armed with a PgMP and a PMP , my journey post retirement has also been an experiment and I have done well for myself in all my experiments. From establishing myself as a trainer, to taking up troubled projects and successfully completing them, I have experimented with different formats of engagements – freelancer, consultant and full-time employee. I have held C level roles where I was answerable to the entire spectrum of stakeholders. I have worked in the domain of IT & ITES, Infrastructure, HR Analytics, Government support roles, including forensic performance audits. There has never been a dull moment in the last 33 years and I continue to learn with every engagement.

Col Harsha

Q4. What do you consider is your greatest achievement so far (both in the Army and outside)?

My greatest achievement while in the Army was when, as a young Captain, with about five years of experience, my team retrieved a stranded Airbus in a record time frame of 6 hours. This was a task that seasoned professionals, including expats from Airbus and Indian Airlines had attempted for over three days and failed. We took on the challenge with a very aggressive time commitment, typical of a hot-blooded Army youngster who thinks that he can move the world, and to everyone’s surprise, we achieved it. That letter of appreciation from the Indian Airlines authorities is one of my most treasured asset.

The test of my program Management skills was the completion of a major industrial building project, one of my greatest achievements post retirement. This project was in a mess due to poor Management and I was onboarded when it was almost 50% complete, with a mandate of bringing it back on track.  On this job, I not only learnt the nuances about various disciplines related to construction industry, but also mastered some of them. Such was the impact of this achievement, that I was selected to lead a team of inter-disciplinary experts on the next project for the same client.

Both these achievements are attributed to the confidence that stems from hard work, in-depth understanding of the requirements and managing the strengths and weaknesses of the team. In both the cases, I did not have the luxury of selecting my team, I had to make do with what was there, and ensured that they delivered beyond expectations. Project Management is something like the movie Dirty Dozen, where you manage a bunch of highly professional individuals and harness their strengths to the advantage of the team.

Q5.Does PMI need to learn from the Army about Project Management, or is there scope for it the other way around?

Traditionally, most of the Management practices, be it Project Management, operations Management, HR Management, etc., have originated from the standard processes of the military. The PMBOK prescribed Project Management processes are part of the training in a different format. However, there is scope for improvement and some amount of fine tuning to align with the PMBOK processes will definitely add value.

However, based on my experience, while we are good at planning, we fail in flawless execution. The Army has been called out in support of the civil administration whenever they have failed to execute their well-laid out plans. The Army picks from where it was left, works with the same plans and delivers successfully. This is something which the civil world can learn from the Army. The fine tuning and detailed planning to the last man and smallest job is what matters in a successful delivery.

Q6. Tell us something about your current work. How do you think this will impact India?

Smart cities are an initiative by the Government of India to accelerate the growth of selected cities. So, there is an urgency to complete these projects on an aggressive timeline. The projects being executed under the umbrella of Smart Cities ranges from automation of civic governance tasks, IOT-based monitoring of various civic services being delivered, a Central Command and Operations centre from where the civil administration can oversee and control all activities within the city, infrastructure creations like solar power plants, water supply schemes, underground sewage disposal schemes, beautification and improvement of open spaces and parks, pedestrian friendly streets to encourage walking, adaptive traffic signal lights, red light violation detection systems and many more such projects.

The city administrators have been compelled to apply their minds to develop a comprehensive plan for the city in consensus with the citizens. The buy in of stakeholders has been ensured right from the start and reduced the opposition to these projects. 100 such cities across the country will improve the image of India tremendously. The enhancement of the efficiency of delivering quality civic services will also improve the quality of life of the citizens. Hopefully, this should contribute to a vibrant economy in the country in the coming years.

Q7. What are your vision and goals for the chapter in 2019?

My vision is to see that the chapter emerges as a leader by winning the Best Chapter award this year. The chapter leadership has put in a lot of efforts to increase the quality of services offered to the members and hopefully this will yield the desired results.

The second objective is to explore avenues to add more quality programs that will enable Project Management professionals to acquire new skills and stay relevant at their work places. In today’s economy and technological advancements that we are witnessing, it is essential that the chapter becomes a hub for acquiring these skill sets.

Q8. What do you think the Chapter’s Objectives should be for the next 5 years?

The chapter’s objective in the next 5 years should be to improve the quality of services being delivered to the members. We hope that this objective will improve our retention and attract more professionals to be part of the PMI Bangalore India Chapter family.

Q9.How do you plan to get more PMs interested in what the chapter is doing? Do you think social media has a big role here?

We will have to showcase how associating with the chapter adds value to a Project Manager’s professional growth. The networking opportunities should also be leveraged to attract more PMs to associate with the Chapter. Social media and the opinion of the well-wishers of the chapter will definitely give traction to the publicity of the chapter and its activities. With increased visibility of the chapter and its activities via social media we hope to attract more PMs to come into the folds of the chapter.

Q10.With so many technological changes around us, how do you think a PM’s job will be impacted in the coming years?

Yes, in my opinion the PM’s job will be impacted due to the advancements in technologies. However, technology cannot replace human beings. The role that human beings will perform will change and PMs should be prepared to manage these changes. The PMs need to update themselves with the changes happening in the industry and keep abreast of the latest technologies while managing projects.

Q11. How has “Make in India” influenced the start-up ecosystem in India? Has Project Management got any boost?

The encouragement given to start up companies by the government is phenomenal and this is boosting the “Make in India” initiatives. This is a good move to promote internal capabilities and reduce external dependencies. Many entrepreneurs are sticking their necks out and taking the risk of starting something on their own. This in turn increases employment and is good for the economy.

However, whether this has given an impetus to the profession of Project Management is still not clear. Only time will tell whether the demand for Project Management skills and professionals has grown.

Q12.What would be the biggest projects in India in the next few years? Where should the government’s focus be?

The biggest projects will be the Metro Rail networks, highways and smart cities, basically infrastructure projects in the social sector. There would also be IT and ITES related projects to improve functional efficiency and better governance. Government should focus on improving the quality of project execution so that the intended benefits start accruing in time and benefit the citizens.

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