Categories: career development
Leading a project and directing a play have many similarities, says James Lovell, a senior project manager for Mercy Technology Services, a provider of healthcare IT solutions. And like great art, the Theater major says the most rewarding projects are transformative.
James, how did you get into project management? I worked on a project at a print-and-mail company, and my boss at the time was the project manager. Watching how he worked with the teams and planned and tracked the project intrigued me, so I looked into project management positions at the company. Within a year I had a project management job.
I have a degree in Theater, and I’ve found that project management is similar to directing in several ways—there is a “go live” date that can’t be missed, you work with multiple groups to realize the objectives of the play/project, you obtain and manage resources, and you manage communication
What do you love most about the work? Using project management processes to make an idea or goal on paper into reality. It’s always exciting to start a new project, especially one that is impactful to the organization. The most rewarding projects are those that help people and that transform an organization in meaningful ways.
What do you find most challenging or frustrating? In the waterfall world, my biggest frustration is with estimating. In my experience—and I’ve worked at six companies in two cities over the last 20 years—there is little organizational appetite to improve the accuracy of estimates, probably because it’s so hard to do. In many cases, the process of providing estimates isn’t defined, and people don’t have training.
My biggest frustration with Scrum/Agile is again largely organizational. Most companies are unwilling to invest the time to provide the business resources necessary for a true agile environment, so IT groups build their own stories, prioritize the sprints, and can’t review the sprints with business owners prior to delivery. This leads to quasi-Agile/Scrum methodologies or hybrids of Waterfall and Scrum.
How has Covid-19 impacted your work? I’ve been working from home since mid-March, as have most of my colleagues. However, thanks to collaborative tools and conference call platforms, this has not heavily impacted my work. I did have some additional meetings and project work to help prepare Mercy hospitals to handle the influx of Covid cases.
Does your approach change depending on the country you’re working in? I have only worked in the United States, but managing projects with distributed teams that include international groups does require creativity with scheduling meetings to avoid meeting times that are in the middle of the overseas team’s nights. It’s also important to capture the holiday dates for all countries at the outset of the project to factor into the schedule. Doing research on the countries of the people I work with helps me provide a more inclusive environment too.
What's your proudest professional achievement? I recently completed a project that will reduce patients’ hospital stays after colorectal surgery, speed the healing process, and improve surgical outcomes. This was a two-year effort that included changes and additions to surgery protocols and nursing procedures; enhancements to the medical record system; and training for patients and nursing staff. [The project addressed] every stage of the surgical process, from the patient’s initial visit to discuss the surgery through the procedure itself and post-surgery care.
What's the best piece of advice you've received or can share? The old saying, How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time, is a great piece of advice. Large or complicated projects can seem daunting and impossible at times, and challenges often appear that seem insurmountable. But following a process to work through each thing incrementally, step by step, always yields the necessary results. Build a process you trust, tweak it when needed to fit the situation, and trust that process.
How has PM.com helped you in your work and career? PM.com is a terrific resource for training to keep current on my PMP. Since it’s linked to PMI.org, I can monitor my PDU progress and it’s very handy to have PDUs automatically updated after I complete a video in PM.com. It’s also exciting to use the site to network with project managers around the globe, share information and keep in touch with the latest developments.
What interests or hobbies do you have outside work? I like to exercise and travel. I’m on two committees at my church: the Sustainability Committee, and Peace and Justice. I’m a bit of an activist in my spare time. Since I’m a theater fan, I love to attend plays. My daughter is very into dance and theater, so supporting her shows and watching her recitals is a lot of fun too.
Favorite TV show, artist or movie? It’s a Wonderful Life gets me every time I watch it. I have many favorite artists, some are Michelangelo, Monet and Gustav Klimt. St. Louis, where I’m based, has a very good art museum and I discover new artists every time I go.
Best vacation? My honeymoon cruise to Spain, Italy, France and Malta. It was a nice introduction to these beautiful and culturally rich countries.
Thank you James!
To connect with James, visit his ProjectManagement.com profile.