When I moved to PwC San Francisco from PwC Charlotte in 2018, I thought I would only need to get accustomed to new faces and to that view of the Ferry Building from the new office. Why would the organization operate any differently? It was still PwC after all...
I was wrong. As I started ramping up, I noticed that my new team liked operating with minimal process, unlike their counterparts in Charlotte. Every member of the team had their own way of approaching projects. Over time, these members had become subject-matter experts of their project areas. This served me well at first – ramping up was easy because my coworkers were eager to teach me, and I was eager to learn.
Over the next nine months, however, many of these subject-matter experts left our team, leaving behind knowledge gaps. New folks joining the team found it difficult to onboard. Project expectations were unclear. Budgets were being overrun. Simply put, we were reinventing the wheel with every project.
As the senior-most person on the team, I took it upon myself to overcome these obstacles. Using my experience of working with local clients, I assembled a project plan – a sequence of steps necessary to complete a project. I also included tasks with cross-functional dependencies to set expectations and recorded a summary of time/money spent to minimize budget overruns and improve the following year’s projections. This effort not only reduced knowledge gaps, increased transparency, and reduced communication overheard, but also ensured on-time and within-budget deliveries of 83% of my team’s projects in the last 3 quarters. My project plan is now used by 5 major offices across the country.
I faced two major challenges on this project: (A) information gathering and (B) adoption. As many of the subject-matter experts were no longer on the team, I had to reach out to people with similar skills in other offices to fill gaps in my own understanding. I also faced friction with adoption. Despite its thoroughness and cost-effectiveness, some of my teammates were hesitant in trying out the project tracker at first. This was largely due to timing. I had introduced the project plan after the busy tax season, thinking it would be a good time for people to experiment with new tools. Instead, some people were burnt out from the tax season and especially resistant to change. If I could go back in time, I would’ve started introducing the new project plan during the busy tax season itself, one client at a time.
The project plan has enabled me to scale my team and engineer myself out of the problem. It’s self-sustaining, and by encouraging people to record progress as they go, enables new members to jump in with minimal activation energy. It’s also become a hub for collecting client-specific information, such as working style, known causes of delays, and links to relevant contracts.