The high tech and medical industry is responsible for a large part of our economic growth, and therefore of our prosperity. It is now well known that this hardware-dominated world cannot do without software expertise, but good process control, reliability and project management are at least as important. Holland Innovative helps the high-tech and medical industry with this, both in projects on location and through training. In a series of articles, we show how. Today: project manager Jeffrey Lemmens.

Variety and stability brought together in one job, it sounds like an impossible combination. Still, as a project manager at Holland Innovative, this is exactly what’s happening: “The umbrella of Holland Innovative is the constant factor, the projects I carry out for clients are by definition temporary,” says Jeffrey Lemmens. “As a project manager, you don’t necessarily have to focus on one specific sector, but of course we do specialise: the high-tech manufacturing industry is our world.

This is what attracted Lemmens to Holland Innovative at the end of 2018. “In my previous job I was involved in project management as well as sales, but that was within a very specific market and that meant that I wouldn’t be able to get that combination of variety and specialisation that I do have here. Lemmens, who graduated as an industrial designer from the Eindhoven University of Technology, first came into contact with Holland Innovative at the Hannover Messe. “There I started talking to Hans Meeske, who told me about the possibilities at HI. When the opportunity arose to further develop myself as a project manager, I didn’t need to think very long.”

Balancing tasks

For Lemmens, it feels like he was jumping on a moving train. “But one that can always be adjusted. I notice this very well in the project that I am now responsible for, together with my colleague Bert van Appeven. The basic tasks are clear because we participate as team members in the project. At the same time, we are working on coaching the other team members and analysing the processes, through which we can advise the company to organise certain matters differently. Sometimes this is a challenge, those two sides of our task, but in the end, it is exactly where our added value comes in. In this way, we can help to increase the effectiveness of the process and allow the client to achieve his goal.”

In more concrete terms, this means that HI offers advice based on the analysis of matters such as the effective organisation of the communication process with the stakeholders, the information flows within the organisation and also on effective planning. “And always, we try to balance our tasks. To get back to the comparison with that train: we ride along the route determined by others, but simultaneously we are busy moving the rails. After all, that’s what the customer is ultimately looking for: together with us, he wants to discover the ideal route for his project.”

Different working methods

One of the challenges Lemmens is currently facing is the different working methods of the stakeholders involved in the project. “The project has been running for a number of years and has several sub-projects. In this subproject alone, about 80 people are involved and there are also various customers and suppliers. You can imagine that certain patterns are ingrained, sometimes also related to the specific working method of a stakeholder. At different moments in the process, these parts of the process come together again, which requires a solid, shared basis for coordination and communication. Sometimes it is just a matter of using the same tools or using the tool in the same way, but even that sometimes only partially helps. Take MS Project, for example, a planning tool that is used by different parts of our project. Some people do this very precisely by determining what needs to be delivered per hour; others organise it much looser and are already satisfied when it is clear what is happening on a weekly basis. Some approaches are not necessarily better or worse than others, but from the point of view of the effective design of a process, this often does not work well in practice. We can then sharpen the focus on this.”

What also helps is that Lemmens and Van Appeven, as outsiders, can bring about the necessary changes more convincingly than internal people. “Strange eyes can be more persuasive, that’s just the way it is. We are sometimes seen as consultants, but you have to monitor that role, especially if you have been involved in the project for some time. Because at the same time, we are simply included in the project team.”

Moving train

What also helps in this context is the way Holland Innovative prepares the project company through specific training and workshops for the next period. “So they can keep up the good work after we’re gone. This also offers us, as project managers, an extra opportunity every time: we help to set up and present the training courses, but we also learn new things ourselves, thanks to the expertise of colleagues such as Roel Wessels. In addition, HI always has a senior colleague ready to help relative newcomers like me. In my case, that’s Bert van Appeven: his experience is the ideal source of knowledge for me. He has experienced all kinds of situations and always has a few best practices that can help me to make the right decisions so that others can benefit from them.”

Which, all together, also makes Holland Innovative look a bit like a moving train itself. “Indeed. And no matter how smoothly our train runs, we all make sure that it gets a little better every day. That is exactly one of the important factors that determine our organisational maturity.”