This is the first in a three-part series of interviews with Mark Crist, Chief Delivery Officer, 1218 Global. The series explores the critically important client/consultant relationship and how to properly balance resources, maintain open communication, and deliver successful implementation and upgrade results.
Mark’s career began on a dual track of Human Resources and Information Systems at The Stroh Brewery Company in Detroit, Michigan. Starting with the company as a Programmer/Analyst, Mark quickly grew through the ranks to the position of Vice President, Human Resources and then Vice President, Information Systems and Services. In 2000, Mark became Vice President, Information Systems at Staffmark in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Mark helped steer the organization through the replacement of its aging legacy systems to the newly released PeopleSoft Staffing Solution. It was during the course of this project that Mark met and worked alongside many of the core team of individuals who make up Regents Consulting Group and 1218 Global.
Mark began his consulting career at Crestone International in 2004. He joined Newbury Consulting Group in 2006, focusing on project management and delivery and also leading many large project implementations and upgrades. In addition to direct project management, he also functioned as the head of implementation services overseeing pre-sales implementation strategy, coordinating new project and team startups, and providing on-going project team guidance at multiple clients. In 2011, Mark Co-Founded Regents Consulting Group and in 2014, advanced to Chief Delivery Officer, 1218 Global.
During a project, what is it like to navigate between the client and your consultants on the ground?
Actually, it’s a bit of a balancing act. We value, very highly, both our clients and our personnel. One of the key strengths of our people is that they want to help our clients, no matter what. That is a key differentiator. While there is an obvious upside to having that quality of character, there is also a bit of a downside risk in that there can be a tendency to overcommit to the client or take on work that really wasn’t in the original scope of the project. I’m generally OK with that, primarily because our people are very good at what they do. They know what they can handle and what they can’t handle. But, there are times when this willingness to do more can drive a project sideways and that is when we have to intervene and deal with that.
We have many clients who recognize “out of scope” work and have no problem paying for the additional work. Other clients take the position that our people committed to do the work, and they expect it to be done. It’s important to us that our clients get the service that they need. We just need to do that within the context of the Statement of Work as best we can. Let me put it to you this way. The people that I work with are the best of the best. They’re highly experienced at what they do and giving them room to run is a pretty effective management approach. The last thing you want to do is micromanage.
I remember several years ago, I was talking to an individual who told me that Project Managers are nothing but parasites. They just leach off the people who are really doing all the work. He’s a friend, I know he said it in jest, and we still laugh about it whenever the subject comes up. But, there is a kernel of truth there. Project Managers can, at times, overstep themselves and really gum up the works. I really try to be cognizant of that and keep it from happening, either with the people working on the project or the clients themselves.
I encourage our people to forge relationships with our clients. This happens kind of naturally as some of these projects can last one or two years. But, it is also important to maintain a team identity. On projects that I’ve managed, I felt it was important to use what we called the “huddle”. By bringing the entire project team together, we are able to sit down and cross-share information, so everybody is aware of what is going on in the project. This builds cross-functional knowledge and an element of comradery. Supplementing the “huddle” with an occasional after hours “time out” lets the team blow off steam and helps keep team mentality in the right place.
Keep in mind that most of the people who work on these projects have worked together for 10 or 15 years and in some cases 20 years. We all know each other and we all work well together. When new people join a project, they are welcomed with open arms. The strength of the team is reflected in how well the members support each other and their shared commitment to delivering the very best result for our clients. We clearly want to have an outcome where the client is happy with us. We have a very good track record for achieving that.
To get in touch with Mark, feel free to send him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org