PM-Mastery

Crafting Excellence in Project Execution with Ethan Schwaber

December 26, 2023 Walt Sparling Season 1 Episode 48
PM-Mastery
Crafting Excellence in Project Execution with Ethan Schwaber
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Ever wondered how a project management wizard like Ethan Schwaber would tackle the unpredictable weather of both the professional sphere and the skies of Tennessee? Buckle up for a captivating journey with our special guest, as we chart his transition from Boeing's high-stakes environment to laying the groundwork for an elite PMO at Specialized Dental Partners. Schwaber's tales from the trenches and his life as a music-loving, Taekwondo-kicking family man forge a narrative as multifaceted as it is enlightening.

Dive headlong into the trenches of project management prowess, where PDUs aren't just acronyms but stepping stones to mastery. We navigate the seas of networking and community, unearthing the goldmine of knowledge in webinars and global PM summits. Listen closely as we unpack the trials of birthing a PMO in the healthcare industry, aligning its pulse with the beating heart of organizational aims and converting the staunchest of skeptics into its strongest proponents.

In our final act, we arm you with the tools needed for PMO triumph—from the collaborative might of Microsoft Teams to the precision of Moovila task management. Planning emerges as the hero of this saga, with tools and templates serving as the unsung allies of both seasoned and citizen project managers. Teasing the promise of future discussions on the varied structures of PMOs, this episode is your gateway to understanding the intricate ballet of project management. 

Join us, and let Ethan Schwaber's expertise illuminate your path to PM mastery.

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Intro/Outro:

Welcome to the PM Mastery podcast. This podcast is all about helping you master your project management skills by sharing tips, tricks, tools and training to get you to the next level, while sharing the stories of other project managers on their journey in project management. Now here's your host, Walt Sparling.

Walt Sparling:

Welcome everybody to the current edition of PM Mastery. Today I have with me Ethan Schwaber. Did I say that right?

Ethan Schwaber:

That's correct. Thank you very much. Pleasure to be here.

Walt Sparling:

Awesome, glad to have you on. We're going to start out with our typical questions. First of all, we'd like to know a little bit about you as an individual. Tell us who you are.

Ethan Schwaber:

Sure well, I would like to describe myself. I'm a family person a husband with a beautiful wife, kathleen, and four beautiful children ranging from ages 13 to two years old, and I am a project management and business operations professional. I've had a long career so far over 20 years, spent the last 15 plus years in the project management space, and currently I live in the great state of Tennessee and I work for a company called Specialized Elim Partners. I am the project management office or PMO director and building up a new enterprise, project management office. So it's a new position that I held for the last about a year there now building that team up. Before that I managed another PMO, so this is my second PMO that I am managing and building up. Prior to that, my family, we lived, we were West Coast the whole, my whole life. I spent over 20 years previously in the state of Washington, live near Seattle, and my longest stint was at the Boeing company. That's where I. They have a really strong program, project management program there. They all sorts of courses and projects and huge teams. I learned so much there, a lot of my technical skills, not just project management, but a lot into Lean Six Sigma. I kind of worked my way up into different senior roles there on the 737 program, which is the largest program that they have at Boeing. I think it's over $30 billion a year annual revenue and some of the last roles there were risk management leader for the 737 program and work statement manager as well. Also spent some time with the new development airplane, the 737 MAX. But yeah, I grew up before that in California until I was 18. So, like I said, west Coast my entire life until we decided to pick it up a couple years ago and move to the other side of the country. But absolutely love it here. Outside of work. Some people might know I am a musician. I've played the piano since I was five, most of classically trained, but I do love modern music. In fact, jeremiah Hammond and I kind of talk about some of the rock songs. He's a big rocker and have you played this or that, so that's always fun. And then another thing I do with my kids we do Taekwondo and working for my black ball next time oh good deal.

Walt Sparling:

A lot of stuff going on and with four kids, oh my God. A side gig, a music player, taekwondo, you're a busy guy.

Ethan Schwaber:

Yeah, yeah, I didn't even talk about my other side gig, we were talking before the podcast started, but yeah. So my wife and I we started a new consulting business earlier this year called Tailor Made Services, where we do just with select clients operations, consulting management, consulting, project management and she's kind of a business analysis analyst by trade, so bring the business analysis as well. So that's our side kind of business. But my main job is the PMO director.

Walt Sparling:

And you fit that in between the Taekwondo and soccer games and all that.

Ethan Schwaber:

Yeah, we somehow find a way to make it work.

Walt Sparling:

That's awesome. Now, what is the weather like where you're at right now?

Ethan Schwaber:

Actually not too bad. It's sunny, I think in the 50s or low 60s. It's interesting because, Walt, have you ever spent time in the Pacific Northwest?

Walt Sparling:

Very little I was in. I've been to Seattle. We went up there to take a cruise to Alaska, so that's, I think, the only one time I was there was for the in and out of that.

Ethan Schwaber:

Okay, well, that's beautiful up there, and. I've done the Alaska cruise inside Passage. It's absolutely God's country up there, but Seattle is. If people have been there, they know it's pretty gray. Much of the year, 10 months of the year, it rains a lot, and so we kind of joke that summer goes from July 5th to Labor Day because it always rains July 4th. There's a huge mountain up there that's almost three miles tall, not rainier. It's got glaciers on it, and you know so they say there's a saying that says if you can't see Mount Rainier, that means it's raining, and if you can see it, that means it's going to rain soon. So there's all sorts of rain jokes about that, you know anyway. So when my wife and I and our family moved to Tennessee, we actually got here on January 1st 2022, just about two years ago and we get here and again, seattle is pretty much gray, raining all of December, january. We get here and you know it's cold, it's 30s, 40s or so, but it's sunny and we're like what's that yellow orb up in the sky? You know we haven't seen that in a while, so we're just really enjoying the sunshine. But the weather here you're in Florida, I believe right.

Walt Sparling:

Yeah, yep, on the west coast.

Ethan Schwaber:

Yeah, yeah, that's a great area, but you know this part of the country things are a little bit fun sometimes, right, you know, down in Florida you guys, you know, get thunderstorms like we do here, maybe some hurricanes here and there. We don't have hurricanes in Tennessee, but we do get those big thunderstorms. We have tornadoes. Actually missed a tornado. There's a you might have saw in the news recently in middle Tennessee. There's 13 of them on Saturday and one of them was about a mile or two from our house. Actually, I know some people who lost their homes. Unfortunately, it's really unfortunate. We're trying to support that. But so a little crazy kids were kind of a little bit of a mess on Saturday but we were able to stay calm through that kind of kind of you know best way to kind of make good decisions and hunker down and get through that situation.

Walt Sparling:

So, but other than that, we have the annual storm season. It starts in June and ends in November, but for some reason this year we've got a couple of tail storms that have come in, and we have one coming in tomorrow and it's not a hurricane, but we're talking about wind gusts of 50 to 60 miles an hour, possible tornadoes, and right now the weather outside is great. It's in the high 60s, it's awesome. Yeah, so, yeah. So tomorrow it sounds like we'll be spending a lot of time indoor doing things, because we won't be able to step foot out and just watch the things blowing around in the yard. So and my wife unfortunately works for a large utility, so she will be in Sunday all day doing damage assessments to their power grid.

Ethan Schwaber:

Well, and my wife can probably relate to yours because you know she works for a company called National Electric Service, which is the 11th largest public utility in the nation, and so on Sunday, here as well, like her company, was just 24, seven around the clock, working to build up infrastructure. You know there's a lot of downwinds and everything, so, yeah, tornadoes are a lot less forgiving than I think. Hurricanes they come up too fast and they just do a tremendous amount of damage and you don't have the warning right to board up your house and get out, or you can stay in and have hurricane parties. Some of my friends from Florida have talked about those.

Walt Sparling:

Oh yeah, when I was younger that was, that was the thing, and I love a good rain, I love sitting out on the patio and watching the thunderstorms and listening to it. It's just, it's relaxing, so all right so we've done a lot of weather talk. So you do PMO and you do the consulting on the side. So we've talked about this on a lot of interviews. You know how people got into project management and pretty much no one ever graduated high school or or in middle school said I want to be a project manager or head of a PMO. But somehow they work their way up and they, they get there. What drove you or into this, or why is it that you do this and you've been doing it? You said for quite a while now 20 years.

Ethan Schwaber:

Yeah, well, I have over 20 years of business experience, doing formal project management for about 15 plus years. I think I fit in the mold with most people that I didn't grow up, go through high school and say I want to be a project manager someday. My undergrad I was a business marketing major, graduated, did some marketing roles, sales jobs, even did some management for a few years, but I have a love for aerospace. Ever since I was probably a fetus. I just loved everything that flew or rockets, airplanes, everything that was actually a driving force. One thing I was thinking of is gosh, it'd be so cool to work for the Boeing Company someday. I knew they were up in Seattle. We had visited. Again. I grew up in California, we visited in Washington. I saw they were there and I'm like, wow, that'd be cool and plus, washington is beautiful. We went on a sunny day, by the way, so I didn't realize how great it was. I wish I could be here, but anyway. So I went to undergrad up in Washington State and I actually interned with Boeing in 2002 in the summer. I graduated the year after from college. Most companies, if you do a good job, they hire you back full-time, but that year it was a difficult year for the aerospace industry because they were still dealing with the aftermath of the 9-11 terror attacks. Boeing laid off a third of its workforce that year and my boss at the end of the summer was like well, he did a really good job, but I'm laying off half my team and, fortunately, we can't bring you back. That's why I went into some of those marketing and sales and management roles. There's always my intention to get back into the Boeing Company because it's a great company, I love aerospace and they're one of the leaders. So anyways, 2008, I finally worked my way back into the company, got the last job I thought I would have ever gotten, which was in the industrial engineering group 4737. I'm not an industrial engineer by trade, but they were looking for someone who's an analyst and I had some of that experience before. So somehow I ended up there. Sure enough, different opportunities came up, like light projects. I would say that they asked hey, ethan, can you help out? I've never been a professional project manager before, but raising my hands for opportunities, so I went and just one after another started performing. So then they started giving me bigger and bigger projects to do and, being that I was doing more project management. That's where they got me into recommend it I should go take these courses they have all sorts of internal courses to take and learn the Lean Six Sigma approach. There's a lot of that within Boeing Lean Manufacturing, which they barred from the Toyota company that model. I switched roles. I got promoted up to different roles and switched into the industrial engineering version of project manager called Operations Analyst, but really it was all project management. Then from there the business operations team saw me. They saw I was very visible and recruited me into a program management role. So I worked my way into a senior program manager role there and got to lead a lot of initiatives on the 737 program, which is really exciting. So I didn't run the PMO there in the 737 Boeing. That's a program. That's a really big group. They do some really impressive things. But I was working at very high levels with those leaders and learned a lot, got to see from all different angles of the business and how to run PMOs and the best practices. Of course PMOs are different for each company but there were a lot of things in there. Then from there when my wife and I decided, hey, let's move to Tennessee. Well, there's no Boeing here in Tennessee, so even if I want to stay with the company, it wasn't really an option. So that's where I reached out and I got recruited to run my first PMO and then obviously, doing my second one right now. So I've been very blessed throughout my career, learned a lot Then, even this last year, as I've become active on LinkedIn. I think we have just an amazing project management community here on LinkedIn. I learned so much from everyone. Just people are really amazing what they share along with the PMI community. There's just so many great individuals, different webinars as well that PMI puts on elsewhere, so I continued to learn as well. There's a few different summits that I go to as well, particularly around PMO as well and project leaders. So always learning. I love it. I love what I do. But yeah, I did not. If you asked me 20 years ago, I wouldn't have told you where I would be today.

Walt Sparling:

Yeah, 20 years, 30 years, I wanted to be an architect. So I'm not doing that. I sometimes play like an architect, but Well, yeah, we're not my job. So interesting segue, because one of the next question is how do you keep up? So you've indicated that you've learned a lot, basically on the job, as you've gone through and you've elevated, you've been recognized, you've moved up and then you got this opportunity for the PMO and now your second PMO. But as far as a formal sense, is there anything that you do to keep up with new PM topics, do you? You're not a PMP, right, or are you?

Ethan Schwaber:

I am PMP.

Walt Sparling:

Okay, I'm sorry I missed that. So you then you have your units that you have to keep up on. So you have to do some kind of education stuff in order to do that, besides the giving back, which it seems like you'd probably do a lot of giving back from what I've seen just on LinkedIn. So how do you, how do you do that? How do you get your PDUs? And then how do you keep up with latest, the latest and greatest in the PM world?

Ethan Schwaber:

Well, probably the one of the best ways is because it's included with your PMI membership is, you know, different webinars that you can take right On the PMI website. So I try to do at least a couple of those every month. Really great topics, you know, learning from experts all over the world. There is I think it was around June or July they have like the virtual expo as well, so you can earn PDUs as well through that. I don't know if you've, you know, attended that in the past. And then I didn't make it to the PMI summit this year in Atlanta, but I do plan to go next year. It's in the Los Angeles, I think in September. And then, like I mentioned, there's some other summits as well. I've only been able to attend some of the virtual ones, but, like impact summit, there's a PMO global alliance and you know so those are more geared towards PMO leaders, but I think anybody can attend those. But that's really great because, yes, this is my second PMO, but I'll be the first to admit like I don't know everything. Things are always changing and I have a lot to learn. You know, I always want to make sure that I'm trying to stay on top of the latest trends and then one of the like I mentioned before. You know, really, community and networking is so important because you know I might work through a situation and maybe I have experience, maybe I've done it before several times, but you know there are unique situations or maybe something I haven't faced before. So how great is it if I am struggling with something I'm not sure you know which course to take and I can reach out to some trusted colleagues in my network. You know, hey, you know, have you faced this before. You know how have you dealt with this and you know we can have that conversation and share best practices. So, you know, I feel like there's something I can learn from anybody at any level. So certainly I have lots of you know PMO executive, you know leaders like myself that I can talk to at that level, but you know even someone that's, you know, a project manager, a business analyst, a project coordinator. You know entry level folks, even people looking to transition into this, that you know, and they probably didn't realize, they do project management themselves. You know they don't have the title. So you know, what comes to mind is some people like you know, Melissa Chapman. You know she's very known in the transitioning teacher space to project management and she talks about how, even as a teacher, she was able to document and she had the three years of work experience as a project manager so she can get her PMP, so she can apply for that. So a lot of people get that experience and don't even realize it. So that's where I really try to get to know people and, you know, have good conversations because, like I said, at any level, I'm always learning from them. You know as well, I share knowledge but I'm learning from them as well, so it's a mutually beneficial thing.

Walt Sparling:

Well, and, like you said, the network just in general that we're both in is massive and there's some excellent talent in there, Melissa being one. You've also mentioned Jeremiah, you know, there's John Connolly, there's Gabor, there's I don't want to, I know I'm going to miss a lot because there's so many of them.

Ethan Schwaber:

So many names. It's amazing.

Walt Sparling:

Yes, so once again, I think you're you must have reread all the questions because you're transitioning through your conversation like you were just talking about challenges, and that's the next question is what kind of maybe a recent challenge or a challenge that really stood out to you in your work? Could you share something about that?

Ethan Schwaber:

Yeah, I guess I'll relate it back to, maybe overall, that the whole PMO that I'm building up. So, again, I'm building up an enterprise PMO, so it supports the entire organization and the company I work for. I love my job, by the way, and it's a wonderful company, really great people, really smart people that work here and I'm really blessed. So it's in the space, it's in the healthcare industry. It's what's called a DSO dental support organization, so it's a bunch of different specialized dental practices that are in partnership with each other. This is throughout the United States, and then there is the support or corporate side we call it support services that supports all the practices. Okay, so that's kind of the setup of the company. So great company I was asked to come in to build up a PMO because they recognized that they need professional project management. Why? Because a few major projects the last year or two failed. They had some major issues. So good for them for recognizing that. I certainly feel blessed that they decided to recruit me. But one of the challenges and I think, talking to lots of PMO leaders, they run into the same thing, especially when PMOs are new that you have to prove yourself as a PMO, you have to convey value. And that was what was asked for me early on what do I need to be successful? Well, you got to show the PMO value and of course, I asked the questions like what does that mean? How do you measure value? What's the what and what's the when? By when do you want to see this and what do you want to see? They couldn't answer that and then I gave some suggestions what about this, this and that and what do you think? I didn't really get any feedback. So I'm like, ok, well, I've done this before. I think I know some ways, so let's go do this. And it's kind of interesting, right? Because it's like you're trying to justify the PMO and your job to survive for long term. But you're like wait, shouldn't they have recognized the need for professional project management? Based on the last few years, have they been seeing things? And no other department really I feel, faces that this is where I think PMOs have more of a challenge than other departments. Everybody gets what HR does right. They do payroll and benefits and all that good stuff. Everybody gets what IT does right. They know IT security and equipment refreshes and making kind of all that run there on the IT side. Everybody gets what accounting and finance does. But to people, especially if they've never worked with professional project managers in the medical industry and the medical side, do they really get what a PMO does? And so I had to. Throughout the year I've had to educate people on what PMO and professional project management is coming at them at like a servant leader approach. I'm PMO, we are here to support everybody, all the different departments. They've got all these different tasks, all these different projects going on and with different best practices and techniques and everything. It's proven and I would share some of the stats, just universally, on the effect that PMOs have on average with companies and so if we can help them with their projects and work, they're going to meet their business goals and objectives more easily. It's a win-win situation. So we're here to serve them and so, slowly but surely, we've had to build that trust up, build those relationships up. So, and then at the same time, I had to prove myself as both a director and as a project manager. I was the only professional project manager there for about half a year until I finally got the green light to bring in some people. So I brought in a senior BA, I brought in a senior project manager, but more and more over time right by using every interaction as an opportunity to build a relationship, to show what professional project management can do and more and more requests came my way, came to the PMO way. Hey, we would like your help on this. We see what you did with this project, can you help us here? And so that's been the big challenges here, but I love a good challenge. I was talking with our COO just last week and he said there's no question, when you look at the last year, you can tell a big difference at the projects where PMO was leading or supporting and projects where PMO was not involved. There was a huge difference in the overall success. So, yay, I got that buy-in, they are seeing the value and we're able to continue and grow with that. But that's a significant challenge. Like I said, you see that across the board at a lot of companies, a lot of PMO leaders talk about this. People don't get what PMOs do, so they have to sell it, they have to make sure people understand what they do and really to secure their value. One thing I'll add there's an interesting stat I've heard several times and that is a lot of PMOs I think maybe 50% fail after three years. And I think that's because, again, they should be seen as the same importance as any other department, because I think PMOs are like the glue that makes companies run as efficient as they can. With good project management PMO you're going to have just across the board efficiency gains, productivity, revenue growth, increased client and employee satisfaction, just all the areas of the business. So when they don't succeed, that usually is indicative of either the PMO leadership, the company leadership or both somewhere in between. So that's a challenge for me is I don't want this to be a PMO that lasts three years and it's done Right. So it's for the long haul and it's exciting to be part of that and I'm excited to build on what we've done so far.

Walt Sparling:

So a couple of things that you mentioned. So one, what is a PMO? Well, I've actually talked to people and I said, what do you do? I said, well, I'm a project manager or I lead a team of project managers. And they're like, what does a project manager do? And it's like, well, it depends. But a lot of them it's like a mystery title and so many firms though you'll get promoted to like I say, I come from the design world. So you'd come from a drafter, moved into design, then you'd move from design maybe a junior designer, senior designer, and then you'd move into a project manager. So basically, you can do anything because you've done all the different tasks other than being the architect and you become a project manager. And it's like a title. And I that's how I got my first title was was that Um, but it is. I think it's a mystery. And to your point on the on the PMO itself, if they don't really understand, it's hard for them to say, yeah, we should keep the PMO because we really see the value in it. But if they don't really understand it, like, yeah, do we need it? Uh, and it's also oftentimes it's an overhead, it's not. You know, yes, they're helping make, make the PM, pm's more efficient, but it's still they're not billing to jobs typically. You know, maybe it depends on the structure and how projects are capitalized, but oftentimes it's just an added cost. So I can see that being a struggle for sure.

Ethan Schwaber:

For sure and that's that's one of the biggest struggles yeah, lots of PMO leaders trying to overcome is this perception that we're just at a cost. Well, really, you could say that about any department. Every department has some costs. But if they didn't provide value to the company, you know you wouldn't have them around Right. So, trying to convey that value, you know, one of the things I did, also throughout the year, is I kind of treated, I didn't kind of I did treat the PMO buildup as a project in and of itself and I actually created a stakeholder. It's a stakeholder management plan, I call it. It's like a register and engagement matrix kind of all in one and where I go through the company and identifying you know key people, you know how supportive are they or you know they're resistant, and you know who are the champions of the PMO and, of course, anybody that's less than supportive. You know, trying to put together some plan like, okay, what's my approach? How am I going to, like you know, turn them around, and you know several people. You know I've kind of moved up. You know I've moved up throughout the year as being supportive. So I mean today there's lots of support for the PMO, several champions, I would say, and I'm very grateful for that, but it has to be intentional. You can't just you know, hope it's going to happen. You have to go out, talk to people, understand what they do, build those relationships and you know, really, in their eyes, you know, provide that type of value and then seek feedback too and you know from them and because even if you know you're doing well overall, in their eyes there's always room for improvement.

Walt Sparling:

So just continuous improvement, getting better, oh yes, continuous improvement for sure, yeah, so one of the things and I think it's a little easier to go over on the PM side was like tools. You know favorite tools and everyone has a project management software tool that they like, and then everyone has a documenting tool or a spreadsheet tool or an email tool. And, as the PMO, what are some of your favorite tools that you use to do your job? Right?

Ethan Schwaber:

So in my current role, one of the tools I love and I haven't used this before is Microsoft Teams. I've used Slack and other tools before. Those are, you know, that's great, but so I've been learning and kind of adapting. But where we've been using teams to create channels for each project that we have right, so we have, you know, certain people, whoever's on that project, and you're able to keep conversations together, able to share files, able to share project plans with integration and just everything you need, kind of in that single source there. You know, there's no one right or wrong way, of course, to do this. This is just something that we're we've been using in the past, something that we've been using and seems to be very effective, at least for our case. There's lots of project management applications and I actually did a series analyzing what I call the top 15, and I added a few more on top of that kind of some bonus ones last summer. And so my LinkedIn profile I think I have a link to in the featured section to that and these are mostly cloud-based applications. They're also I'm also excluding like the really big ones, like Oracle, you know, ppm, primavera, you know ones that or even like ServiceNow, that have project management components, but really sort of we'll say another. So things that are really out of scope for a lot of especially small to medium-sized companies are, just, you know, harder to implement. So there's a lot of good ones on there. You know, depending on which organization you know, there might be ones better suited for each one, but we use one. We selected Movala, which is, I think, one of the from my experience, one of the best at task and project management. Now, it's not going to do as well like software development, like sprint planning. So you know Jira is kind of the leader in that space. And then there's other ones that you know have components of that, like Mondaycom you know is probably better for waterfall and traditional project management, but you can do sprint planning and agile in that. So you can do that a little bit in Movala, but it's mostly for traditional project management and that's the type of projects we do as a company. We do have Jira on the side and we can integrate the two. If we need to do development type work, we can, but that's not the type of project we've done so far since I've been here. But I love the application because and it's not as well known as many of the bigger players out there, but one the business itself is. I mean, it's a great business partnership. The way they're working with us. You get much better attention than you know if you're trying to, you know, be part of. You know you have an application with a much larger organization at least that's how we feel. We have a seat at the product development table, as they are, you know, adding things and able to work things in a little bit more quickly, but it's very comprehensive. It's got. You know it can use it for personal task management. They have, you know, fully customizable. You know dashboards and layouts and everything that you can do. I have one for myself for tasks. I have one for my team for tasks. I can see everything they're doing. Then we have, you know, dashboards at different levels for each individual project and project portfolios. So a lot of these are out of the box you can do, which is great. But then you know I've made my own custom ones as well. You know you can do budgeting in it. You can do communication, all at the task level or the project level or team level, all within the application and includes resource management as well. So a lot of applications do not include resource management, which. So this is great because, right, you can see, like gosh, I need an engineer on this project. I got five of them and four of them are busy the next. You know, they're overcast the next month. So, oh, here's a person I can assign it to right. So that's really helpful being able to see people's workload capacities in that. And one final thing that's really great about the tool that I liked is the critical path management analysis. So, believe it or not, some really great tools out there do not have this. I would say about half the applications have it. So a good example unless they've added this recently, I'm not aware is a sauna. Sauna is a great task management tool with workflows automatic. They do not do automatic critical path management, as far as I'm aware, whereas other applications a click of a button, critical path is shown and that's easy. And if you've done like what I did years ago, where you had to do this all manually, you know it took a while and you had to, you know, draw it all out, you know, as a project manager, I can really appreciate saving all that time and it takes two seconds and there it is. But Moogle is the only application that, as far as I'm aware, that does critical path management. They show the critical path at the very top and they have all the different tasks you know kind of going off of that. So it's really easy to spot that, rather than having this kind of zigzag critical path all the way throughout. But if you're doing traditional project management and you have a tool that doesn't do critical path analysis, then to me that's like you're missing the secret ingredient. You know, to me critical paths are like the magic that makes you helps. Let you manage schedules. Without that I'm kind of at a loss of how you would easily do that. I think it'd be much more manual and much more guesswork involved. So I like applications that do that. So we've been very happy with that. There's a lot of other great applications out there, but that's why we chose Moogle.

Walt Sparling:

Okay, and I was trying to reflect back Jeff Plumbly, who is in my network. I know he was also on the last nights and ladies at the round table used to work for Moogle. Yes, he is now doing his own thing, but yeah, I knew that name from somewhere. Good deal. So then teams obviously that's one that comes up a lot, especially more lately. I think people previous to that, a lot of people were using Skype and they made that when Microsoft did this, you know, mostly during COVID, when that transition happened. A lot of people are now playing with it. I love it. I use it every single day. I live in it. I'm on my laptop and constantly Messaging. We don't do a lot with projects and teams, but we use it for central storage of masters and templates that we want the team to do. We have them by region and then we also have like a global one that is for all regions. It's great to have it in teams. People can be in the same file editing it at the same time, which is nice. It's a powerful tool.

Ethan Schwaber:

One of the great things about both Movala and Teams, and a lot of other applications as well, is one of the big trends is in project management these days is AI. Both applications are using that and Teams can take the notes for you and recap and who's in attendance, and Movala has a lot of AI. They both integrate with each other, so that's really nice. That's going to really make a big difference, I think, in the future for project managers. I forgot to bring up one other application that's been crucial for us and you may have heard of it Lucid, known for Lucid chart, lucid Spark. Do you guys use that?

Walt Sparling:

in your work.

Ethan Schwaber:

Walt.

Walt Sparling:

No, cannot.

Ethan Schwaber:

It started off really known as process mapping, flow charts. Think of like Visio, microsoft Visio, but it's like Visio on steroids is how I describe it. But it's got all sorts of I mean it's probably got hundreds of templates that you can use for project management traditional project management, agile project management, scrum and all that Condon. But it has other applications for IT, for marketing HR, you can build org charts by just taking whatever HRS system you have and doing an export of all the people and import org chart built just like that. Then, when the pandemic hit a few years ago, they expanded more into what's called Lucid Spark. It's their white boarding, virtual collaboration space. They have all sorts of tools to help with that. We ran workshops recently using this tool where virtually you can have different sticky notes you can put up on boards, you can have mind maps, you can have all sorts of things that you're using, and that's a new application I brought into the company too. But people were like, wow, look at all this thing, what it can do. So that's been really critical, especially on the business analysis side.

Walt Sparling:

Awesome, all right teams. Lucid Movilah next one. Next question I have for you is did you know? Did you put together a? Did you know?

Ethan Schwaber:

Oh, I did. Actually, I mentioned using analogies can be very helpful and trying to get people to understand project management concepts, and so an example of that one I use especially with people trying to understand how we do project management. So I find a lot of leaders this is not unique to my company, it's everywhere I've worked. Leaders get excited, they get ideas. There's pressure, deadlines and stuff like that, and so they get the idea okay, team, you got this work to do, go do it off to the races. And this is part of the reason why projects fail and fail before the last couple of years, where if you don't do the right, the proper project planning upfront, then the execution part, you're gonna run through some issues typically, and so PMOs are known for actually slowing down project work and also prioritizing projects as well. So that's something we've been working through as a company, but some leaders don't like that. They can't really understand why you have to do all this project planning like let's just go do it, let's just jump in. And so one of the analogies I use is planning is like the foundation for a building Okay, if you jump right into the execution, you build that house or you build that building without the foundation. Yeah, it's gonna go quicker, at least upfront. And then when your building starts having issues you don't have the foundation to keep it strong and sturdy, you have structural issues then you're gonna have to do rework and it's gonna end up costing three times as much and take much longer to do, which then means, of course, your resources can't be taken from there and put on other projects. So, yes, upfront, you think by doing this extra planning, we're gonna take a few extra months on this project. It's gonna take longer, but I guarantee you in the end it's gonna be shorter and way less expensive. So kind of using analogies like that to explain to people why it's important to slow down, why it's important to gather and define requirements or build out test scenarios or understand what your risks are upfront and all that fun stuff, understand what that future state looks like. So those are all critical, as you know, for project management. But trying to get people to understand that that never worked with professional researchers before, being able to get that visual in their mind, can really help make a difference.

Walt Sparling:

No, that's a good one too. I like that and I agree with you on the whole planning. That's my belief, as I've seen this go the opposite way is that planning is like the most important part, and you should spend a lot more time on that because it is going to save you time and money in the long run, because you're not gonna be solving problems as they come up. You're already gonna have plan for them and you're probably gonna mitigate a lot of them before you ever get started Exactly. So, yeah, planning is important 100%.

Ethan Schwaber:

Yes, and most professional project managers. When I talk to them or interview them or collaborate, I think that's universal. What I hear we all get that is trying to convey that to people not professional project managers and even citizen. Oh, go ahead, sorry.

Walt Sparling:

No, I was just gonna say an instance, but go ahead, continue.

Ethan Schwaber:

As I say, you mentioned PMOs being a support for project managers to be more effective and be supported. But PMOs also play a critical role, at least the ones that I've worked in helping what I call citizen project managers, because the PMO is only so big. There's tons of projects, even departmental projects, that probably don't need EPMO project manager to come in and help. But people, whether they're an HR analyst or an accountant or IT person, it engineer, some people are running projects effectively but they've never been trained in professional project management. So isn't that a great opportunity for PMOs to come in and help provide some tools, some templates, maybe even we've done like a PMO or a project management 101 training that we've offered people hey, are you interested. A lot of people are interested teaching them just basic concepts to help them understand some things to consider when they're in those roles and then certainly being a resource for them when they have questions. Hey, I'm running this issue. Do you have any ideas? So we may not actually be running a project. We can certainly help influence the and increase the chances of success on projects run by what I call citizen project managers.

Walt Sparling:

One of the things I'd like to do in the future with you is actually have rather than an interview format like who you are and what you do, is have a PMO specific conversation and talk a little bit through. You've been in two PMOs. Talk about the differences, the similarities. Just to your point earlier, pmos are not the same. Each company is different. We just had a PMO started in our company when we went through a reorg and we also have a center of excellence and it's like why do we have both and who overrides what and what are your roles? And they're still working through that. But I think that is a good conversation to have. Kind of go into give people an example, because me, a PMO, my goal is to end up being like a PMO lead that's where I wanna head but kind of going through what a PMO structure at least the two that you've been in and you talk with other professional PMO leaders. So what you're seeing is commonalities and differences between them. I think that in itself would be an awesome conversation.

Ethan Schwaber:

Yeah, I'd be happy to have a follow on conversation for sure on that topic. So yeah, again, it's just one man's opinion here, no, but it's, there's a lot of people that don't have a clue.

Walt Sparling:

They've heard about it and, like you said, but what is a PMO? So let's talk about at least your experience in the PMOs that you have been in. What it is, what it does yeah.

Ethan Schwaber:

And then, yeah, it can vary from each organization, for sure, but that'd be, that'd be, that'd be fun, for sure.

Walt Sparling:

Awesome, we'll. We'll come, we'll be conversing more. I'm sure I know we have this. This interview probably will not post until afterwards, but we have the coaching, mentoring and consulting LinkedIn live coming up on Wednesday, so I'm looking forward to that.

Ethan Schwaber:

That and I think I I think I promoted that in my LinkedIn feed last week. You have some real superstars, amazing folks on that, so yeah, and it's you know.

Walt Sparling:

I've been reached out to others like why not, why don't you have this person lunch? I'm like they were all invited, but you know it's the holidays and Jeremiah just today I tried to bring him back in. He missed the first round and then I had a cancellation and so I reached out again to Jeremiah and he just said oh, I'm traveling so I can't do it. So then I reached out to someone else today I'm waiting for an answer back from them because I want to have the full six panel and I said for the others we'll, we'll do it again next year. You know, it's not not the last one.

Ethan Schwaber:

Right and I want to commend you on just the effort you put into. I mean podcasts, right, we talked about. You know there's a lot of work that goes in behind us and being flexible on times, but something like that, right, where people don't realize to pull off an event like that, you know. Right, where you want to make sure, you've got you know there. You know good balance of voices, you've got. You know six people. People change, you know their minds, people get sick, people have to travel, you know, and you're having to kind of work that all out. So really appreciate all the work that you're doing in this space, providing tremendous value to so many people.

Walt Sparling:

Well, I appreciate that and appreciate what you do too. I love the connections that I have on LinkedIn, yourself included, as I learned something every week, and if I'm not learning something new, I'm reinforcing something that maybe I wasn't a hundred percent on, and then now I am, so it's great stuff. I appreciate you coming on, and with that, I'm going to thank everyone for listening and we'll see you all on the next episode of PM Mastery. Thank you so much for all.

Intro/Outro:

Thanks for listening to the PM Mastery podcast at wwwpm-masterycom. Be sure to subscribe in your podcast player Until next time. Keep working on your problems.

Project Management Journey and Weather Talk
Networks and PDUs in Project Management
Value and Tools of a PMO
Importance of Planning in Project Management