Cameron is the Capital Systems Manager for the Food
& Beverage Global Business Unit of Procter & Gamble,
and has been managing capital projects and mentoring
other project managers for the past 20 years at
Procter & Gamble within its Beauty Care, Health
Care, Food & Beverage, and Fabric & Home Care Businesses.
Scott also has been an ASK feature writer
since Volume One. Here at ASK we consider
Scott a dear friend, a generous colleague, and a
great storyteller. We are all too happy to provide
a venue for his wit and wisdom. He and his family
live in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Tell me about a project that has had an enduring
impact on you?
The project I look back on with probably the most pride
was my first major project. It was a multi-site, five-plant
project wherein the first plant start-up was 18 weeks
after funding and the fifth start-up date was 26 weeks
after funding. Only two of the sites were identified
at the time we received funding, and none of the process
and packing equipment had been ordered. Two things about
this project had a huge impact on me. First, it gave
me the courage to be accountable for the decisions I
made, as there was no time to second-guess myself. Secondly,
it taught me that every day of a project's life is important
and you need to get the most out of each day.
You met the schedule?
We did. I remember sitting in a hotel room with a pad
of paper and drawing up the project's critical path
schedule and deciding what things had to be done and
the milestone completion dates the project team had
to meet. I then called my project manager-mentor and
reviewed my thought process and assumptions. He listened
to my plan, questioned me about it, and said, "If you
can meet all your milestone dates, you can make your
schedule." He also told me that meeting this challenge
was no easy feat but could be done with some major "mountain
It is interesting to hear you did it with a pencil
and paper, especially for something that I imagine was
awfully complex. Do you ever use computer programs, like
Microsoft Project, to do your scheduling?
manager must motivate the team based on the project's
unique challenges, the team members' experience
level, and the project schedule.
A lot of times when I talk to people about doing schedules,
they ask me what scheduling program I use. To be quite
honest, I use a pencil and paper most of the time to sketch
out the critical path as I see it, which in an electronic
age probably says I'm an old fogy. The schedule is just
a tool to align the project team to what they have to
do by when in order to be successful. How you prepare
or draw the schedule is more a philosophical debate because
there are many good software programs. The key is getting
your project team members to be honest as to how long
their work is going to take and how much time the schedule
will allow them to accomplish their tasks. Whenever I
put together an initial schedule I work right to left
(start-up to today) versus left to right (today to start-up
date). When you ask people how long something is going
to take, their response always results in the initial
schedules being two to three times longer than the time
you have. That's why I believe if it's a six-week or two-year
schedule, every day matters and aligning the team to this
fact early in the life of a project will help insure its
success. When you start off on a two-year project, you
tend to feel like nothing is restricting the schedule
at that point, but those initial days are days which are
hard to recover or very expensive to recover later in
the project's life.
Is it different motivating a team when the schedule
is six weeks as opposed to two years?
|If the hierarchy
is not well informed, then you will have a problem
regardless of how well your team is functioning.
Each team takes on its own personality. The Project Manager
must motivate the team based on the project's unique challenges,
the team members' experience level, and the project schedule.
With that said, I believe, it is far easier to motivate
a team with a short schedule because people realize every
day is important and there isn't as much time for divergent
thought processes. This is one of the things I find exciting
about being a project manager. You never really have the
same team, same schedule, or same project scope twice
in a row. Each project team and their respective hierarchy
have a different experience and knowledge base to manage.
Part of your job is to figure out how to mold the team
to meet the success criteria of the project.
Tell me about one of the more challenging experiences
you've had trying to motivate a team.
I once worked on a project where I was "thrown in" at
the last minute to replace the project manager who requested
to be taken off the assignment. We had six weeks from
when I arrived at the site to complete engineering,
construction and start up the project. We had completed
only 20% of the construction, and the remaining 80%
was extremely complicated. I had to immediately step
in and get everyone to start working together to meet
this very aggressive, if not unattainable, schedule.
To add to the challenge, the various functional personnel
on the team hated one another. I sat down with each
functional leader on a one-on-one basis and said, "Okay,
so how do you view your situation and your role, and
what is it going to take to get us to start-up 6 weeks
from now?" It wasn't threatening, but it was like I
had to say, "My job here is to lead us to start-up in
six weeks. Are you with me?" The key in this case was
getting people aligned in meeting the schedule and finding
out what was motivating the team's dysfunctional behavior.
They may not have liked the end date, they would tell
me all the reasons why they couldn't achieve perfection,
but once we were aligned they were able to start working
together. In the end, we started up within 8 weeks instead
of the 6 weeks.
One-on-one communication proved to be the magic
It wasn't exactly magic, but yes. The project manager
is seen as the single point of contact, and I had to
quickly get to know people on the team and what was
motivating them. When you're the project manager you
are going to spend a lot of time with these people.
Best to understand what is making them "tick" early
in the project's life. One thing I should add. You also
have to understand the system you work in and how the
components are supposed to work with one another. A
long time ago I had a boss who said, "When I assign
a project manager, I want to make sure she or he knows
every way possible to defeat the system and the processes
we have in place." The point being if you thoroughly
understand the environment you work in, you can understand
how each system will impact your project. Thus, you
can help yourself see and eliminate future bottlenecks
the team may encounter. In the first project I've talked
about, I understood how the company's systems worked.
I took apart my schedule and said, "Here are the bottlenecks
we will encounter," and then I took steps to eliminate
them. That was a major reason why we met the schedule.
How can you tell when a team is really functioning
For one thing, there is a lot of good communication.
You see people stopping each other in the hall, they
are active, they are animated, they are resolving things,
they are keeping you informed, but they are pretty much
making most of the decisions on their own to meet the
success criteria. They feel empowered and show it!
That must be nice. How then does your role as project
manager change in that case?
You spend more time with the hierarchy making sure their
needs are being met and they are knowledgeable of the
work their people are doing to make the project successful.
You should also be insuring that the hierarchy is taking
time to recognize their organization's good work. If
the hierarchy is not well-informed, then you will have
a problem regardless of how well your team is functioning.
Is this like running interference for the team so upper
management doesn't get in their hair?
|By the way,
good project managers at any stage of their careers
should be willing to be singed.
Sort of, but let's be careful here. There are times where
you need to run interference because you want to keep
the team focused, but most of the time the team needs
to understand their hierarchy and their needs. You also
need to give the project team a forum to "strut their
stuff " for their bosses. You certainly don't want the
team to think it is only the project manager who interfaces
with hierarchy. I don't want my team members to get burned
or crushed by their hierarchy in reviews, but I'm okay
if they get "singed." So while I would agree at times
you need to shelter the project team, they have to learn
their hierarchy is integral to the success of their projects
and sometimes have different expectations than the project
team may assume. Isolating the team from interfacing with
hierarchy would be the worst thing I could do.
Describe a situation where somebody got singed,
and how you knew it wasn't a serious burn.
How about something that happened to me. Early in my
engineering career, I was the technical engineer on
a project. My boss and I had a disagreement on what
technical scope should be installed. He had his position
and I had mine. Since I was leading the hierarchical
technical review, he allowed me the forum to present
my case and he presented his. As the smoke began rising
around me during my technical presentation, I learned
a valuable lesson about the hierarchy. Luckily, my boss
had a fire extinguisher handy. I just got singed and
What do people say to you after you let them get
Sometimes they come back and say I was right, or come
back and say I was kind of right. They rarely come back
and say I was wrong. By the way, good project managers
at any stage of their careers should be willing to be
singed. No one is immune to the fire. But if you've
been doing this long enough, you understand that getting
singed is necessary to your growth and to challenge
the status quo.
How much of mentoring is just listening?
A lot. Project managers don't have many avenues to vent
their frustrations or brainstorm ideas to improve their
projects because of the demands on their time. They
can vent to spouses or loved ones, but that's usually
not very healthy and, probably in the long run, somewhat
destructive to their personal lives. They can vent to
their bosses, but there is the risk their bosses will
see them as weak and wonder, "Did I put the right person
on the job?" They can talk to themselves, but then the
people in the white lab coats may come around for them.
So as I look at myself as a mentor, the major part of
the job is to just listen. What I may have dealt with
10-20 times in my career, they are dealing with for
the first time, and want to discuss it.
Is there anything in particular you are listening for?
thing I want to do is clone "little Scotts" who
can carry out my ideas about project management
I let them talk for 10-15 minutes and at the end of it
I say, "Well, let me play back what I heard, and then
lets talk about what you want to do." A large percent
of the time they just wanted to vent or brainstorm concepts/ideas
and to know that other people have experienced similar
things. When you say, "Yep, that is pretty typical for
projects like this," that generally makes them feel better.
Sometimes we will discuss what the person wants to do
to solve a problem and other options they may want to
consider. Again, I am a resource and mentor who is trying
to help the person grow and be successful. I don't see
myself as being there to provide answers to their every
problem. The last thing I want to do is clone "little
Scotts" who can carry out my ideas about project management
You've been at Procter and Gamble about 30 years,
Okay, 31. What do you regard as the biggest milestone
of your career?
The biggest milestone was the birth of our triplet daughters
Laura, Beth and Caroline -- but I guess you mean professionally.
Yes, I was thinking professionally.
I think the answer to the question is probably I haven't
done it yet. I'd like to believe the best assignment
or challenge is still in front of me. Since the girls
are now 10, I figure I've got another 13 years of work
to find out if I'm right.
And if they go on to graduate school, forget it.
You may never see retirement.
Yeah, but I can live with that.