Lessons Learned: A Conversation on Getting Big Projects Done

Here is an overview of the Lessons Learned: A Conversation on Getting Big Projects Done Seminar at the Next Generation of Government Summit

Lessons Learned

A Conversation on Getting Big Projects Done

Thursday: July 28th – 10:30 – 11:30

Twitter Hashtag: #NGGS3

Adutya Kumar

Deputy Assistant to Vice President Joe Biden

Former Special Projects Director to Rahm Emanuel

Deputy Chief Financial Officer for Obama for America

Eugene J. Huang

Partner

True North Venture Partners

Frank DiGiammmarino (Moderator)

Deputy Coordinator for Recovery Implementation

White House

Adi Kumar Background

Adutya Kumar went to Georgetown and interned with Senator Kennedy. He had a lot of tasks related to working with non-profits. After Georgetown he worked at McKinsey Consulting and then went to business school at Stanford. He said that at Stanford is where his journey began. He was facing an option of going back to McKinsey or private equity in New York, or third unknown option.

This was in 2007, and he was deciding on what to do. Adutya became very passionate about the Obama Presidency and wanted to learn how he could help with campaign. Adutya decided to fly out to Chicago and showed up at an Obama Campaign Office during his spring break. For about two weeks he answered phones and got the mail. After working with the Obama Campaign on his spring break, he decided to join the Obama Campaign once he graduate. Aduyta got numerous projects and then began working on fundraising efforts, organizing people and managing campaign finances. He was eventually named Deputy Cheif Financial Officer for Obama for America. Adi joined the White House transition team and eventually was asked to join the Cheif of Staff’s office with Rahm Emanuel for about a year and a half.

Tips from Adi

One big discovery Adi has learned about himself, is that he always thought he needed a plan in life and a plan is something that people should have. Eventually Adi realized that it’s ok not to have a direct plan and chart out your life plan..

Eugene Huang

Eugene started a business right out of college in 1999. Everything he has learned as an entreprenuer has served him well in public service. Eugene explained that as an entreprenuer you don’t have people, money or resources – so how you need to create quick wins and a “yes,” to build a product and a business, he explined that this is also true with government.

Projects he has worked on all have had people who say “no.” In all odds, Euguene says that he has had victories. He emphasized the need to create quick wins and victories, in spite of negative, adversarly conditions that may be occuring. Eugene explained that people need to get buy-in from individuals and working with individuals is critical.

Eugene also worked with Henry Paulson while Paulson was the head of the Treasury. He explained that at the Treasury attempted to create a bi-laterial communication with the Chinese. Eugene explained the importance of building trust between the US – Chinese and focused on small, quick wins that focused on building trust for individuals. Euqene said that he focused on simple trade issues, such as agriculture products and treaties they had already agreed too – Eugene said he had success and many of the policies were carried from the Bush Administration to the Obama Administration.

Questions From Audience:

1) What is the difference between the corporate and the private sector environment?

Adi – One thing is that they are both bearucrucies. The big difference is that from his experience at McKinsey is very horizontal and the public sector is a lot of deep silos. McKinsey shared information very well, Federal government has had challenges sharing information between agencies and departments. Adi said there might be a technology component, but the culturally component is a large issue. At McKinsey, people were scared of failing for not trying hard enough, and there were many workaholics.

In government, people are afraid of talking to someone they shouldn’t be talking too and as a consequence, there is little collaboration in the Federal government. The Federal government is good at getting the answer right, when something is actually done or are willing to use agencies to say something. The down-side is that it could take a very long time to make a decision.

Eugene – In big organizations there are two constraints, politics within the organization and failure is not an option. Pushing the boundaries and learning how you can take a calculated risks are ways to get ahead. The incentive in large organizations the potential is to revert towards the mean.

2) Can you give examples of how you created Buy In?

Eugene – worked on the Open Government Directive for the White House. Eugene said he heard from critics that this is just another directive agencies are forced to do. He created an inter-agency task force to come together to share best practices to help mange buy in. Recognizing that you do not have all the answers, and learning how to tap others knowledge base to have success in the project.

Working with Public Affairs to build momentum and highlight the project to show the are not operating within their own silo. Creating positive news stories is a great way to help build support quickly.

Adi shared the expression, keep your friends close, but your enemies closer and taking advantage of your built in supporters to help build internal monentum.

Adi – One way is to prune out what people can do before they are offically hired. Adi would have people fly out to Chicago before hired to learn about their skills and what they can offer to the group. More you bring people into the fold and make sure that everyone knows what their job is and their role, helps buy-in.

Key Take Aways:

1. Build Your Network

2. Take Calculated Risks

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask

4. Use your Network

5. You Don’t Have All the Answers, Tap the Collective Knowledge to Solve Issues

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Profile Photo Jay Johnson

I love this quote:

Everything he has learned as an entreprenuer has served him well in public service. Eugene explained that as an entreprenuer you don’t have people, money or resources – so how you need to create quick wins and a “yes,” to build a product and a business, he explined that this is also true with government.

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