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Q&A with Ricardo Sastre Martín

Exclusive Trusted Magazine Q&A with Ricardo Sastre Martín, Program Director, Head of Project Office, PMO Director, Portfolio Director and Strategy Office Director.

How could you describe your career path in few words ?

Throughout my career, I have been intricately connected with the world of projects. Initially, as a team member handling assigned tasks, I evolved into leadership roles, steering projects, programs, portfolios, and PMOs across more than 40 countries spanning four continents. This extensive exposure not only deepened my comprehension of global business dynamics but also finely tuned my adeptness at navigating diverse cultural landscapes.

Presently, alongside my primary role leading Digital Transformations for Microsoft's key customers, I dedicate my "moonlight" hours to sharing knowledge and experiences. This endeavor is my contribution to making a positive impact on the world through the prism of excellence in project management. I actively engage with various business schools, contribute to publications, and participate as a speaker at project management events worldwide.

How do you think agile practices have transformed companies over the past two years ?

In my professional opinion, Agile practices alone do not inherently transform companies. A successful transformation necessitates a fundamental shift in mindset and organizational culture, commonly referred to as "Being agile." Agile practices, situated at the culmination of the transformation process, represent the practical execution or "Doing agile."

Companies that prioritize the "doing" aspect without first embracing the "being" agile mindset often encounter challenges and setbacks in their transformation journey. The critical starting point should be a holistic change in mindset and culture.

Moreover, the alignment of both "being" and "doing" agile should be rooted in a clear sense of purpose, represented by the WHY. Understanding why the company seeks to adopt agile practices is paramount. Will these practices contribute to achieving the company's overarching goals? Initiating the transformation without a well-defined WHY, while focusing solely on the WHAT (in this context, the adoption of agile practices), can be a significant contributing factor to unsuccessful transformations.

In essence, a successful agile transformation requires a harmonious blend of embracing the agile mindset ("Being agile"), aligning actions with practices ("Doing agile"), and anchoring the entire process in a purposeful WHY.

What successful cases of agile transformations have you had the opportunity to observe that have particularly stood out to you ?

One of the most impactful cases I've had the privilege to witness and actively contribute to was the transformation undertaken at Tuenti within the Telefonica ecosystem. Originating as a startup that focused on developing a social network, Tuenti underwent a profound shift when it became part of the Telefonica family. Our mission was no longer confined to maintaining a social network product; instead, we were entrusted with the ambitious task of transforming it into a mobile digital operator, poised for international launch across diverse Telefonica markets, all under the established brand of Tuenti. This strategic move aimed at capturing a specific niche within the market.

The challenge was twofold: transitioning from the dynamics of a startup to becoming an integral part of a vast multinational corporation and evolving from a social network platform to a competitive mobile operator within markets where customers willingly paid for services. Navigating this transformative journey demanded not only adapting our work methodologies from the Tuenti startup context to align with the intricate requirements of this new corporate ecosystem but also involved coaching Telefonica's targeted markets on adopting an agile mindset within the unique constraints of mobile operator deployments.

Will agile practices continue to generate interest ? What challenges do you see in the context of deploying these practices ?

A growing discourse within the project management community revolves around the potential demise of agile methodologies and the resurgence of waterfall or predictive approaches, with an increasing emphasis on hybrid models. In my perspective, the choice between these approaches hinges on a multitude of factors. As project managers or PMO professionals tasked with shaping our companies' project delivery methods, we play a pivotal role in determining the most suitable approach based on various variables.

Projects, by nature, differ not only in their scopes but predominantly in their stakeholder ecosystems. The cultural dynamics among stakeholders emerge as a critical aspect when deciding on the appropriate approach. Consequently, agile practices will persist in attracting interest, as they remain essential for successfully delivering certain types of projects. Simultaneously, other projects may benefit from alternative approaches.

In this context, the primary challenge in deploying agile practices remains consistent: resistance to change and the reluctance to adopt an agile mindset. Numerous instances highlight companies adopting Scrum, for instance, where team members lack empowerment, and decision-making authority remains concentrated at higher organizational levels. It underscores a crucial principle — doing agile without truly being agile is inherently ineffective.

Therefore, as we navigate the evolving landscape of project management methodologies, acknowledging the nuanced nature of projects, and recognizing the imperative role of stakeholder culture, is paramount. Striking a balance between agile and traditional approaches based on the unique attributes of each project will likely continue to be a strategic imperative.

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