Umberto Sgambati, CEO at Proger
Some years ago, I had a heated debate with an American colleague of mine, Gary Stout, at Proger’s offices in Riyadh. It was a methodical conversation, but at the same time a cultural gap of two ways of thinking and working.
He claimed that the “American” project management was better than the “Italian” one – exactly like in the jokes- and he listed, in this regard, a number of useful reasons to support his thesis: school, tradition, experience, work’s systematic organization, specialized software and tools, military culture of the planning process and time control, costs, quality.
Frankly, it was hard for me to oppose him and not only because my English was neither advanced enough, nor aggressive enough…
I tried to floor him. Looking in his eyes, I told him: “I’ll try to explain you this with an example: the real difference between my and your way of seeing the project management…”.
I played my “knight’s move”. He looked at me with that sneering grin that is typical of who thinks he’s the winner.
I got the ball rolling: “What do you do, Gary, as first thing when you go back home after having purchased something at IKEA? I tell you what you do: you read the instruction booklet from top to bottom and only then, step by step, you assemble your piece of furniture. Right?”.
While he was nodding, uncertain on how to reply, I urged him once again: «I don’t. I don’t act this way! I unpack the product, I start assembling the piece of furniture and then, only when I think that I have a spare part that I don’t know how to assemble, I read the instruction booklet…».
Gary smiled at me, opening his arms as a sign of ecumenical satisfaction.
«Don’t laugh my friend; don’t think you’ve won just yet!» I said, while he suddenly turned serious again.
«Just consider what it would happen if a page of the instruction booklet missed for whatever reason: you would not be able to complete the assembly of your piece of furniture, whereas as for me, maybe with a little bit more time than necessary, I would finish to assemble it in any case… and, on the top of that, I would probably have a spare part! ».
I can still see the face of my Texan colleague, amused for the game and at the same time, touched by me having hit the mark!
He told me «There is some truth in what you’ve said even if, certainly, I cannot fully agree with you. I am sure that you Italians have the extra oomph: you are more creative, less strict and you always have a prompt solution, and probably you will win when you manage to be more organized too… ».
In this small story and in the sarcastic comment of the Texan colleague are contained the paradigms that have always inspired my professional life and that of Proger, where I have been working over more than 35 years: managing to combine technological and specialized skills with sensitivity and craft skills, giving birth to an industrial organization (therefore capable of planning, managing and monitoring the project in a rigorous way) and also nurturing it with a multidisciplinary and creative vocation.
Every day, Proger looks at this difficult synthesis of rules and emotions, aware of its role and its mission, knowing very well that an important key of its success is to be found exactly in the capability of organizing its own resources at its best, also thanks to the integration of other partners, electing the excellences expressed in the territory.
It’s not an easy task, because Italy is a beautiful, though difficult and complex country, where thousands of years of history, not only have been consolidating a very fertile heritage of culture, beauty, knowledge and skills, but they have been also determining that endemic incapability of systematizing, that definitely constitutes one of the main limits of the Italian small and medium enterprises.
However, this is a limit to overcome, even more so, if there is the aim of competing on the international markets. It is necessary that this multidisciplinary managing work, capable of coordinating different professionals and know-how, will be interpreted in the right way, being authoritative and professional but also respecting the roles of the various actors.
I believe that an important part of the success of a project, and more generally, of entrepreneurship is to be found in the sensitive and smart management of the relationships among its various actors. And when the success of the project is clear and full without having to emphasize the role of the team leader, or underline that of the single actors, the outcome is to be truly considered achieved.
As it happens to a referee who superbly manages a soccer World cup final, making sure that everything works out in full respect of the rules, the game has the rightest result and twenty-two players can express at their best.
We have to be main actors by factually taking action without letting anyone remembering our name!