The ‘Aha’ Moment: PM Influencer Series

The ‘Aha’ Moment: PM Influencer Series

In our seriesThe Aha Moment, we chat with influencers in the PM & PPM space and get to know them better. We ask a bunch of questions, some biz related and some not so biz related, in order to understand what makes them tick and find their aha moment.

This month’s feature is Project and Change Management Pro, William Wagner “Wagz”. Read on to learn how his diverse experience across various organizations and consultancies has shaped his path towards enhancing People and Team Performance, driving Solution Innovation through Continuous Improvement, and delivering Solutions via Project Management and Change Management.

Professional Stuff….

Q. What is your job title and in which industry are you working in?

A. It’s hard to put a title on what I have done over the last 35 years. I help individuals, teams, and organizations be the best versions of themselves.

Q. What is something unique that most people don’t know about you?

A.I have ten grandchildren.

Q. What led you to this career?

A. My constant desire to learn how to help more individuals, teams, and organizations in more effective ways has led me to a variety of professional certifications mostly where those skills that are applicable in any industry, which then leads me to new opportunities with existing clients or with new clients.

Q. In your experience, why do projects fail or fail to meet their deadlines?

A. Although I do subscribe to the mindset that failing only happens when the pursuit of the goals ends, I have a sense that the question is inquiring as to where I see the most opportunities for projects to be more successful. And the answer is that there are combinations of various factors that could contribute to the challenges and obstacles to reach success. When starting a project, the original goals, scope, and plan were misaligned or inadequate, and commitment was premature to begin executing. During the project execution, resources may not be as available or have the appropriate skills to complete aspects of the project required or an appropriate change control or adjustments were not established. Also while executing the project, the scope or the goals themselves adjust without appropriate methodologies. Or the project could be delivering something that doesn’t drive the desired results as sponsors expected. There are many other combinations of factors, but the idea is to keep every stakeholder aligned through the process of initiating, planning, and executing plans all the way through to the closing of a project.

Q. What’s the most difficult thing about managing stakeholder expectations?

A. Many of the stakeholders I have been involved with are business people who are trying to address existing customers’ demands by either finding new ways to deliver more or finding ways to deliver the same with less, while at the same time trying to address prospective customers’ wants to get them to be existing customers. With that being the focus, demands can shift quickly and priorities shift along as well. The best way to manage stakeholder expectations is first clearly understand the impact of what is being delivered. Then both informally and formally inquire with stakeholders the level of commitment to the impact and align that with the project delivery on a consistent basis. I also recommend using multiple mechanisms to present that message so that none of the stakeholders become numb to what is being presented. Finally, arming stakeholders with materials they can use to present to their stakeholders, such as existing customers, new customers, prospective customers, or executives reinforces the messaging being delivered to them. If they are using the materials effectively, they are totally bought into the commitment of what is being delivered.

Q. Have you read any books, articles or other resources that changed your perspective on project management?

A. The Goal is a management-oriented novel written by Eliyahu Goldratt and was first published in 1984. I had been working with some business leaders at my first real job after just finishing college and one of them turned me onto it. I couldn’t put it down as it laid out how to approach working through identifying opportunities and creating solutions. I better understood why getting people together that normally wouldn’t have been together to accomplish something and how it impacted so much more that daily tasks or routines.

Q. What advice would you give to up-and-coming professionals like yourself?

A. Stay “spongy”. What I mean is never stop learning. The moment you think you know what you need to know will be the moment others that want to know more will pass you by. Things change. If you ask an older person what’s changed in the last fifty years, they could talk your ear off for hours. The other side of that is to also stay curious and think positively about change. If it weren’t for change, there would be no need for all of these wonderful transformational kinds of skills like continuous improvement, business analysis, project management, change management, etc.

Fun Stuff

Q. If you had an unlimited supply of one thing what would it be?

A. Time would be the one thing I would like an unlimited supply of. What I mean by that is immortality kind of time. Not the kind of get time back where I could have used more time here and there. I am a “keep moving forward” a la Disney kind of person. However, I want to continue learning for as long as I can. I want to continue serving for as long as I can. I want to continue making a difference for as long as I can. I have many people around me at my age that are retired or are beginning to stretch their chest to break through that tape to get there. They tell me that you don’t have to do anything then. And my thoughts always go to, “There are so many things that have to be done, why not contribute to doing them.” Maybe it has to do with the fact that I enjoy doing what I do. It’s like Arnold Toynbee stated, “The supreme accomplishment is to blur the lines between work and play.” I think I have been fortunate enough to have reached a great deal of that.

Q. Who would you want to play you in a movie about your life?

A. Different people would play me for different parts of my life. Zac Efron would play my younger self with an immense amount of confidence and attitude. I then see Adam Sandler playing me during my parenting years with all of his humor and sensitivity while being competitive with the sports. And finally, I see Billy Crystal playing me during my empty-nester and grandparenting days down here in Florida.

Q. You get to be the host of a late-night talk show. Who would be your first guest?

If I were a host of a late-night talk show, I would ask Simon Sinek to be my first guest. I really enjoy his perspective and his communication skills are extraordinary. I have mostly only heard him talking about the kinds of topics that his business books cover. However, I’d thoroughly enjoy jumping into a variety of other topics to get a sense of how thinks of them.

Q. What is your go-to Karaoke song?

A. Anyone that knows me and has hung around me, especially when karaoke is around, has been involved with me when I sing “Love Shack” by the B52s. I must have sung that in at least fifty venues from local places, while on vacation somewhere including multiple cruise ships, and even at work parties.

Q. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received, and did you follow it?

A. When I was in my first “real” job after college, I had a mentor who was an executive of the company. He had a way of complimenting you while at the same time presenting you an opportunity to do some self-inspection. Once when I was frustrated that others weren’t getting onboard with an idea and plan I had presented to them, he said, “You’re a smart guy. Your conclusion and your plan are probably the best we could do. Everyone has to take their own time to get to each of their conclusions and to get to each of their plans. They’ll get to yours eventually. You just need to give them time to get there.” I stayed patient for this particular moment and the results reinforced his advice to me. I’ve followed that same advice for years with many successes. I’ve also presented those same words to others along the way as well. I have added a little to it as I recognize that many people are procrastinators as well. So, deadlines to get to a conclusion will help people focus on getting to that conclusion at least.

If you want to connect with “Wagz” and gain key insights from his expert ppm content, look him up on LinkedIn. Thank you Wagz for hanging out with us and answering our questions!

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