Meet James Greene: Capabilities Lead and Project Management Lead Consultant. James talks about his consulting journey, delivering value to clients, and what project managers need to know in 2022.
How did you get started in consulting? Take us back to the moment you decided you would be on this track.
I was always interested in consulting, but I didn’t start off as a consultant. After graduating college, I got a job in telecommunications. I sat in weekly staff meetings for six weeks, where they sat us down based on our seniority.
One day, the person who sat next to me was being asked by our other colleagues what he was getting for his work anniversary gift. Trying to be a good teammate, I turned to him, and I said, “Congratulations on your anniversary, which anniversary is it?” He looked at me and he said it was his 23rd anniversary.
In that moment, I realized it could take me 23 years to get from where I was to where he sat. I really didn’t want to sit and burn hours for years, so I immediately looked into consulting. I wanted to deliver high-quality, high-value solutions for clients and make an impact throughout my career. That is why I started consulting and I haven’t looked back since.
That is a powerful story. Today, you are a Capabilities Lead for Excella. For those who are not familiar, what is a Capabilities Lead?
Being a Capabilities Lead is about widening the capacity of the company and deepening consultant’s technical skills. I am responsible for directing recruitment, retention, and professional development for IT project managers. And it’s not just about degrees or certifications (which are great – if you want one, I can get you there), or following a list of duties and responsibilities. Organization, communication, adaptability, empathy, and leadership are soft skills that are critical to being a successful project manager. If you aspire to be a servant leader, being a Capabilities Lead is a perfect role, because you must practice and model these skills within the community in order to be effective.
What do you enjoy most about being a Capabilities Lead?
I used to coach soccer. One of the best things about it was watching people get better at something— that moment where they just figure things out and see things in a different way. Being a Capabilities Lead ties into that. You build a community, share knowledge, and watch consultants blossom professionally. We get together regularly to discuss our project and work through the skills our consultants need to be successful in their roles.
What drew you to Excella? What is the best thing about being an Excellian?
I actually attended several Meetups and talks hosted by Excellians before applying. I realized that I just had to be a part of Excella’s community. I was drawn in by the culture, which manifests itself in a few ways: extreme competence, enthusiasm, and teamwork.
Since joining, some of my best moments have come through aligning with other experts and pursuing goals that will benefit our clients and community. Whether it be through walking down a hallway, attending a Meetup, or hopping on a Zoom call, you’re always going to learn something. You can talk to people if you have issues, problems, or even questions, and you’ll always get insightful advice and an insightful point of view. People always have their hands open and it’s a great way to go about your professional life.
Tell me more about Kaizen.
Kaizen means “Good Change” in Japanese. It’s a matter of finding those things that will move your work and life forward. It’s a philosophy that empowers you to find the things that work the best and use them to create change.
There’s a book that I read that talks about the ‘Kaizen Question’: What is the one thing that I can do today that will move me closer to my goal? Kaizen is really all about taking those small steps to achieve your goals.
Is Kaizen your go-to method or do you have a favorite framework?
Kaizen is more of a philosophy that guides any number of delivery approaches and frameworks, especially agile ones. The thing about being a consultant project manager is that agility for us is tied more to the concept of continuous improvement than it is to any specific framework. I can work in Kanban, I can work in SAFe, I can work in Scrum—I’m a polyglot!
Ultimately, it’s really about using what you can as a professional to find the right approach to drive things to completion. Agile is all about getting things done, and as a project manager, getting things done is what you do!
What do you find most fulfilling about delivering projects and ‘getting things done?’
I’m quite proud of leading one of our oldest clients in the hospitality industry to their largest rollout ever. To me, it’s one thing to contribute to the top line of a large, nameless conglomerate. But being able to go out in the world and see your contributions, seeing people use your software, product, or app and knowing it makes a difference in people’s lives. That really resonates with me and gives me professional satisfaction.
What do Project Managers need to know to be successful in 2022?
Automation is becoming more prevalent in the project management field. Using bots and AI to capture critical measurements and flag potential risks is becoming more common, so I would advise project managers to upskill in this area.
With that said, don’t forget about soft skills. Because of the importance of automation and the continued focus on different methodologies, soft skills like managing stakeholders, branding yourself as a leader, and building fruitful relationships with your team are more important than ever. Bots can’t do those things.
Seek out opportunities to build your skills in empathy, creativity, design thinking and learning, and human-centered design. Those things will raise your capabilities and soft skills, will complement automation and Agile frameworks, and make you a stronger project manager.
What’s attracting companies to Agile?
One of the reasons why clients are looking towards Agile frameworks is because they want to see value quickly—in consulting, it’s all about value. Most classically trained project managers start at the beginning and drive through to the end to delivery. But there is a big gap along that timeline where you don’t get value, because you are busy managing, testing, and analyzing. Agility shortens that feedback loop and allows us to deliver more value more quickly.