Antonio Nieto-Rodriguez is the world’s leading champion of project management and strategy implementation.
Born in Madrid, Spain, and educated in Germany, Mexico, Italy and the United States, Antonio is an Economists and has an MBA from London Business School, currently pursuing a PhD in Strategy and is fluent in five languages.
He is the creator of concepts such as the Hierarchy of Purpose, or the Project Manifesto; 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 has been recently awarded the title of Thinker of the Month by the prestigious Thinkers50, who identifies the most influential management thinkers in the world, including Michael Porter, Clayton Christensen, Rita McGrath.
He is the author of the best-selling book “The Focused Organization”
HBR Article: How to Prioritize Your Company’s Projects
Website & Book: www.antonionietorodriguez.com
LinkedIn & Blog: be.linkedin.com/in/antonionietorodriguez
Think Tank: StrateXecution
Gerald: Welcome to the P.P.M. Academy podcast for project program and portfolio management, where
we will interview Industry experts and discuss current and future trends in the world of project, program
and Portfolio management and how what we do impacts our company execution culture. I am Gerald
Leonard. Today we're talking with Antonio Nieto-Rodriguez. He is one of the world's leading champions
of project management and strategy implementation. Born in Madrid, Spain and educated in Germany,
Mexico, Italy and United States, Antonio is an economist and has an M.B.A. from the London Business
School and is currently pursuing a PhD. in strategy. He is fluent in five languages. He is the creator of the
concepts such as the hierarchy of purpose and the project manifesto which argues that projects are the
lingua franca of business and personal worlds from the C. suite to managing your career and
relationships. Antonio has been recently awarded the title of Thinker of the month by the prestigious
Thinkers50 who identifies the most influential management thinkers in the world including Michael
Porter, Clayton Christensen, and Rita McGrath. He is the author of the bestselling book "The Focus
Organization." Antonio, thanks so much for talking with us today. How are you?
Antonio: Good morning Gerald, I'm very excited talking with you and being on your show. I've been
following some of the podcast and following the work you're doing, the evangelist work you're doing
there in North America, and I’m very pleased to have this discussion with you.
Gerald: Oh, thank you very much, thank you very much. Listen I started, and I said “one of the" but I
really need to say that you are the leading champion of Project management and strategy in the world
and I want to make that correction here as we get ready to start this. Let's get into this, how did you get
started in the field of project management and what you think has made you successful throughout your
Antonio: I started very early, one of my first jobs was in P.W. C., and I think it was two years after
graduation, they put me in a project support office at the time( P.S.O) and I was [Inaudible 02:34]
implementation for Exxon Mobil
Antonio: And that's how I started the project manager my first task was to bring coffee to my bosses’
actually as a Support Officer
Gerald: Make sure you bring on time within the budget right?
Gerald: So tell me. Obviously, you've gone from that to being voted top fifty figure in the year. So a lot
has happened between bringing coffees to your bosses and being voted as top fifty thinkers. So tell us
Antonio: So my story as I told you, Gerald, I started in P.W C. and I became one of the most expert
people In P.W.C globally. They call it globally partition in the project, in change management this is after
ten years, working for PW.C. At one point when I try to become a partner in .P.W.C, which is the highest
level in a partnership. My business case to become a partner was to develop project management
advisory services for P.W.C. I prepared very well, and I knew my topics, I was going beyond project
management, P.M.O, portfolio management this was in 2005/2006. And to my surprise, I thought I was
going to make it partner easily because every company struggles’ with projects and it was already ten
years, but unfortunately I was fired. I was fired from P W C. because the partners didn’t believe in my
business case, which was for project management, so that was a turning point in my career. I thought
what do I do next? Do I keep following my passion and do project management because I think this is
such a big course queue for everybody or just go into market or finance, something that is a bit more
stable and I decided to follow my passions, that's my story follow your passion
Gerald: Well, so something that actually turned out, that could be looked at in some ways as a negative
for a lot of people. When you present something that is your life's work, and it seems not to be accepted,
but you use that and turn that into your advantage actually.
Antonio: That's correct. So I've told that to many project managers, and I think that many of them have
gone through tough times either they got fired as well, some people [inaudible 04:49 – 04:50] I was
fired too. Or the direction, the recognition of what's next and how do we progress in our career, it's
always the big dynamic [Inaudible 05:02 – 05:03] and they don't get the recognition and so I can think
that many people who are listening can relate to this story because it is not unique.
Gerald: OK, OK, Excellent so you recently wrote an article for H.B.R. Can you share a little bit about us
about your article?
Antonio: Sure, Gerald, this is something that's going to be published in the next weeks. One of the
reasons I wanted to publish an H.B.R is because it's what the Executive leaders read and find a new
trend. So, I thought strategically for us we need to publish more in H.B.R. and what I found very
surprising is that there are very few articles in H.B.R around project management, P.M.O, priority
session, it is topic which is very low priority. So one of my quest over the past year has been to convince
H B.R. to publish myself, but I hope it will lead to other people, who are experts like you Gerald or other
people who are experts in project management to have their space there.
Gerald: Right excellent, excellent and so can you tell us a bit more about the article itself that you wrote.
Antonio: Yeah, so the article is based on my own experience as a portfolio manager, and I realize that
the job of project managers and P.M.O portfolio management has moved to achieve from process and
framework into more culture and leadership. So, I just talk about my experience in a bank B.M.P.
[inaudible 06:39] and how I manage to get the engagement of the executive committee to work on
priorities, to work on prioritization and once you have the priorities and the prioritization cleared, which
I also call a link to the purpose of the organization, then your prioritization and your products would
follow. This is a very simple framework that I've developed for the article, and it's about prioritization
based on your purpose
Gerald: Excellent, excellent and that's what I'm all about as I've gone on my journey of the world of
project and program management, is that over my career I've seen where it's not just about system
process and tools that we rollout. Every time we roll out a big initiative we're actually changing the
culture of that organization, and we do a disservice to them if we don't focus on those cultural aspects,
and we do a great service to them if we do, and not only roll out the process, people and tools but we
also focus on how do we get them to adopt, and embrace and buy into the culture change that we're
trying to introduce. Would you agree?
Antonio: I think you're spot on Gerald, I like when you're talking because one of our weaknesses as
project managers; we do work in a style as well, so we tend to be very tactical, we talk to project
managers, we talk P.M.O, but when you have people like you were, you bring this to a higher level of a
culture, to leadership. That's when we connect with the executive teams which are their senior leaders
with the senior officials in government. So I think that has been my secret actually as well trying to get
out of our box or style and connect with our key customers and convince them what we're bringing, it's
really strategic and adds in value and culture is one of the key drivers that solve everything.
Gerald: Exactly, exactly now you also recently voted one of the top fifty thinkers in the world that's
impressive so can you tell us a little more about that one? I was really blown away when I saw that, I
was like wow that's pretty impressive.
Antonio: Yeah, that was one of the great things that happen. I guess it’s my biggest, but well over fifteen
years after I was fired from P.W.C and to get that recognition not just for me but for the profession. So
I’m constantly scanning more the business strategy leadership world, rather than the project. I hardly
talk to project management because they are convinced. Now with my running P.M.I. of course, I have
to do a lot of conferences for P.M.I., but before that, I mean in the future my targets are business
leaders, senior leaders. So where do we need to be? There’s a Harvard Business Review but thinker fifty,
is one of this kind of rankings which is kind of getting already a good name and has been there for
sixteen years and I realized they had never chosen an expert in project management. I need to change
that, so I reach out to the guys, I say we need to have something on project management. What project
management? That's for the basements, we're not interested. We're looking for inspiration, we're
looking for new trends, and I say listen, project management is the big trend, so listen to me. After
discussion would go for a year or two, it like with H.P.R and I persuaded them, and luckily, now at least I
mean they rather, and I hope I'm opening the rather for other people because this is where we need to
Gerald: Exactly, exactly I think you really are your trendsetter, and you are setting the pace and opening
doors for a lot of us to follow through. So I greatly appreciate that. So as we get ready to close out here,
I have a couple of questions for you. What trends do you see that project managers portfolio managers
program managers really should be paying attention to as we've been talking, to advance their career
really and where do you see things going?
Antonio: This is an excellent question, Gerald. I get that often is he's what I'm going to be running
projects for forty years? I'm forty-five, they still need to run projects for twenty years or thirty? What's
next so, I think there are different options. One option is going down the path of portfolio management
and there, what I realized is that the technical skills, the prioritization, the framework that you use for
selecting and demand management and actually executing the projects and programs. That's one basic
thing that you need to have, but it's not enough. That was enough maybe ten years ago. Today, it’s what
you were saying before about culture, it’s about creating that culture. You're actually a leader, we need
to see ourselves as leaders, not just support. We're leading the change, we're leading the
transformation, and we’re leading the mindset shift into execution. One of the key topics in most
organizations I go across is drive execution.
Gerald: Exactly, so Antonio if our listeners want to learn more about you where can they go?
Antonio: I have my LinkedIn profile, unfortunately I’m having probably with LinkedIn. I cannot accept
any more friends, so I don't know why. I think there is a thirty thousand limit. But there's my website
that’s called Antonioninietorodriguez.com, LinkedIn, Facebook and I'm quite active on social media;
Twitter. I am so happy to connect to anybody who is listening and has a story to share, to write an article
together. Even if I might look, [Inaudible 12:34 – 12:35] I think this is just thanks to that work of hundred
and millions people. I think that’s something that has to be recognized including you Gerald you're doing
a great job thank you.
Gerald: Well thank you very much and I'm definitely going to put all of those links in my show notes so
that people, when they listen to the podcast they can go underneath it from my website. They can go in
and click on those and learn more about you and get connected and I think it's pretty impressive that
you run out of connections on LinkedIn with thirty thousand so I think a lot of us have a long way to go
to get to that number. So I think Twitter lets you go up to the public couple of million so I think you're I
think you're good for a long time there as well so that probably people can reach out to you there well.
In conclusion today we've talked to Antonio Nieto-Rodriguez need to buy the biggest thank you so much
for talking with us today. Antonio is the author of the bestselling book The Focused Organization for
more expert insights you can go to principesofexecution.com and click on the podcast.