Forging a connection with a completely new generation through marketing can be a daunting task. Marketing to millennials is a completely different beast because of how new technologies changed the landscape of communication. Brian Fanzo, entrepreneur and CEO of iSocialFanz, demystifies inter-generational (and even intra-generational) communication. Good communication is absolutely essential, so how can a business keep up and keep in touch with a new generation of consumers?
Running a tight ship in a business can be difficult without the proper foresight and planning. Thinkers50 awardee Antonio Nieto-Rodriguez, author of The Project Revolution: How to Succeed in a Project-Driven World, discusses the intricacies and dilemmas of proper project management. At the end of the day, a poorly planned project is a poor project.
We have Antonio Nieto-Rodriguez and Brian Fanzo. Antonio is a global champion of project management. He’s a Thinkers50 global guru. This guy is fascinating. I’m looking forward to talking to him about his work in project management and his book. Brian is the CEO of iSocialFanz. He’s also a Millennial keynote speaker. He is a change expert and he deals with understanding different generations and a lot of the things that deal with technology. That’s also going to be a fascinating conversation.
Listen to the podcast here:
Millennial Marketing With Brian Fanzo
I am here with Brian Fanzo, who is a Millennial keynote speaker. He inspires, motivates and educates businesses on how to leverage emerging technologies and digital marketing. He helps them stand out from the noise to engage with customers of all ages. It’s nice to have you here, Brian.
Thanks so much for having me. I’m excited to be here.
I got to watch some of your talks. I get to hear a lot of big speakers that deal with certain areas, but you’ve promoted yourself as a Millennial keynote speaker specifically. Is it because you are a Millennial or you only speak to Millennials? Why do you include that in your title?
I like to say I’m a pager-wearing Millennial, which means I was born in 1981. I’m right on the cusp of that Millennial generation. I do talk about generational communication, but it’s not a focus. The origin of labeling myself as a Millennial keynote speaker, I was speaking in 2013 at a technology event. I was talking a lot about my past as a young manager with the US government. I had 34 employees and the first 30 of my employees were all older than I was. I talked a lot about what I can learn. Most of my advice was focused on what younger leaders could do to manage the gap and to work better with those that might have more experience or might be older. I had never used the name or the title of Millennial speaker, but I got off stage and it was in San Francisco. A lady came up to me and she had tears in her eyes.
She’s like, “Would you FaceTime with my son? My son is embarrassed and ashamed that he’s a Millennial. After hearing you talk, I feel like you’re someone that can look up to him.” I had a FaceTime with this gentleman who was on his mom’s FaceTime. There wasn’t anything mind-blowing about the conversation. It was more sharing a little bit about who I was. I made the joke that I didn’t get to pick what generation I was born into and neither did anyone else in the world. I felt like being a Millennial is something I wore as a badge of honor. I was very proud of the generation that I am a part of. He said he had never heard of that before. It was that day that I went and changed my Twitter bio. I said, “If I can inspire one person by simply being proud of the generation I’m a part of, I’m willing to own that,” and it stuck ever since.
I know that generational issues are a big hot button. I’ve spoken in that respect as well. It’s interesting to look at it from different perceptions and vantage points from younger and older. A lot of people want to categorize people, which is hard. I have to admit, I do a lot of personalities assessing and so we try to figure out how to reach people by finding out their preferences. It’s hard to just put people into like, “You’re a Millennial, you’re X, Y, Z, you’re a Boomer and you’re going to think this.” A lot of people try to do that. I like that you point out that they were different, not all Millennials are going to be the same. That becomes challenging then when you’re in marketing because it would be easy if everybody had the same preferences. I had spoken about a brand publishing course I wrote and when I was dealing with a lot of CMOs at the time, they were frustrated in trying to reach Millennials or whatever group at scale because it’s easy to sell to a few people, but then when you have to reach people at this large scale, how do we figure out brands? How do they handle that? How do they reach people in the way they want to be reached?
No one likes to be labeled, yet we often try to label it. It’s a very interesting dynamic. When we look at generational labeling, we’re labeling on one variable that no one was able to control. I always like to say and part of what I like to work with brands and part of the things that I speak on is how do we break this down a little bit further? I like to take it into the digital space in the sense of how do we look at the customer experience as well as behaviors on how someone approaches innovation technology. The term digital natives have been out there for a while, but oftentimes people assume a digital native was born with Facebook and an iPhone in their hand.
I’m a dad of three girls. I have a 9-year-old, an 8-year-old and a 5-year-old. My nine-year-old doesn’t know the time that exists without the iPhone, but the majority of Millennials and even a portion of Gen Z aren’t that way. When you’re looking at it, part of the thing that we have to break down is what are some of the variables on how connected is somebody? What are their buying habits? What are their habits with their mobile devices? I look at social networks and when someone tells me something like Instagram is their favorite social network, I will say, “You spent a lot of time on your phone.” They’ll go, “Why would you think that?”
Instagram is the only social network in the world where we can guarantee 99.9% of people are viewing that content on their mobile device, but Instagram is not a very popular website as far as browsing content. Things like understanding the mobile behaviors, understanding what they’re willing to share and the level of transparency online even from the standpoint of purchase behaviors. One of the studies that I have been a part of with IBM was talking about things like those that are willing to purchase something from an Instagram ad versus those that will see something on an Instagram ad and then go search for it on Amazon. Those are two different drastic styles of buying behaviors. As a marketer, we have to understand that.
We’re living in very interesting times because I believe, especially in marketing, we’ve been asking for this type of data forever. We want to know customer behavior. We want to know when they buy, why they buy and how they buy. The interesting part is we’ve got all their data. We’re overwhelmed with data and we’re stuck in this no man’s land. How do we even reach this? I always laugh when we talk about it being the most connected generation in history. It’s not just the Millennials. It’s also the digital generation where all the ideas many years ago of us walking around with a mobile device in our pocket, inside of our house, would have sounded foreign.The last 10% of a project tends to be the most difficult, boring, and long. Click To Tweet
Why would we walk around in our house with our phone in our pocket? Now, we get up to get a drink out from the couch to the refrigerator and we pick up our phone. We have to look at that and say, “I don’t believe this generation is the most connected. I believe we have the most information and data.” Let’s face it, this generation or those that are connected have never been more empowered with data and information. When someone comes to your website or someone is researching your brand, they’ve spent hours reading reviews and understanding what their friend’s wants. Compared to when I grew up, I remember the only way exposure I had to what someone else was wearing or using was what they told me in school. Now we can survey our Facebook community in a matter of minutes and have much more information and be much more empowered as a consumer. It is exciting but at the same time, it does put us on notice to understand our consumers truly.
You brought up a lot of good points. In a lot of the courses I teach, how word of mouth has changed due to technology. I don’t know if you saw that Netflix show The Great Hack. I’m sure a lot of people are worried about how much data we have. My daughter used to work for FetchBack. I know enough about retargeting just from what she did when she worked there. We all looked at something and then later it’s gotten on Facebook and we go, “I was looking at that dress.” They know exactly what we’re looking at. Are you worried about it? You worked for nine years for the DOD and cybersecurity. How much should we be worried?
A lot of interesting things about security and it was something that I learned. I wasn’t aware of until I started working for the US government. The number one threat for cybersecurity within a business, within the US government, is not the Chinese. It’s not the hacker that we imagine that is willfully stealing our data. It’s what they call insider threat, which means human error. The idea where we are sharing our password in an email without realizing who can see that. We are giving an employee admin access to our website when maybe they shouldn’t have an administrator-level to access our web in case something goes wrong down the way.
When I look at data, as marketers, we have a big responsibility. This is one of the talks that I give. I talk a lot about, and I believe it’s something we focus on a lot as well, is this idea of empathy and truly understanding where our consumers come from, where our customers are and the things that are impacting their buying decisions. As a marketer, I always advise that if you’re using someone’s data to market or to sell, more often than not, you will feel a little bit like it’s a gray area. If you’re using someone’s data to provide value, to help them solve a problem, even to save time such as retargeting. I loved it when I opened up Facebook and it says, “Did you know that you forgot this pair of shoes in your Amazon cart?” I’m like, “I get it. Thank you for reminding me.”
I looked at it and said as long as we’re helping or providing value, it doesn’t ever have that gray area. The gray area exists when we’re trying to use data to sell, to manipulate, to market. The emotional intelligence and that entire level of emotional marketing is nothing new. It’s just now, not only do we have more information available to us, but our consumers have more of a voice. If we do something shady or they perceived as stepping over the line, not only do they have a voice to share out their complaints on social media, but they also have the option of choices. It’s one of those things that we have to balance.
I’m a big believer in understanding risk versus reward in any scenario. I use a couple of tools that if the words bomb or threat or lockdown are tweeted out in my daughter’s school zone, I will get an email notification that pops up in my email box. At the same time, my daughter is very active in my social media presence. It’s one of those things where it’s not about oversharing or being blind to the concept of the data that we are putting out there. It is important to do some analysis on what you’re sharing, why you’re sharing it and do the benefits outweigh the risks?
That’s all the interesting points that you make. I do a lot of research in the area of emotional intelligence and empathy is a huge part of what ties into a lot of the things that we need to understand in the workplace to get along. When you’re talking about marketing, to be able to see things from their perception, their vantage point is huge. You talk about community, which ties into all of that. You said the community is the future of business. How do we focus on the community?
When we hear the word community, I believe most of us have a different view of what that is. I was always raised with the idea that people buy from people they like. Every great company is not great because of the products or services. They are great because of the people that work at the company. I would say over the last few years or so, thanks for digital, thanks to online, we’ve got further and further away from the idea of what makes up our company, which is great within our company. When I look at the community being the future of business, I look at it as we have our employees. We have current partners in our company, we have our current customers and then our future potential customers. I would even label in there our competition as part of that community. This is where I look at the word relatability. I talk a lot in the keynote that I’m getting in Orlando, how are we becoming more relatable as business owners and leaders. I do think it’s less about putting our logo on our website, less about having a brand voice and more about sharing the employee voice, sharing the stories that make up the company.
Some companies are doing that well. They’re part of the ones that are transcending a lot of the disruptions that exist in the marketplace, but it’s also scary. When I talked to brands and they talked to me about influencer marketing and I help them build out a strategy about influencer marketing, I always remind them that our goal with influencer marketing is truly extending the trust. We don’t trust this brand. We don’t have a relationship with them, but we trust this influencer or this person that’s part of our community. Interestingly enough, a lot of brands will come to me wanting to do an influencer marketing campaign. Yet when I asked them why aren’t they allowing their employees to take over their accounts or using their employees in that same manner, they act surprised. I always laugh because I say, “If you can’t trust your employees to market themselves for your company, how would you trust an influencer? How would you expect your customers even to trust your brand as a whole?”
I’m a big believer and we’re finally starting to see making headway. We’re going to see it even more in 2020 this idea where rather than having a brand voice on social media or even podcasts or video. We started empowering our employees, which we’ve already known for many years are the reason our company is great. It’s a matter of empowering and trusting them and realizing that as a society we are finally becoming a little bit more forgiving when it comes to if something goes wrong and it’s a human face on it, we are much more forgiving than if it’s a brand that misuses our data.Prioritization, focus, and deciding what to do and not to do can be a competitive advantage. Click To Tweet
The only thing we have is a logo and they’ve never talked with us before. When we look at that risk versus reward, the truth is you’re going to get hacked, you’re going to be vulnerable, you’re going to make a mistake and someone’s going to share something out. The question is, are you building community beforehand so that people come to your defense? They understand, trust and can forgive you. Do you not see that value until afterward? The damage control takes twice as long and in many cases, could be polarizing enough for you to lose your company. That’s where I look at brands that are building community, trust, and relatability before they need it. They are the ones that are going to be able to gladly get through the trying times of disruption and transformation that we’re seeing.
You brought up many good points. I’m trying to figure out which way I want to go with that because a lot of what you’re talking about brings to mind repairing of image once things happen too. I was thinking in a lot of the marketing classes I teach and sometimes somebody will post a picture, come in and have the worst cup of coffee some guy had on Yelp ever or whatever. You see these people trying to recover from some big Yelp fiasco. When you’re talking about storytelling, image, forgiving and all the things you’re talking about, what did you think of the Gillette ad that got people all up in arms, trying to come at men, we should be better than that thing. It got men so mad. Do you think that the news is bad? Everything out there gives you attention. Is it okay? Was that a mistake? I’m curious how you would look at that.
There’s a data point out there that said 74% of those under the age of 40 would rather align themselves or make purchases from a brand that they understand what they stand for rather than a brand that they have no idea what they stand for. Let’s face it, a year between now and a year from now, we are getting more divisive. We are going to be more divided. We are going to be more polarized than we’ve ever been before, especially here in the United States. I look at it a lot into that idea of a little bit of risk versus reward but also understanding that although it did polarize some men that took it in one direction, it also rallied some men.
It also rallied some of those that had no opinion on what razor they were purchasing. The idea of all of a sudden realizing that this company stood for something more. I for one was someone that was using a completely different subscription service prior to that commercial coming out. I ended my Dollar Shave Club and I switched back to Gillette. Mainly for me, I am a dad of three girls and someone that believes in this idea of reshaping America through different eyes. If I look at myself individually as a consumer, I don’t think I wasn’t making my decisions at the time on what razor I was using based on social issues or social good.
Based on that simple ad, it changed my opinion of them as a brand and company. Brands are seeing that. Even Nike with the kneeling down, although that was extremely polarizing and was part of the discussion, even disrupted the entire NFL as a whole. When they looked at it and their target demographic was a certain element of the 21 to 31-year-old, that was their main purchasing group and they knew that that group would look at this in a very favorable way. Taking a stand because you’re taking a stand is a recipe for disaster. Taking a stand for something that embodies your company, the part of what your company stands for and understanding that you will polarize some, but they have been your customers anyhow. Are they someone that would’ve been on that radar? What is the advantage of turning some of your lukewarm customers into rabid fans?
I think that’s an underestimated aspect of this whole world we’re living in is that turning the fan into an advocate or even an evangelist for your brand, that’s the best marketing you can do. We oftentimes focus on those that are upset with the Gillette commercial or those that said they would never buy another Nike shoe again. The question becomes, how many Nike shoes would they’d probably going to buy in their lifetime versus those that never care about Nike or Adidas? All of a sudden, based on Nike’s decision, they will only buy Nike moving forward. It’s a very interesting time that we’re living in. I’m a big believer in those that are standing up and willing to put themselves out there for what they believe in. More often than not, that will get my money over someone that’s not willing to share anything at all.
You say you like to zag when people zig. Would you consider that a zig or a zag from the norm?
It was, especially if you looked at it from the point of everyone playing it safe. Everyone is playing it safe. Everyone does not have an opinion. All of a sudden, they’re coming out with a very bold upfront opinion. That is zigging when everyone’s zagging. I also think it’s a matter of understanding how you’re going to level up on that. Crisis management and a lot of these things that we talked about or even creating content. There’s a difference between random acts of content and random acts of making a stand versus, “We’re going to go all-in here, we’re going to double down, we’re going to own this. We believe that the end result is high.” If you’re willing to zig when everyone’s zagging and zag when everyone’s zigging, that can be extremely powerful in this case.
I entered the workplace when it was Mad Men time. It was in the ‘70s when I entered the workplace. Are we getting to be too sensitive when you look at what we could get away with, what we could say or what we could do in the past? Do you think that we’re getting to a point where people are afraid to do anything or say anything? Do you think that this is necessary that we were too Mad Men in the past?
This is something that I love to dissect and look at as a whole. We needed to get to a breaking point and I don’t think we’re even there yet. I think we will get there over the next few months to reset what we consider the average. It’s a very interesting piece because when we start to realize that there was a lot of bad things going on in the world that we had put in place measures, metrics, and even systems to allow them to continue. Once we expose that, then it’s going to lead to us over-calculating or maybe over-exaggerating some things and maybe even in some cases being a little bit too sensitive.The things we've been arguing over, as a society, are really what make us the same. Click To Tweet
I believe it’s going to level set itself once it gets over this peak. The exciting part of that is we’re going to start to realize more so than anything else that the things that make us different, the things that we have always hidden. I talked about being diagnosed ADHD at 31 years old. That’s something a few years ago. There’s no way I would have admitted to it. It’s in my bio that I’m willing to admit that I do suffer from mental health issues. I medicated on Adderall and it’s changed my life for the better. It allowed me to discover who I was and be okay with the things that I do differently. At the same time, it also gave me the ability to look at these things as my superpowers.
When I look at this overall place that we’re at as a culture and as a society, I believe we’re going to all of a sudden realize that the things that we’ve been arguing over are not what makes us different or make us more of the same and that people make mistakes. Life is messy. There are lots of bad things that have been happening in the world and those things should no longer be okay. We also have to start to level set things and realize that if we want some of the advantages of innovation and technology, it also comes with an idea of resetting what we consider the norm. I always use the FBI as an example. Several years ago, if you’ve ever smoked weed in your entire life, you were not allowed to be an FBI agent. The restraint is that if you haven’t sold marijuana for a profit in the last eighteen months, then you can be an FBI agent.
It’s tongue in cheek but times have changed. Even in the Mad Men era, what people were willing to share or how you were exposed, just the idea that the mobile phone exists to where if something bad is happening or something we disagree on, we can take out our phone and capture it. That never existed in all those days. It’s a little bit of an over-correction, but at the same time, it’s putting people on notice. I truly believe in it. It sounds fluffy but the thing that excites me the most is that great people that are doing great things. Good humans at their core are going to start to be rewarded over and over again. Those that have been selling unicorns and rainbows, and have been full of it and getting away with it for so long, they’re getting exposed and they’re going to be exposed even more. I think as we look back many years from now, we’re going to look at these times as very divided, very disruptive, but a necessary evil to get us to that place we will eventually become.
You’re known as the Change Evangelist. You have a lot of great information out there. I was fascinated by your discussions about the rate of change and how that’s changing. I’m very fascinated by everything that you do. A lot of people could learn a lot from you and the work you do. Is there some site or information you’d like to share for anyone?
My company, my brand is iSocialFanz. I’m active on every single social network. I always tell people you don’t have to follow me everywhere. Pick your favorite social network and look up iSocialFanz. If you’re interested in some of the topics I speak about, I have a speaker website, BrianFanzo.com. I have a podcast, for those that are into the audio content side. It’s called FOMOFanz, which stands for the Fear Of Missing Out. I cure your fear of missing out around digital marketing, entrepreneurship, generational communication. You can look up wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts. I love this conversation. I love that we’re both in line with very similar meanings and focuses. Hopefully, we’re making the world a better place by better understanding each other. I appreciate you having me on.
Thank you, Brian. This was so much fun and I hope everybody checks out your sites and on social media.
Managing Projects With Antonio Nieto-Rodriguez
I am here with Antonio Nieto-Rodriguez, who is the global champion of project management. He has transformed project management into one of the central issues on every CEO’s 2030 agenda. He’s the creator of concepts such as the Hierarchy of Purpose featured by HBR or the Project Revolution. He argues that projects are the lingua franca of the business and personal worlds from the C-Suite to managing your career or relationships. He is the author of the book, The Project Revolution. It’s nice to have you here, Antonio.
It’s a pleasure to be on your show. I’m excited about our conversation.
We have a lot of people we know in common and a lot of what you write about is interesting to me. I spoke for the International Project Management Day for the International Institute for Learning. I think they had 50,000 people expected for that. It made me look up a little bit more about project management than I usually deal with. It also led to me wanting to know more about your definition of project management. Are you dealing with it simply in the corporate setting or in life in general?
It’s a hot topic and my definition of project management is we are all project managers. We don’t call ourselves that, but everybody who follows your show and you deal with, they’re doing projects at different levels to different complexity. For me, the aim of project management is to help individuals, organizations, and governments who are doing projects achieve higher returns, higher value, and sustainability. This is the tool that helps you do that. I tried to make project management and the tools simple. That has been my goal over many years, to simplify project management so that anybody can use some tools to do our projects better.This generation is not the most connected. It just has the most information and data. Click To Tweet
I want to get into the tools because I’m envisioning Gantt charts and I don’t know what else, but before we get into that, I want to know how you got to this level. You’ve been recognized by Thinkers50 with the prestigious award Ideas Into Practice. You’re ranked number seventeen in Global Gurus Top 30 list. You’re in Marshall Goldsmith 100 Coaches. How did you get interested in project management? How did you get to this level of success? A little background would help.
I started my career as a project manager by chance. I didn’t study project management. I think very few people do because there are not many university graduates that teach project management. I started as a consultant in the big four and I climbed the ladder. I became a global expert on project and change management. This is a bit sad story but in the end, it turned around my career. I wanted to become a partner and my business case was to develop project advisory practice. I thought that every company in the world needs some advice on how to select projects, how to run them, how to organize them and build competencies. I thought I could become a partner in this big four, but the partners didn’t like it. They fired me. They said, “Antonio, we love your passion around projects, but this is very tactical and nobody cares. We don’t see the value.” That was an upsetting moment in my career where I thought, “Are they bright or am I right?” That’s where I focused on understanding why senior leaders didn’t value projects us something strategic. That’s how I became one of the experts because of the research and the passion for demonstrating that projects are critical and they’re becoming even more strategic as change is so fast.
It’s interesting that nobody cares. I bet they’re wondering why they thought that after the success of this. You’ve been successful and I want to get into project management. I talk about it to some extent because I teach a lot of business courses still. A lot of what I find with students is they plan the plan and they never do anything but plan.
You have two extremes. Some people plan and plan, and they’re a bit afraid of taking the step because they’re perfectionists or they want to be 100% sure. In this world, that’s not possible. You have the other extreme which they tried without planning. They have an idea and they have a kick-off meeting right away. You have both extremes and what I’m trying to advocate is that project management is a learning process. I’m working on an article for HBR with Whitney Johnson and we’re using the S-curve model to decide when is the right moment to start a project. There is a need for definition. We need to align on what’s the purpose of the project.
We need to try to have a high-level idea of what we want to develop and some details, and then start planning, testing and developing. There’s a need to have a bit more agile methods in traditional project management. As you know, you have two big methods. One is the waterfall model. This is the more traditional where you need to define in advance what you want to design or build. The other one is agile, which is you don’t define in advance. You develop what you want, the product, the tool, the application. I think there needs to be a mix of both. You cannot plan everything but you cannot wait forever to start, try and test with your customers. That’s my proposal for project management.
For those who don’t know the S-curve model, can you give a little background on what that is?
The S-curve was invented many years ago. It’s about the learning process that we go through. For most of us, there’s a phase where we were slow. It takes us time to understand or build the competencies. Once you reach an inflection point, things start to go faster and you see suddenly, from one day to another, I know and I can discuss what we’re talking about. There’s that moment that we need to spend in investing, developing and learning. At one point, things will start fitting together and that’s when we excel. This is a very much used model for learning and development. We’re trying to use that when to start the project.
You talked about a couple of things I want to touch on. As far as the perfectionist the people that plan forever, there’s a saying that goes, “Done is better than perfect.” When is doneness? Isn’t doneness a term you use a lot of?
This is something that we used a lot for years when it’s done. We need to be done before the project is over. If you’re building a hospital, you need to be done before you can start operating. You’re building an application. Maybe you don’t need to wait until it’s time to start using it. There are also some changes in the way we see the done of a project. My take on this is that the last 10% of a project tends to be the most difficult, boring and long. People start to get demotivated. Why don’t we close projects a bit earlier? Let’s say we finished 90% of what they had done, and then we transfer it to the next people who will take this forward to the end. That’s more of my thinking because it’s so hard to say when done is done. I would recommend to anybody who’s in managing projects, go for 90% and try out the rest. Give over the rest, and then you can start a new project. It’s the best practice I’ve developed over the years.
As you’re talking about what’s the best way to go and some of this type of thing, it brings to mind my research in curiosity. When I was talking to project managers, my point was, “You have to allow people to be curious, to be innovative and come up with great contingencies and alternatives in project management.” You are also pushed into these things have to be done at a specific time. Sometimes you don’t want to hear a lot of questions because they’re afraid they’re going to get off task and maybe won’t get done on time. How do you balance that where you get the truly innovative ideas by allowing people to explore their curiosity but still get in on time?The best marketing you can do is turn the fan into an advocate or even an evangelist for your brand. Click To Tweet
I see you understand very well our challenges. It’s another of these dilemmas that you touched upon. Our project managers like note creative, done and they execute, of course not, but there are consequences. If you change what you want to build and you have a plan, you have a timeline, you have estimated the cost and suddenly, in the middle of the project you say, “Let’s do something completely different.” We know that there will be an impact on the budget, on the timeline. That’s why we tend to be very much focused on no changes in the project or limited changes because we don’t want to be late or we don’t want to go over budget. There is a time in project management where you can be creative, which is before the project start.
When you are in the ideation phase, when you are in the exploration design thinking, it’s a phase that is not covered in the traditional project management. We come into the picture only when the idea is there and often when the business case has been developed or it’s final, “This is the idea, this is the business case. Make a plan and then execute.” I think that future project management and project managers need to look more into the ideation and the innovation phase. That’s where you define more clearly the options, the scenarios and you play around. Only once you have a clear view of what their organization needs, then you set up the project. You’re right. We can be creative. We should be more creative, but at the beginning of the project or even before the project starts.
You’re saying before we write the Gantt chart, that’s when you do that.
Absolutely. The Gantt chart is just the output. My focus has always been to teach the non-project managers, the executives who are dealing with a lot of projects as executives, sponsors, and the business people or organization people who are not project managers. One of the biggest challenges or issues that you see is planning a project that never starts with the plan. You will always see somebody that doesn’t know project management when they start doing the planning and they start with the Gantt chart. That’s the outcome of a series of exercises and activities that you do with the key stakeholders, which is defining and breaking down the scope, ensuring that we know what we want. Once you have that, you break it down and you have a plan. The plan is the last step in planning, but absolutely, we always want the Gantt chart.
When I’m writing a book, I get my Gantt chart because you have the editor going at the time, you’ve got the cover design. There are many times that I’ve had to use Gantt chart for things you don’t even think of and one of those things is projects. Your big idea is the Hierarchy of Purpose and I want to know what you mean by that. There are these five elements I want you to talk about too, if you don’t mind.
The Hierarchy of Purpose is an article I wrote for HBR. It was based on the work that I’ve been doing for years helping our leaders in priority sessions. Which projects do we invest and which ones we don’t invest? What I had seen so far in my research is that most of the models that you have for prioritization, selection, and investment are very quantitative. It’s all about numbers and this project will be this return on investment. What I realized is that business cases are always good looking. I’ve never seen a business case that is not good looking. That means that we all put a bit of makeup to projects and business cases so that we are selected.
That’s a bit plain with the numbers and it was not the right way to make the decisions. What I realized are the most engaging projects that you have in organizations are those closer to the purpose of the organization. I came with this framework, which says that one of your key criteria for selecting projects is the purpose of your organization. Use the purpose to see is this project on purpose? Yes, then we should invest. Is this project not on purpose? We should not invest. Don’t only select your project based on financials, but use the purpose as one of the key criteria.
You’re writing about this purpose and the elements and all of the things that you’ve written about, especially in your book. I want to talk about who you can help with this. It’s not just for project managers who would want to read this book. Can you give a little background of who would be your target market for your book?
My target market is everyone. It sounds a bit crazy, but we do a lot of projects. If you want to get slightly better with the projects you do at work, in my book at the beginning, I talked about a wedding. It’s a couple who is bad at planning. They are always late with everything, but their wedding is not late. It’s on time. Why is the wedding on time and all the other projects that they’re carrying in their personal lives are a mess? What can we learn from that? It’s for individuals, students because most of the students will be working project-based, but also senior leaders. It’s a population, the executives and senior leaders who have never been trained on how to prioritize projects, how to make decisions around projects, how to follow up and support projects. They account for about 30% to 40% of the success of a project. This is a particularly important audience for my book. The tools will help them to do their work better and I can see the benefits after talking to them. They understand why projects fail and how can they do better. That will be a very interesting population as well.
You mentioned coming down to priorities. You say you start a topic, purpose and priorities. You had a couple of stories and I watched a couple of your videos. You were telling the story of Mary at the postal service. You were talking about Ryanair, Amazon, and Apple. Can you give an example that you like to tell that gives an idea of how this book can help based on maybe a common example or a common company situation?Wanting some of the advantages of innovation technology also comes with an idea of resetting what we consider the norm. Click To Tweet
You point to one of the examples which I love to tell, especially to executives because most of the ones that come across, they want to do everything. They try to launch initiatives and focus on their core business. What I tried to do is explain that prioritization, focus, and deciding what to do and what not to do can be a competitive advantage. To the point of Ryanair, where they say, “We don’t care about the customer or our only focus is about efficiency. We want to be the cheapest airline and we will fly you on time, but we don’t care about the customer. You will queue and you will pay for anything extra that we need to deliver.” That company, everybody acts in the same way. When they need to make a trade-off decision between the customer and the efficiency, they always will choose efficiency.
The opposite, you have Amazon, where everybody working in Amazon knows that the customer is always a priority. Jeff Bezos talks about their customer-centricity. They don’t put forward their inefficiencies to the customer. They take care of that. Most of the companies or 99% of the companies I come across, they want to do both efficiencies, customer quality and regulation. When people are below on the ranks and they need to make decisions about how to allocate their time or how to make decisions with their customers, they will all decide differently and these companies don’t move fast. What I’m trying to explain with the book to executives is that prioritization and decision-making on what we do and how we prioritize to make a huge difference. People working for them are asking to have the priorities clear, but somehow they don’t manage. They want to achieve everything. We know that when you try to go for everything, you don’t get anything.
Can our priorities be different than within the company? What I think of as an employee is different. Maybe they haven’t made it clear. How can they make their priorities clear? We know culture comes from the top and a lot of employees are maybe not engaged because they have no idea what they do ties into the overall goals every day of what they’re supposed to do. How can we fix that?
You need to have a global strategy around these priorities of the organization linked to the purpose. Back to Ryanair, they want to be the cheapest and the most reliable airline in Europe. Of course, there’s the department where they deal with the safety of the plane and that department’s priority is safety and no accidents, which sometimes might be a bit contradictory with the efficiency. That is possible over, but everybody knows. This is very important because often I talk to employees or managers. They don’t know what their strategy is or what are the priorities, so they make them up. I think there are good intentions on mostly all the employees. They all want to contribute to the bigger picture and achievement, but the communication is poor or the decision making has not taken place.
You bring up a lot of good points. You would hope that they would be able to be the cheapest and safest at the same time. As we talk about aligning things and using your process to achieve things we want in life, I know that you did not particularly love to speak in public. You’ve used what you teach others to overcome that through project management. How did you do that?
This is very personal feedback or sharing. I was really shy. I don’t know if you were also when you were a kid, but I hate it. I was shaking when the teachers in 11th grade, 12th grade were asking me a question. I was stressed and I could not even speak. I said, “This is not possible, Antonio. You need to learn how to speak in public.” It wasn’t like more self-development work that I had to do with myself and it’s not a thing of a year or two. It took me five years to be able to stand in public and then another 3 to 4 years to feel confident and half a story to tell. It’s a very long journey that requires every time that you have the opportunity to speak, stretch a little bit, try to tell a joke and pose.
You stand in front of the audience, walk down through the audience. My models were people I saw speaking that I liked. “This was something that captures my attention. I will try to replicate.” I’ve been teaching this to all people I train in business schools and in MBAs that they have to be confident and be able to develop these skills because you need to be standing in front of audience or steering committees. The way you talk and the way you stand in front of them, body language plays a big role. It has been a long journey but successful for personal reasons. I feel proud of it that I decided to focus on this area.
My next book is on perception and how people perceive us. A lot of that body language and all that stuff you’re talking about is so important, but you certainly have overcome that. You’re fluent in five languages even.
In my quest to become a good speaker, I felt like I have to have an accent. I have to have a British accent and most of my keynotes are in English. I want to get this proper English. It was disappointing at first because I didn’t manage to get the accent. When I was trying it, people felt like I was a bit silly and then I realized people don’t care about your accent. Half your accent, which is a bit of Spanish and people will like it more. Keep your accent and keep it in yourself, and back to your next book, people will perceive that you’re authentic and that’s one of the key success factors. The language has been a funny story but I speak in front of people better in English because of the practice and my language, Spanish, because half of the work comes in English.
You speak Spanish and English, what are the other languages?When you try to go for everything, you don't get anything. Click To Tweet
I speak French, Dutch, German and Italian. It depends on where you are and how much you practice. You need to practice languages.
My daughter speaks Portuguese too. I guess once you get a few of those Latin languages, they start to get a little easier. I didn’t have to start with one. It sounds like what you’ve done is helpful for many people, not just project managers but in general, to achieve goals in your life. I think a lot of people could benefit from reading your book. I saw that you were on Peter Bregman’s show. He’s been on my show. He endorsed your book. A lot of people from the Marshall Goldsmith Group and everything has all had good things to say about your work. A lot of people are reading and they want to know how they can get your book or find out more. Is there a link or something you’d like to share?
The best is they go to my website. It’s AntonioNietoRodriguez.com. There you can find how to reach out to me. I love to connect and hear stories. I reply always. There’s a link to the book and there’s a link to LinkedIn as well. I have lots of interviews and articles. Go to my website and hopefully, you’ll find what you’re looking for and if not, let me know.
This has been so much fun. Thank you so much, Antonio. I appreciate having you on the show. This is great and I hope everybody checks out your book.
Thank you, Diane. The pleasure is mine. Thank you for the invitation. I’m so happy I’ve been to your show.
I’m happy too and I’m looking forward to meeting you in person.
I’d like to thank both Antonio and Brian for being my guests. We get many great guests on this show. If you’ve missed any past episodes, please go to DrDianeHamilton.com. You can listen to it on the radio section, you can listen to it everywhere podcasts are played as well as on these AM/FM stations. You can find out more about Cracking the Curiosity Code, the book and the Cracking The Curiosity Code program that we work with companies to develop curiosity by giving the Curiosity Code Index on my site. Everything’s at my website or you can go directly to the curiosity information at CuriosityCode.com. I hope you enjoyed this episode and join us for the next episode of Take The Lead Radio.
- Antonio Nieto-Rodriguez
- The Project Revolution
- Peter Bregman – previous episode
- LinkedIn – Antonio Nieto-Rodriguez’s LinkedIn page
About Brian Fanzo
Brian Fanzo is a millennial keynote speaker who inspires, motivates, and educates businesses on how to leverage emerging technologies and digital marketing – to stand out from the noise and engage with customers of all ages.
Brian is a proud geek that majored in computer science that found his niche of “translating geekspeak” with a unique background that includes working 9 years for the DoD in Cybersecurity, 2 years at a booming cloud computing startup and the last 5 years an entrepreneur and CEO of iSocialFanz.
About Antonio Nieto-Rodriguez
Antonio Nieto-Rodriguez is the global champion of project management. He has transformed project management into one of the central issues on every CEO’s 2030 agenda. He is the creator of concepts such as the Hierarchy of Purpose featured by Harvard Business Review, or the Project Revolution; which argues that Projects are the lingua franca of the business and personal worlds from the C-suite to managing your career or relationships.
Antonio’s research and global impact in modern management has been recognized by Thinkers50 with the prestigious award “Ideas into Practice” and is ranked #17 in the global gurus Top 30 list. He is part of Marshall Goldsmith 100 coaches.
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