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Episode: 70 |
Kevin Nedd:
How to Run a PMO:
Episode
70

HOW TO THRIVE AS AN
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Kevin Nedd

How to Run a PMO

Show Notes

Our guest today is Umbrex member Kevin Nedd. Kevin is a McKinsey alum and independent consultant who focuses on running Project Management Offices, or PMOs.

In our discussion, Kevin provides his perspective on

  • when a company should set up a PMO, including examples of PMOs that Kevin has led
  • the day to day work of running a PMO
  • the tool kit used by a PMO, including templates and processes
  • effective progress reviews
  • PMO maturity levels

We also discuss Kevin’s service as a township committeeman and why he walks an hour every morning.

You can reach out to Kevin directly at kevin.nedd@pragmaticusllc.com

One weekly email with bonus materials and summaries of each new episode:

Will Bachman: Hello, Kevin. It is great to have you on the show.
Kevin Nedd: It’s really great to be here.
Will Bachman: Kevin, we were chatting a few weeks ago and you were telling me about how you’ve really developed a lot of experience around how to run a project management office or PMO, as it’s known in the trade. It’s an area that I want to learn more about, so thanks for coming on the show and offering to share some of your lessons learned around that because I know you’ve done a ton of that work. Could you give us just a background about your experiences running projects, doing project management?
Kevin Nedd: Sure, sure. Well, you know, I sort of cut my teeth in the management/consulting area. I worked with a number or reputable firms; Booz Allen, [inaudible 00:00:51] and McKenzie. In those endeavors, I had an opportunity to work on a pretty, almost a two year, project management office for a wireless startup back in the mid-90’s after all the spectrum auctions were occurring. That was my first exposure to actually doing operational delivery of projects for a client over a substantial period of time. Lately, within the last three or four years, I’ve had the opportunity to sort of do that type of work again for a number of pharmaceutical companies, as it turns out in Switzerland.
In between those two gigs I just talked about, I had the opportunity to actually manage a PMO as an employee. I was the executive director of project management at Hawaiian Telcom for a two year stint. I actually came in, stood at the PMO, hired all the project managers, basically wrote the Bible for the company on how to do project management, and then operated for a couple of years. Between my consulting engagements, my actual line of experience, I’ve been blessed with a great opportunity to work in that field. It’s one that I have a lot of excitement and passion about because it’s one where I think you really get to see the fruits of your labor. That’s sort of been the experience that I’ve had so far from a background perspective.
Will Bachman: That’s great. Let’s start with some of the basics. What exactly is a project management office or PMO, and when would a company have one?
Kevin Nedd: Well, interesting. That’s a great question. When you say the words PMO to anyone in business, you tend to get many, many different flavors there. That’s because project management offices really constitutes several different varying degrees of increasing capability. Let me start off by telling you, in some cases, a company might very simply need the ability to go out and to acquire project management talent. They may have a sort of center of excellence portion of their company that goes out and seeks project management talent, screens it, brings it in for specific project. When that project is over, that project manager is released or moved onto another project. That’s the most simplest where someone is responsible for bringing project management talent.
From there, companies may look to say, “Hey, we want to bring that expertise internal.” They want to actually have those project managers exist as full time employees, but they need to be congregated in one, central location. They may need to follow certain types of standards, templates, approaches, methodologies. That’s another simplest form, but they’re primarily focused directly on executing individual projects for a set, concrete period of time. The next varying degree is where companies will look at doing, yes, project delivery, but will begin to look across a portfolio of projects and leverage those internal project management resources across a portfolio, where they’ll say their a commonalities between projects. How do we leverage those commonalities? How do we optimize those resources?
That’s another varying degree of, again, increasing complexity. The next step is to say, and in many cases still, that entity that I just described is more of a governing expertise, as opposed to a driving expertise. Now, you take that sort of portfolio management PMO and you bring it up another level where it begins to drive corporate initiatives across the enterprises. Now, you’re talking about an enterprise PMO. Most companies are moving in that direction because they’re finding that often when they have silos of competencies, those silos don’t work well together in the absence of a type of organization that will require cross-functional cohesiveness. That’s where you want to have an enterprise PMO that actually not only drives the projects, but also facilitates the conversations that need to be had amongst the organization in order to extract value and to deliver projects across the enterprise.
Will Bachman: What are some of the types of projects where you would want to have a PMO? I mean, lots of things in the business, the job of the executives and the managers in the business, is to those things. What are the kinds of situations where you want to have some extra appendage, this PMO, making things happen?
Kevin Nedd: Sure. Typically, you’d want to engage a PMO particularly when you have cross-functional initiatives that require skill sets that don’t simply rest in one organization. If it’s just an operations project and all of the resources, all that’s required to cover that project exists within operations, then you can have project managers hire directly within the organizations to deliver that project. It’s when you have a project that touches multiple parts of your organization. You may have a project that involves operations, it could involve IT, it could involve finance, it could involve actions of HR, particularly if there’s a significant change in management and you’re trying to change certain behaviors across the company; managing, and marshaling, and rationalizing the resources across multiple functions.
Now the question is, which function takes the lead? If there are conflicts between functions in terms of resources, or delivery of certain products or milestones, who arbitrates those decisions? That’s the function of a PMO, to be able to look across the enterprise and say, “What’s not necessarily best for one particular operating unit? What’s best for the company?”
Will Bachman: Give me four or five examples of the types of things.
Kevin Nedd: Yeah, let me give you an example, so let’s say … I have been on projects where they have a … I’ll give you one. Let’s say you have a company that’s trying to optimize its spare parts at it’s manufacturing plants. It’s trying to change the way in which it accounts for those parts. To ensure that before parts are ordered, that they are … It’s been deemed that they’re not in inventory and they go out and purchase these parts unnecessarily. Well, that’s a situation where you may want to put in an IT infrastructure that allows you the ability to instantaneously determine whether or not a part exists or not before you go and buy one, so you’ve already touched IT.
However, to ensure that you prevent unnecessary replenishment, you want to make sure that it’s tied in with the procurement organization. Well, the procurement organization is a different organization right there. You also want to make sure that the people who actually consume the parts, which are the engineers within the plant, well, that’s operations. Then you’re also trying to drive a culture change. Let’s say you want to put goals and milestones within the performance management plans of all the impacted employees so that they follow the correct behaviors. Now, I’ve touched into HR. Well, if you’re trying to arbitrate all of the key milestones and all of the key things that most individual organizations are responsible, you have to have an entity that sort of arbitrates that.
That’s what the PMO does. It reaches out and it makes sure that the right resources for that project are available. It makes sure that those resources are properly rationalized and that you don’t have your project hinged on resources that are already over allocated. In other words, don’t have the time to contribute and leap through milestones. You also want to be able to assess where in the project you have risk. Often times, it’s cross-functional risk. It’s risk that you may not even be aware of. Well, any one organization can’t necessarily assess the risk that may exist in a different organization. Well, if you have a properly set PMO that’s assessing enterprise risk across all of these different siloed entities, that’s another function that PMO can provide.
The other area is to ensure that for benefits realization. Often times, companies look at realization of benefits within their own siloed environments and don’t look at benefits realization across the company. That’s another area where PMO can help you do that.
Will Bachman: Great. Talk to me about a PMO does on a kind of day to day, week to week basis? You just listed some of the functions or accomplishments or requirements that the PMO would solve, but how does it go about doing that? Is it one-on-one discussions everywhere, or lots of meetings? How does a PMO accomplish those tasks that you just laid out?
Kevin Nedd: Sure. Let’s … I’ll give you … Let’s list out some things that a PMO does and we’ll talk about whether they’re done on a daily, or a weekly, or a some sort of monthly [inaudible 00:10:46]. Let’s talk about some things that a PMO can do is called project initiation support. Typically, it’s been found through a number of studies that most projects, if they are not well established within the first two to three weeks of that project being set up, if you don’t have a project charter, if you don’t have a sound project plan, if you haven’t done an initial risk assessment; if those types of things in terms of standing up a project are not performed within the first two to three weeks of a project, the likelihood of that project being successful significantly diminishes.
One of the things that a PMO does is to ensure that a project is set up initially for success, making sure that the project charter is completed, making sure that the sponsorship for that project is sound, making sure that the project is properly scoped from the beginning so that those who are charged with execution know the boundaries and can detect when certain things in the project, like scope creep, to prevent against scope creep; ensuring that there is adequate budget to complete the project, making sure that all of the assigned resources, again, are not oversubscribed and create risk. That’s just project initiation. Typically, that is done at the beginning of a project and it’s almost … That’s a, you know, while it may be done for a first two to three weeks of a project, it’s almost done on a daily basis.
A second area that you may find is the assessment of risk. Typically, risk assessments for projects while they may sound like a periodic, it is almost a daily. It is looking, almost taking a view of the landscape of your project on a daily basis and asking the tough questions, “What if this happens? What are the things that can create problems for my project as it’s going?” It’s reaching out to all of the key stakeholders that have a vested interest in your project and ensuring that they’re on the lookout for risk as well. I’ll give you another example of something that’s almost done on a daily basis. It’s what I call executive office or road map decision support. Often time, projects are executed at the operating division level, but they have an impact on executive level decisions or there’s a need for an executive level decision to overcome a barrier.
Often times, those project managers that are operating at an operating level don’t have a clear line of sight to the executives or the executive entities that are necessary to make decisions to clear their paths. The PMO by constantly reaching out and determining whether or not there are executive level support decisions that are required, can collect those decisions and the necessary data that’s needed to form a decision. It can then present those questions to an executive level committee on a periodic basis, seek resolution, and then communicate the answers that come back to ensure that projects stay on track and are not getting stuck waiting for executive decisions.
Will Bachman: Talk to me about the tool kit of a PMO. What are some of the, I don’t know if it’s two or three or half a dozen, different templates or documents that a PMO typically will be using?
Kevin Nedd: Well, there’s a certain set of tools that you use throughout different faces of the project. The first two or three of the most important tools early is, obviously every project that you undertake, you want to get a sense of scope. That’s why you either do what we call a project scoping document or a project charter. In that document, you specify what’s the purpose of the project? What are the … Who are the customers of the project? Who are the key stakeholders of the project? What are the major milestones? What’s the intent? What problem are you trying to solve? That’s a critical document that gets formed early in a project.
The actual business case itself can provide you with great insight because now that gives you an idea of what are the expectations? What are the costs? But more importantly, what are the expected benefits that this project, if they’re monetary or some other fashion, what’s the expected outcome of the project? Those can be … Those are critical. The next thing that you want to find out is a high level project plan itself. The absence of a project plan should tell you. If you’re on a project and there is no project plan, you’re already three steps behind. Your project is already at risk. Even if it’s not detailed down to the granular, even a high level plan, the absence of that, that puts your project at risk right away.
The other thing that I typically recommend to project managers is to do a high level resource rationalization. It’s a very simple model of all of the individuals, all of the key critical path personnel that are working on a project. Make sure that you have a clear understanding of how their time is allocated over the length of your project. If that person has a day job that requires 50 percent of their time during their regular day job, but they’re assigned to your project to perform some function and that function requires more than 50 percent of their time, you’re at risk. Make sure that you have clear line of sight as to what resources are assigned and what are the time allocations of those resources, so you can determine whether they have the capacity to meet the milestones and deliverables that have been assigned to them.
I typically recommend that people keep … There are sophisticated software programs out there to do that, or something as simple as building a very simple model in a spreadsheet, keeping an allocation of all of the critical resources and making sure that nobody’s over 100 percent. That’s a tool that I typically build on my own when I do … There are other things that you can do. Typically, I sit down with a client and I will determine what’s called a modus operandi. That’s where early in a project, you meet with the project team and you develop a cadence of how often that team will meet and what are the topics and discussions. Normally, when I work with project teams, I typically do … I typically flip flop between … If I meet with my team on a weekly basis, one that first week may be a week where we status and understand where we are on a project.
Typically, if you do that every two weeks, that’s sufficient. But, on those alternate weeks where we don’t talk about status of projects, I like to do what are called “working sessions”. What I mean by work sessions, it’s where all of my various work stream leaders on a project will come in. If there is an issue or a problem within a work stream that requires greater degrees of thought or thought leadership, they can throw that issue on the table with their peer work stream leaders, and then we can problem solve. Often times, projects don’t allocate problem solving time amongst the work stream leads so that you can leverage the collective experience of the group that you’re working with. I typically like to schedule those. If there’s no particular problems or issues that week, we can then choose to cancel the meeting or repurpose it, but I like to allocate time within the project schedule to allow people time to solve problems.
Will Bachman: Yeah. Give us an example, you know sanitized obviously, of some case where you had different functional folks on this and where one of them brought up an issue that the other ones helped solve.
Kevin Nedd: Oh sure. I’ll go back to that example I mentioned earlier, you know, sort of the spare parts optimization. In that particular project assignment, we came across an issue where we had put in place a number of processes and controls within, let’s say, the warehouse of a particular manufacturing facility where the warehouse manager that was responsible for stocking the parts was having difficulty … Even though we had put in place procedures that they wouldn’t purchase parts unless there was adequate indications in their reordering programs that said it was time to reorder a part, we still kept seeing leakage, and we kept seeing our stock inventories were increasing, and we couldn’t understand why. We brought the team together and we actually did a step by step process through.
What we determined, you know, by bringing a person that had significant procurement experience to the table, we brought some operational mangers in and actually worked in warehouse management, into the room. Well, what we determined was that there was flippage or work around where we found that some of the maintenance managers were able to purchase materials outside of the normal procurement process by contacting vendors directly. It was sort of off the books purchasing where a vendor would show up, have sort of a basket of goods, and would basically provide those goods into the plant, but there wasn’t visibility outside. What we determined, what we found was that by shutting off the payment, the ability pay those non-compliant vendors quickly solved that problem. Well, it wasn’t-
Will Bachman: That’s … I’d stop stopping by.
Kevin Nedd: Yeah, I mean, it sounds simple, but guess what? It changed the behaviors. These vendors were less likely to try and go around the system when they realized that the invoices the would present later on would no longer be honored.
Will Bachman: Yeah, I’d stop swinging by pretty quickly.
Kevin Nedd: Yeah. It sounds simple, but that’s a case where this one person kept looking at their results and they couldn’t understand. Once we brought the full team together and one of the maintenance managers at the back of the room raised his hand and says, “Oh, well, the reason why this is happening, because these parts that are coming into the warehouse, they’re not coming through the normal system.” When we explored the problem more, we discovered that … It was almost like drive by shopping.
Will Bachman: Yeah. A classic part of every PMO is kind of doing that update, the progress review. I’d love to get your thoughts on the best structure for that. I’ve … I’ll tell you the one that I’ve been using myself and I would love to hear what other good ideas are out there. One that I’ve heard that works well, and I’ve used, is … Let’s say it’s the end of October, so you’d say, “Okay, back in September,” you have just three columns. You say, “Back in September, here’s what we said we were going to do in October.” Then you’d say, “Alright. Here’s what we actually did in October and here’s what we’re going to do in November.” You just kind of keep cycling through that. Here’s what we promised to do, here’s what actually got done, maybe we did some stuff we didn’t promise and maybe we failed to get some stuff done that we did promise, and here’s what we’re going to do next.
That kind of keeps you honest. Just simple three columns and you do that for each category or each work stream. What … You know, no [inaudible 00:22:39] no red/green lights or anything, just very simple. What are some other things that you’ve seen that you find are successful templates or approaches?
Kevin Nedd: That’s interesting because … I’m assuming you’re talking about presenting the results where your project is to a … Either like a steering committee or an executive committee.
Will Bachman: Exactly.
Kevin Nedd: Yeah, so the format that I have found that works best, and it’s a fairly structured format. There’s two keys, number one, executives that typically sit in those meetings are extremely time sensitive. Typically, that meeting is just one of many meetings they’re going to have that day and the degree to which you can train those executives to focus in on the issues that are going to help you. Most people tend to thing that those steering committee meetings are all about informing these executives as to where I am. That’s really not the purpose of what those meetings really should be used for. The purpose of those touch points with the executive of your steering committee is to be able to identify to them the areas where you need help. That’s what they really want to do.
They want to know, “Okay, how can I help you make this project more successful? What things can I bring to the table to move the barriers or the boulders so that you can be successful. Just telling me where you are. Okay fine, you could have sent me a report, a paper report, or a file, and I could have assessed where you are. But, if we’re sitting here face to face and you’ve got an hour of my time, make that time useful and leverage it to its full potential.” Typically, here’s how I structure it. I normally have my first slide, in an executive presentation, basically is a review of the action items from the last meeting. When I say action items, I’m talking about the executive’s decisions that were made and the status of those decisions.
I’ve instantly brought you up to speed, “In our last meeting, you guys agreed to do, or based upon your recommendation, we had to do these five things. Here are the status of these five things.” If all five are done, that’s a very quick conversation and we’re onto the next slide. In the next slide, you typically focus on three things. I focus on very quickly, what are the overall financial objectives of the project? Are we hitting them or not? Because that’s what executives really care about is, how much of my money are you spending and are you generating what you said you were going to generate? Number two, is I spend some time on the operational results. Again, one slide, here’s the high level of operational results of the project. If you’re supposed to be building a factory, the factory is 50 percent built.
The next thing that I focus on in that particular slide is, again, I go back to, what are the risks and what are the issues that the project is currently … It’s one slide. Here are the major risks and here are the major problems. Number three, how can I help … What do I need you to do, Mr. Executive, to help me? Here are the options. Here’s the option that I recommend that you take. Here’s why I think you should take that option. Do I have your concurrent to move forward? Then you typically want to leave at least 15 minutes toward the end to give them the opportunity to debate those options and force a decision. Hold them accountable. Just as they’re holding you accountable, hold them accountable for coming up with a decision so that you can move forward. I typically don’t make those meetings about reporting results as much, as informing them as to where I am, informing them of where I need their help, and then forcing them to make a decision to help me.
Will Bachman: At the beginning of our conversation, you kind of laid out three, four, or five kind of levels of maturity of a PMO.
Kevin Nedd: Yep.
Will Bachman: Let’s talk a little bit about decision or options, so if a company is undergoing a big cross-functional effort, what are some of the decisions they should be making around setting up a PMO, beyond just sort of that one, two, three, four kind of enterprise PMO or smaller one? In terms of scope, in terms of who’s on the steering committee? What are all the different dimensions that they should be thinking about? Is it just one person? Is it two? Is it an internal person? Is it an external person? Talk to me a little bit about the decisions around how you structure and design it?
Kevin Nedd: Sure. I think part of it is is the current maturity level of the organization to execute projects. Is there a common company adopted methodology for executing projects and is that methodology well practiced throughout the organization no matter what organization that you’re in? If that already exists, then often times there’s no need to centralize it. Therefore, the PMO may not necessarily be executing projects, but it’s acting more as an overseeing or acting sort of as a conductor on a train, ensuring that if anyone runs into difficulty, there are avenues to solve those issues. It’s more of lighter touch because the functional expertise to execute projects is already there.
Now, if you have the reverse where you have companies that don’t have project management disciplines that are well established and well carried out within the company, that may need to be a centralized function. Therefore, you design a PMO that not only provides the overseeing function, but also provides the actual project managers that functionally execute the projects. I guess what I’m saying is, there is no one size fits all. You have to assess the needs of the organization from a project management delivery, execution, and governance capability, and design a PMO that meets the needs of that organization.
I never walk into a situation and say, “Oh, here’s a cookie cutter approach,” because organizations have all types of nuances that are just different, but you have to be able to go in and assess whether or not … You can quickly determine the competency if you ask very basic questions. If you ask people, “How do you execute projects?” And they don’t have any rhyme or reasons, it’s just by happenstance, that gives you an answer. If people are able to pull out risk assessments, if they’re able to pull out charters, if they’re able to pull out project plans, if they’re able to pull out assessments of resource allocations, if those types of artifacts are in place, that’s an indication that it’s fairly mature from a project management perspective. If you get blank stares when you begin to ask those type of questions, that tells you that that particular, obviously that organization needs to maybe have that functionality centralized because it doesn’t exist throughout the rest of the company.
Will Bachman: I would imagine that a lot of learning how to running a PMO is a craft, an apprenticeship type training. With that said, for someone who wanted to get better at it, what is your recommendation of some of the resources? Are there either books that you’d recommend, or online courses, or videos? How would someone build their skills around project management?
Kevin Nedd: I think the best thing you can do if you’re sort of new and cutting your teeth, there are a number of professional organizations; there’s the PMI Institute, which is a great organization because they’ve got other project managers out there and they have sort of a knowledge based, they have a number of templates, they have a number of white papers, they have a number of books that you can read about project management in and of itself. Definitely look to join one of the sort of organizations out there that focus on project management. Obviously, if you are a young project manager and you’re looking to get certified, they even maintain a certification system, which you can formally become a certified get your PMP.
That’s another thing that you can pursue to do that as well. If you don’t have the time or the inclination, or let’s say it’s not your full-time role to be project manager, but you just want to learn more about project management, I tell you, I had a course that I took in graduate school that was exclusively focused on project … It was probably one of the best things I ever did because I truly got an understanding, more from an academic perspective. We studied case studies about project management, about different initiatives, we were placed in the role as a project manager. It’s almost like being in business school and instead of focusing on a case at an investment bank or consumer products, we actually were placed as PM’s, in this case a project manager, within an organization that was trying to executive an initiative that was hitting these road blocks.
The case was about, how would you overcome these particular ones? I think there are several avenues. Again, you can join organizations, you can seek out individual material on your own, there’s tons of course work out there at local community colleges, universities, they all have programs and courses in project management. There’s a ton of information out there.
Will Bachman: Awesome. Kevin, I’m always interested in folk’s morning routines or routines any time throughout the day that you find make you more productive or just more satisfied in life. Do you have any morning routine or other kind of daily practices that you find really work well for you?
Kevin Nedd: I do. As an independent, I spend probably like … I’m currently now working on a project that requires me to be at a location that’s about an hour and a half from my home, four days a week. I typically stay fairly pretty much on site Monday night through Thursday night. When I’m traveling, I typically, I’m a pretty early riser so I’m typically up by about 6:00. I’m at an age now where I think exercise is pretty important so I typically will spend an hour doing what I call a power walk on a treadmill. I’ll spend an hour, that’s typically between six and seven in the morning. By 7:30, I’m downstairs in the hotel breakfast area. I typically don’t eat a heavy breakfast. I’ll grab a full glass of juice and a muffin, and then I’m able to walk to the client.
I rarely stay at a hotel where I have to get in a car and drive to the client. I avoid morning drive commutes like the plague. I like to walk from the hotel directly to my client and get to my office about 8:00. I just happen to know that my energy level is best between eight and twelve in the early afternoon. I typically schedule all of my important meetings with clients between eight and twelve. That leaves me my afternoon to sort of do more thinking, follow ups, those types of things. Afternoon meetings with clients tend to be less productive than morning meetings. Unless it’s necessary, I typically don’t like to schedule clients after 12 because they’ve got their regular what I call BAU work that’s got to get done and their focus on as well.
You typically lose their attention the later in the day. Those are sort of my high level things. Early meetings, keep a routine that takes care of you first thing in the morning before you do anything for anyone else, and I would say avoid morning commutes and driving if you can.
Will Bachman: What are you doing while you’re on that treadmill, that power walk in the morning? Listening to music, podcasts, audiobooks?
Kevin Nedd: Music, music. I typically try and find music that has a beat cadence that kind of matching my walk. Typically, my power walk I typically take a treadmill and bring it up to about a three degree incline and bring it up to about four and a half miles per hour and try and do that for a solid hour.
Will Bachman: That’s pretty fast. I mean, that’s-
Kevin Nedd: Yeah. That’s a fast walk. It’s not a slow job, but you’re moving pretty quickly. I played college basketball back in the mid 80’s so I’m at a point now where my knees can’t take the pounding of leaning forward and trying to run for long periods of time. I find that power walk doesn’t put any pressure on my knees and it still allows me to get my heart rate up to over 120 beats a minute for a solid hour. It’s pretty good for you.
Will Bachman: That’s pretty heavy duty. An hour every day is like a big commitment.
Kevin Nedd: Yeah.
Will Bachman: Any books that have been particularly impactful for you or that you’ve frequently gifted?
Kevin Nedd: Well, you know, it’s interesting, I will … There are really two types of books that I read and neither one has to do with business. I typically … I like political books. I’ve just recently … I’m currently now reading the book by James Comey, which I’m finding to be pretty interesting. I’m a student of politics. I’m actually a former township committeeman in my township so I kind of have a love for politics. The other types of books that I read, this may sound kind of sappy, but I enjoy, I guess they’re kind of drama novels or romantic novels where there’s a whole series by Jojo Moyes where she did Me Before You and Still Me, those types of things. It’s just very light, but very funny reading. I typically do that before I try and go to sleep just to take my mind off of work and just so I can decompress.
Will Bachman: You are were a township committeeman? Tell us about that.
Kevin Nedd: Well, boy, that’s interesting. About 10 years ago, I live in a township in the Northwestern part of New Jersey called Washington Township. It’s in Morris county. We had a situation where unbeknownst to most people in town, our township raised our municipal taxes in one year by 11 and a half percent, which if you think about it, given in today’s … It was just astronomical. I found out about it … I happened to have been at Town Hall for another reason at a committeeman meeting and they brought the municipal budget up for a vote. The time between when the ordinance for the budget was introduced and the five committeemen voted was about 15 seconds.
It was like no debate, no discussion. Then seeing that, the next day I called the town manager and asked what was the process? He said, “Well, I can’t explain the process, but I can let you see the budget.” So, I stopped by the office and picked up the budget, brought it home, and read it. It was a literal horror show of everything that you could do to how not to run a town’s finances they were doing. Over a series of months, I sort of thought about it, went to a few meetings, asked a lot of questions. I didn’t get the answers that I thought were satisfactory so I said, you know what? If no one is willing to step up and show these guys how to manage a town’s finances, I’ve got to run for office.
So, I ended up running for office. I ended up winning. For the next three years, I was the head of the finance committee for the township and managed to bring out tax increases down to about two percent per year, which made sense. Obviously, you don’t want your towns to starve themselves of the resources necessary to provide services, but I showed them that there was a way that they could manage their budgets better and have reasonable tax increases in the range of about two percent. It’s been that way for the last 12 years.
Will Bachman: That’s amazing. That’s amazing.
Kevin Nedd: Yeah. It was just one of those things where I said to myself, “If someone doesn’t step up and do it, I can’t absorb 11 and a half tax increases.”
Will Bachman: After you … After someone gets to be an ambassador or a secretary in the cabinet or something, the rest of their life they get to be the honorable so and so, right?
Kevin Nedd: Yeah.
Will Bachman: After your township committeeman, is there like … I guess you just missed it, right?
Kevin Nedd: Yeah. It’s funny. It’s one of those things … It’s probably one of the most thankless jobs. No one knows who you are. No one really thinks about it, but only if their taxes go up, then that’s when you get the phone calls.
Will Bachman: Yeah. It’s … That’s really amazing. We pay attention to the president, and the Senate, and the governor, but there’s so much, really, decisions being made at local levels so hats off to you for getting involved. More people ought to do that. That’s really awesome.
Kevin Nedd: Well, there’s that old saying that all politics are local.
Will Bachman: Kevin, this has been fantastic. I thank so much for sharing your experiences running PMO. It’s clear that we could probably do a whole series of interviews with you on this topic because you clearly have a ton of experience on it. What is the best way for people to find you, find your firm? Do you want to give out a website or contact info if anybody wants to follow up with you?
Kevin Nedd: Sure. They can reach out to me at kevin.nedd@pragmaticusll.com. If you’re wondering what pragmaticus means, it’s Latin for skilled in business.
Will Bachman: I love it. Skilled in business. Okay, so we’ll include that contact info in the show notes. Kevin, thank you so much for joining. This was great.
Kevin Nedd: Thank so much. I appreciate it.

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