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Corning’s Technology-Directed Project Management
Encountering the array of challenges common to cross-functional
teaming, Corning develops a new model for project governance
to address the various shortcomings of the traditional approach.
During a period of dramatic market and technological changes,
the high-tech company focuses its improvement effort on project
managers, boostingtheir skills, status, and responsibility within the
technology organization.
The Trouble with Rapid Growth
Corning looks to seize promising opportunities in the
telecommunications market by more than doubling R&D
spending from $307 million in 1998 to $631 million in 2001. Its
R&D workforce expands so rapidly that, at one point, over half the
workforce has less than three years’ tenure.Conducting “management by walking around”—by having
spontaneous discussions with R&D personnel—the CTO discovers
that some project teams are unable to clearly identify their
objectives. The critical lack of focus, an undesirable consequence
of breakneck expansion, sets in motion a major effort to retool the
project management process.
Responding to Change
The difficulties of coping withrapid growth prompt senior technical
executives to consider how Corning’s excellence in managing
engineering and facilities projects, typified by on-time and
within-budget project completion, can be extended to its research
and development activities. With the goal of replicating high project
success rates and developing a new core competency, executives
explore the application offormal project management disciplines
to R&D.
An in-depth audit of R&D projects identifies project leadership as
the most important driver of success and focuses the change effort
on developing new project management competencies. Other key
success factors include a f lexible management process, engaged
project sponsors, and skills matched to project requirements. To
ensure these featuresare embedded in their new project governance
approach, Corning R&D executives pursue a comprehensive solution
involving extensive training, new career path options, and new
project support and management structures.Corning’s Technology-Directed Project Management 47
© 2003 Corporate Executive Board
1997 1998 1999 2000 2001
Growth Underscores Project Management Skills Gap
A boost in R&D needed to support expansion in high-growth- potential markets proves diffi cult to manage…
Source: Corning Incorporated; Council research.
…leads Corning to examine its
project management trackrecord…
Distinct Project Management Cultures
…and identify drivers of R&D project success
The Challenge of Growth
“With the boom in telecom, we went into high-velocity R&D
expansion—in just a few years we doubled the workforce, tripled
facility space, and took on a multitude of new projects, so a renewed
focus on innovation project management excellence was essential.”
Charlie CraigVice President and Director
Administration and
Operations, Science & Technology
Corning Incorporated
Key Findings
R&D Project
Millions of
U.S. Dollars
Drivers of Innovation
In Order of Impact
1. Quality of project leadership
2. Flexible application of the
innovation process
3. Engaged project sponsor
4. Team skills matched to
project objectiveManufacturing/Engineering
• High project success rate
• Company recognizes excellence in
engineering project management
as a “core competency”
R&D Expenditures
Engineering Innovation
• Mixed project success
• Given the nature of R&D and its
attendant market and technical
risks, project management has more...
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