Interview with Space Coast Chronicle
This interview appeared in the June 2005 edition of the Space Coast Chronicle.
Space Coast Chronicle – Why the focus by so many companies on project management today?
Dr. James T. Brown – Excellent project management processes and practices are now proven competitive advantages in today’s market place. Today’s business environment is an environment of constant change. That change takes place on two primary fronts and those fronts are people and technology. Most likely, the people you work with today will not be the people you work with three years from now. Most likely, the technology you work with today will not be the technology you work with three years from now. People and technology are in a constant state of change. Whatever label you put on people change – be it outsourcing, downsizing, rightsizing or offshoring – the fact is, in today’s environment, companies expand, shrink and reorganize at a dizzying pace.
There was a time when a company with a technological advantage could ride that advantage wave for years. I am old enough to remember the Xerox copy. The Xerox copy was a technological change so profound and long lasting that the company’s name was associated with the service for years. Today when one company has a technological advantage, its competitor usually has the same capability in a matter of months or less. The companies that excel in today’s environment know how to produce new products or services by integrating new people and new technology into their work processes seamlessly. This means they cannot be too people dependent because people come and go, or too technology dependent because technology comes and goes, they are process dependent.
The competitive edge of successful organizations, in most cases, is dependent on the process to accomplish work and the process to deliver projects on schedule and within budget. With effective processes, these changes become an advantage allowing the effective leveraging of new people and technology. Without this process stability, it is just a matter of time before a company or organization is in serious trouble due to the inability to respond fast enough to people and technology changes.
For example, there were companies that were widely known that existed five years ago that no longer exist today. There are companies widely known today that will not exist five years from now. Competition is now global and the margin for error is small. Process! Process! Process! Process is what results in repeatable success over the long term. Successful companies know how to deliver projects on time and on budget repeatedly, over and over through deployment of effective project management processes. Training is a major component for successful deployment of effective project management processes.
Space Coast Chronicle – The market is saturated with companies that provide project management services similar to SEBA®’s. What allows you to be successful in this market as a small company?
Dr. James T. Brown – Three things have been critical to our success in this market. All three work together to improve the client’s condition and their ability to reduce cost overruns and provide more value to their customers.
Custom tailored training that is targeted at the challenges the organization is facing. We typically work with the client and partner an instructional plan that addresses their specific needs. The training class is then developed within this framework with problems and case studies that relate specifically to their environment. Effective partnering with the client is what allows us to be successful in a market that is dominated by large training providers who typically provide “vanilla” out of the box training.
We focus on keeping it simple and employing common sense practices. Companies value this because their employees leave training with concrete tools they can implement immediately. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of simplicity and structure. Many organizations become bloated bureaucracies with too many rules and processes that prohibit the effective execution of work. We help organizations find the proper balance between process and people.
We also believe that motivation is part of the training classes and if we cannot convince the class participants to buy into and use the tools and methods we are teaching, then we haven’t done our job. We not only have to answer the “why” questions for participants, we also have to impart information to them in a manner so that they tell us why it is important before they even think to ask the question. Part of this also means that the training we provide has to be fun and thought provoking and participants frequently state this in their class evaluations.
Space Coast Chronicle – Why the diversity in your client base? It seems kind of unusual to serve companies that are so different in structure and mission.
Dr. James T. Brown – We provide project management training, consulting and strategic planning/decision making services to a variety of companies from “non profit” government agencies to “for profit” Fortune 100 companies. We originally started with primarily technology companies as clients but that has grown much more diverse over time. Our client base is truly diverse, ranging from service companies to technology companies that manufacture products, but mostly small to mid-sized companies.
Today service organizations, non-profits, the explosion of Information Technology (IT) companies and IT organizations within all kinds of companies are all migrating to a project management focus, and this focus has dramatically increased the need for project management training. More and more people in the workforce are being classified as project managers and project management is consistently being viewed as a profession by leading companies. In fact, we just assisted a client in the development of project management job descriptions as part of a new career ladder for their employees. Our project management training is tailored for the client’s specific industry and workforce challenges. We partner with the client during the needs assessment phase of the client relationship to develop training solutions for these challenges.
Space Coast Chronicle – How long are your classes?
Dr. James T. Brown – Classes are typically three days in length, but again our services are tailored to the client. We have clients that have one day courses because their personnel just cannot be made available for long periods away from work activities.
Space Coast Chronicle – Finally, why the name SEBA®?
Dr. James T. Brown – SEBA®; is an ancient Egyptian term that means to teach, to instruct, to act on information and to act with information. It represents the basic philosophy behind our business model. We are committed to providing training and consulting services that lead to action and results based on fact. Knowledge without action is useless. Action, based on the knowledge learned in training, is what improves the client’s bottom line results.