May 14, 2021

How To Manage the Best Outcome Possible: An Interview with Laura Dribin

Courtney Lane interviews Laura Dribin on outcome management strategies. What should you change first? What should you look at last? What do you do when you don't want to change? These insights are explored in this episode of TribePod. 

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About our guest

Laura is CEO and founder of Peritius Consulting, Inc., a premier niche consulting firm specializing exclusively in Outcome Management, our approach to strategic program and project management services. Peritius serves Fortune 1000 clients by helping them realize their strategic objectives and providing subject matter expertise in the discipline of delivery. Since its founding in 1989, Peritius has gained a reputation for providing time and cost effective results to our clients. More importantly, Peritius strives to be a trusted advisor by focusing on accountability for results. We don’t succeed unless we have met your strategic objectives. Prior to founding the company, Laura worked as a Big Five management consultant and for Microsoft Corporation. 

With more than 25 years of experience, she has honed her skills to provide results by bringing the hands-on leadership necessary to guide project teams through complex initiatives and to help organizations develop and improve their project management competency. Laura has positioned quality and innovation as cornerstones of Peritius. She has been on the forefront of finding new ways to fine tune the art of delivery. Laura has shown that delivery can be successful for even the most chaotic, challenging initiatives. She is known for her practical approach to problem solving, and is a firm believer that any project can be successfully delivered with the right mix of mechanics and soft skills. She has been a featured speaker about project, program, and portfolio management for many international, national and local organizations.





Jim Stroud (1s):
Hello, Courtney. How are you?

Courtney Lane (4s):
Hi, Jim. Good to see you, hear you.

Jim Stroud (7s):
Good to be seen and heard by you. I am intrigued by this new book. I am reading. It’s called Harry Potter Book for Consultants.

Courtney Lane (23s):

Jim Stroud (23s):
Yes. They may have a few copyright issues, but the inside is fascinating. It has this book of spells, right? If you want to organize your business, you will use this magic word. Peritius Magicnicus. I'm made it wrong. Peritius Managers. I think this is how you pronounce it. Yes, Peritius Managers. I got to read the book again but that's what I'm reading now.

Courtney Lane (56s):
Basically, magic is just a list in the word. Is that how the magic works?

Jim Stroud (1m 4s):
Yes, I guess.

Courtney Lane (1m 5s):

Jim Stroud (1m 5s):
I guess. It says here in the book that the creator of the spell is someone named Laura Dribin. I don't know if she’s a magic person or not, but that's what it says here. It also has her bio.

Courtney Lane (1m 26s):
Let’s hear more about Laura.

Jim Stroud (1m 30s):
Okay. It says here that Peritius Spartacus. Okay. Underneath that, it says Laura is CEO and founder of Peritius Consulting, a premier niche consulting firm, specializing exclusively in Outcome Management, an approach to strategic program and project management services. Peritius serves the Fortune 1,000 companies by helping them realize their strategic objectives and providing subject matter expertise in the discipline of delivering. Now, as I scan through here, I don't see anything about magic or Harry Potter. Maybe it’s just a book. I have to ask her if she is a magician when it comes to management and consulting stuff.

Courtney Lane (2m 27s):
I look forward to it.

Jim Stroud (2m 30s):
Yes, okay. Let's roll the intro.

TribePod (2m 32s):
You are listening to TribePod, a podcast series of interviews of interest to the HR community. It is hosted by Courtney Lane, produced by Jim Stroud, sponsored by Proactive Talent, and enjoyed by you. Today's episode begins right after this.

Female Commercial (2m 52s):
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Courtney Lane (4m 5s):
Well, today I am joined by Laura Dribin, CEO and founder of Peritius. Okay, I'm going to pause because I just realized I need to ask you.

Laura Dribin (4m 19s):

Courtney Lane (4m 19s):
Peritius, all right. Three, two, one. Today I'm joined by Laura Dribin, CEO and founder of Peritius. My gosh, it's going to be that day. I told you, Jim. Tell me one more time and I will write it down this time.

Jim Stroud (4m 33s):
Would you tell us who you are, Laura?

Courtney Lane (4m 44s):
No, I will get it this time. I promise.

Laura Dribin (4m 55s):
Don't feel bad. I have had way more stranger pronunciations. Actually, it's Peritius.

Jim Stroud (5m 2s):

Laura Dribin (5m 3s):

Jim Stroud (5m 3s):
I get a point.

Laura Dribin (5m 6s):
Yes, you do.

Courtney Lane (5m 7s):
Well, for all this time. Three, two, one. Today, I'm joined by Laura Dribin, CEO and founder of Peritius Consulting, a premier niche consulting firm, specializing exclusively in Outcome Management, an approach to strategic program and project management services. Laura has been at the forefront of finding new ways to fine-tune the art of delivery so I've been looking forward to this conversation. Welcome, Laura. We are so happy to have you on today.

Laura Dribin (5m 32s):
Thanks, Courtney, for having me. I really appreciate it. I love your podcast, so excited to be a part of it.

Courtney Lane (5m 42s):
Well, thank you so much. I guess to start things off, tell us more about what you do and your firm. We'll just start there.

Laura Dribin (5m 57s):
Sure, sure. I should give you a little bit of background. I started out of college and Pre-Accenture, did a stint at Microsoft as well before I was married. I had my first child and realized I did not want to be a road warrior anymore. Way back, it was hard for working mothers, I should say, to not travel and be in consulting, so I started my own firm. That was 31 years ago. We basically focus on helping our clients deliver their strategic initiatives.

Laura Dribin (6m 39s):
I used to say we were experts in program and project management services. I don't say that anymore but we are. I've changed our focus because I think that along the way, my field took a wrong turn. That’s where the genesis of Outcome Management came about because Outcome Management is program management, but focused on value generation. Asking the questions about why are you even doing this project? What value do you expect in the end? What should it look like when you're all done? How are you going to measure that you're all done?

Laura Dribin (7m 19s):
What does success look like and how are you going to measure that? Those are the questions that project management doesn't, stereotypically, focus on. You have an industry such as project management, where they are focused on tactics, time, budget, and scope, but even if you get it done on time, on budget, within scope, if you're not focused on why you're doing this project in the first place, you might miss it. We've taken that turn in our company towards Outcome Management. That was a long-winded answer to who we are.

Courtney Lane (7m 54s):
No, but I love it. I have to say first that it's really interesting to hear why you started the firm in the first place. I certainly recognize that story of having heard it similar to other women in the working place where once they started a family, they had to shift gears because of the job they were in before. What’s so interesting to me, just to site a little personal note, is that the change in the world from when you started to now, because for me, I actually left the inhouse space and went in consulting space so I can have more flexibility as a new mother with a one-and-a-half-year-old at home, and have more control and autonomy over my schedule.

Laura Dribin (8m 40s):
Yes, and I think that is phenomenal. I have two older daughters who are in the workforce so love to hear that that has changed for you because back then, the only way I could go to the company was if I agree to remain a road warrior. I'm glad to hear there are options. I actually started out independent for a number of years before adding people. Then I decided, for that very reason, that I wasn't going to make my people travel. We are more of a local firm for that very reason, to give people some flexibility.

Laura Dribin (9m 22s):
Now, with COVID, everyone's remote but pre-COVID, that was a conscious decision.

Courtney Lane (9m 29s):
Yes, absolutely. Well, thank you for leading the way in that because I am appreciative of having that option as a woman and as a mom to create my workload to really be more around my life versus the other.

Laura Dribin (9m 46s):
I love to hear it. I'm glad.

Courtney Lane (9m 50s):
That piece aside, talking more about Outcome Management, I love when you were talking about the why because I think you're right. It is so easy to get into the weeds of things that we forget why we’re in the weeds of things and what our original goal was. For a lot of our audience, HR and recruiting leaders, I think we can count endless times where we have launched an initiative or a new program, a new strategy only to see it get to that point of execution or really in that execution maintenance mode face and it just putters out.

Courtney Lane (10m 30s):
We're not seeing the results that we expected to see or the buy-in that was there when the momentum was in the front end. It gets lost so I'm curious from your experience, are there key things that are driving that current, that stereotypical state of really a lot of focus on that front end strategy in all of that, and then once we get to execution, we go, “Okay, now. It's just going to go and float in.

Laura Dribin (11m 3s):
Yes. I think we are, unfortunately, is a standard way of business in most organizations. I've seen that even in HR, implementations of the workday, and I'll get back to that example in a second, but I think the problem that we're seeing in the industry is that the expectation of “I'm a project manager, I'm a program manager.” If you are certified in the industry they teach you to create a plan, create an issue log, and all of the requirements around managing a project. When it happens, those are tactics.

Laura Dribin (11m 50s):
It doesn't necessarily teach you the requirements of looking outside of that. You have a lot of people who are good at creating a plan and then checking off the boxes, and that again isn't going to get you where you want it. What happens, backtracking a little bit, is you have your CEO or the top-level executive come up with the strategy. Then they throw things over, the funds, to their next level of management saying, “Okay, come up with the most important projects that you want to be funded this year,” but there is never necessarily a connection between the VP of HR or the VP of marketing.

Laura Dribin (12m 34s):
Their most important projects, does that influence and then prove the strategy that was just created? There is no direct tie in most organizations in that process. There is a divide so that's where Outcome Management addresses it but when you look at project management, it's like, “Okay, we have a workday implementation. Let's implement it.” Then it often becomes an IT initiative, not Workday, which is an HR initiative, but it becomes “let's implement a software solution.” That's another place where there becomes a divide because IT may not understand all of the reasons why the HR department needed to put a workday in or whatever solution they chose.

Laura Dribin (13m 26s):
That's where you have to start looking at different resources to run this large transformational type of effort. It isn't someone who is necessarily just certified in project management. While that's an important skill and that works for projects that are typically not a lot of change or just things that have where you are checking off the boxes are okay. When you start to do transformational initiatives, things that are going to affect a lot of different groups of people where you may have different resources involved in actually implementing this, you need someone who is more strategic, who understands the big picture, the why's, why are we doing this, and even if there’s a divide between the strategy and “let's implement a new system,” that person needs to start to focus on why are we initially asking those questions?

Laura Dribin (14m 30s):
Why are we doing this? What problems are we solving? That's a more strategic type of individual than a typical project manager, someone who is involved in identifying connection and alignment from delivery back to the strategy.

Courtney Lane (14m 51s):
Yes. For organizations that maybe, anecdotally, they are feeling that there is the disconnect, how are they concretely seeing that disconnect? From a business perspective, what are the telltale signs that there's some misalignment between strategy and what's being actually executed?

Laura Dribin (15m 13s):
Sure. There's a term for that. It's called shelfware. People who have been in business for a while have probably seen where a project goes all the way through, it's implemented, and then it's not used appropriately or it's not used at all because of the pushback. “We’re good with what we have.” That's an effort where there wasn't a lot of organizational change effort put into it where people probably didn't understand why they were doing it. It also may actually be a situation where they say, “This was a great process or a great software implementation but it doesn't really sell the problems that I had in the first place but actually create some new ones.” Most people have experienced that, where lots of effort has gone into a project to implement it and then it becomes a dune or it's not used to the fullest that it was intended to.

Laura Dribin (16m 14s):
That's often because there was a misalignment back to the strategy. There is no value or even if there was value, it goes to look at this more strategically and holistically as to how these types of things are transformational. Nobody likes change, even change agents. I'm a big change agent but do I want to change as easily? Maybe not so much. You have to work at that. That is often the first thing that gets collected in any type of delivery or initiative.

Laura Dribin (16m 55s):
More so, people are focusing on it lately, but it's still not quite where it needs to be yet.

Courtney Lane (17m 3s):
You say more so people are focusing on that lately. Is the pandemic forcing the hand a little bit to focus more on that piece? What do you think is causing that shift?

Laura Dribin (17m 17s):
Well, I think that the focus here is, and pretty much hear the term and everyone uses it differently, digital transformation, which I think has been accelerated by the pandemic. People are being remote. They’re counting on the data and access to the data to make improvements. Digital transformation is often big. We're working on a lot of digital transformation efforts right now. What we see is it's all really about the change because you're changing how people work. It's not even necessarily all of the systems. It's actually often the process change that people struggle with the most.

Laura Dribin (18m 2s):
I think that's part of why we're seeing more and more focus on organizational change management.

Courtney Lane (18m 7s):
Okay. When you talk about this strategic resource, is that somebody that is a subject matter expert in this space of where that strategy is stemming from? Is it somebody who is really just more focused on a broader business strategy? What does that resource really look like?

Laura Dribin (18m 32s):
I have a bias on this. That feels like a great question but I may get in trouble with others in my field. I believe that when you are dealing with large-scale initiatives, that transformational type of effort, you don't want a subject matter expert. You want a generalist who understands business, who understands the soft skills. I emphasized strategy before, but really what HR is looking for in these delivery resources, who are going to be managing the large scale, is not just the focus on strategy, as well as the EQ.

Laura Dribin (19m 15s):
You're dealing with siloed organizations. You are dealing with an acquisition integration. You are dealing with two different cultures trying to come together. You need someone who can work with different personality types and different work styles and know how to bring them together. That is often considered the soft stuff that we don't have to worry about, but more often than not, it's what usually cripples a project or a program of magnitude - not bringing people together, getting them on the same page, getting them to understand the same objectives.

Laura Dribin (20m 4s):
I have seen companies where they're working on different goals and not coming together. That's a red flag for any initiative because even if you get to the finish line, someone is going to be unhappy.

Courtney Lane (20m 27s):
I'm curious. Organizational effectiveness or organizational development, those teams and departments in large organizations oftentimes sit inside HR. Should they sit inside HR or are they really something outside of that?

Laura Dribin (20m 42s):
HR has historically held that space. I think the history of it tends to be in training, which is part of the organizational change, but it's not the only part. I think that often, the rest of it can be neglected. I have seen in many of the companies that were in that organizational change is being moved outside of HR or HR owns it but is starting to look to how to grow it. I think wherever that ends up sitting, it has to be larger than just a training effort.

Laura Dribin (21m 28s):
Organizational change is probably more about communication, in the end, than anything. I don't know if I have a strong opinion of HR or elsewhere. I think it has to be a more thought-provoking type of organization than it is right now. Training alone used to be considered enough, but right in these large efforts that affect the organization as a whole, that is not enough. It's not really even where the key focus should be.

Courtney Lane (21m 58s):
Yes, yes.

Laura Dribin (21m 59s):
Can I go back to the general subject matter expert thing for a second?

Courtney Lane (22m 5s):

Laura Dribin (22m 7s):
I don't know if I made it quite clear on my thought process on that subject. Most people will say, I need a subject matter expert program or a project manager. Someone who either knows a system, the industry, or the functional area. Why I pushed generalists is not just for a general rule, no pun intended, but more because I see that you can only focus on one area. You have a team of subject matter experts. How we work is as long as we know the right questions to ask, we can bring that team together but if we are focused on the subject matter, then chances are, we're not looking at the big picture and vice-versa. If you're looking at the big picture, you probably don't have time to do a deep dive in the subject matter expertise.

Laura Dribin (22m 59s):
We have actually gone through a lot of different initiatives where we do a lot of turnaround of troubled projects to get them back on track. Sometimes, they have subject matter experts delivering resources. That's not really typically where we see failure.

Courtney Lane (23m 15s):
Got it. Can you tell me about that, where the project’s in-flight and you've got to come in and turn things around? I would have to imagine there are some special challenges to that because you were coming into a situation that people are already either weary of or leary of, either way. Maybe there's a loss of trust and the things turning around or in the vision. What do you do in those situations? I know that's a big complex question, but in general, what is your approach to going in those situations where you need to help turn things around?

Laura Dribin (23m 57s):
Yes. I have learned the hard way on that one, at the beginning. We did some things that we learned and what not to do. One of the key things is to understand that people are weary or leary, as you said, of anyone coming in. They may be burned off by them. How do you work with that group and build trust? That's the first thing you'd have to focus on. The first thing we always say is you're never looking for someone to blame for why it has been failing to date.

Laura Dribin (24m 37s):
The minute you do that, you're out the door. You shut down on that process because people expect that. They think, “Okay, the new person’s coming in. They're looking for the scapegoat or the person to blame.” You have to start engaging with them to say, “Here's where we are. Let's talk about how we need to be, and not forget about the history, because you don't want to repeat it by making the same mistakes, but you really have to let them know that you're not here to look for someone to blame. I actually had a client who we walked away from the project because they were like, “We want to know who is to blame for this.

Laura Dribin (25m 22s):
That's your first role.” I'm like, “Wow. Then we won't have a second role after we do that.” I think you have to be kind knowing that they are probably burnt out. Assume that going in and be more positive. “Okay, we're here now. Let's figure out how to get to the end state.” Some of that takes triage, not stopping in the process, building up the gas tank on a plane in flight. That helps too. You have to be a little flexible.

Laura Dribin (26m 7s):
Again, that can often be against what a project manager is taught to think so you have to be a little bit flexible to do a turnaround.

Courtney Lane (26m 14s):
Yes, yes. Switching gears slightly, you made a comment earlier in regards to, with the pandemic, the digital transformation has been moved forward may be more quickly than what the original trajectory would have been, and that we’re now in this really fully remote space. I'm curious how that's changing things when it comes to getting projects up and off the ground and doing this kind of work. It has to have had an impact.

Laura Dribin (26m 53s):
Yes, it has. I think it slows down things a little bit. Our team has been fully remote working on our clients’ projects and programs. We've had great success in this model of being remote, partly because I think our team has worked on a lot of global initiatives. They've always been remote with remote parts of our client. It wasn't a huge adjustment for us. It is for some of our clients. Early on, one of my clients said to me, “We feel more productive but I'm worried about innovation.” That actually sent me off on some research because that's who I am.

Laura Dribin (27m 46s):
I got to look for that. I found that there were a number of companies, like IBM in particular, I think Yahoo is another one, where it pre-pandemic, they had a huge remote workforce. IBM, for over 30 years, 40% of their workforce was remote. Around 2016-2017, they brought people back. The reason was, yes, remote, we are more productive, but we are also less innovative. When I hear companies thinking, “Well, we're just going to stay remote or fully remote.” I think a lot of tech companies have thrown that out.

Laura Dribin (28m 32s):
I know companies haven't necessarily settled on where they are right now, but I think that they have to think about what's lost. We are human. We like connections. Even as an introvert, I still miss my connections. I think that passing by the water cooler, passing by in the hallway, and having that five-minute conversation, has been lost during the COVID. You have to schedule someone. Even if it's one question that you don't want to email someone about, you have to schedule a half-hour call with them. That slows things down from happening. It also slows down the innovative type of thinking that is really important at the beginning of a project when you are starting to plan and starting to understand.

Laura Dribin (29m 21s):
Get everyone on the same page. Yes, you can do that within Zoom, which is what we'd been doing, but it's easier to miss things. It's also harder just to engage. On Zoom, you can turn off your video if you need to and you disappear. If you're in a group conference room doing the session, it's a little harder to do that, to be working on something else while you're in that meeting. I think those things are lost and I'm hoping that people, at least at the minimum, consider a hybrid.

Courtney Lane (29m 57s):
Yes, I agree. I think hybrid, for me personally, especially as I look at some of my friends who never had the opportunity to even be remote until the pandemic, there are just certain pieces of that that are valuable. Especially when you're managing a home or you have other things going on outside of work, having some flexibility on your own day can certainly help.

Laura Dribin (30m 30s):
And the baby.

Courtney Lane (30m 30s):
Yes, exactly, but you're right. I was just talking to somebody recently and we were laughing about our whiteboard days where we would hit a wall on something, we close ourselves in an office and with a whiteboard, just hammer it out for an hour together to try and figure out what we were going to do. Somehow, that tactical loss is really felt in a deeper way.

Laura Dribin (30m 59s):
Absolutely. You probably would do it now on Xoom but it might take longer than an hour. It also may miss some nuances of just talking with each other back and forth with a whiteboard in front of you. I see that with some of my clients. They struggle. That was why IBM brought everyone back. They said innovation trumps productivity in the end. I think it's important that, even if people are going to do a hybrid, they need to be smart about it.

Laura Dribin (31m 40s):
Not just like, “Okay, whoever wants to come in one day or three days.” It should be allowing those related hallway conversations with the right people to be there on the same day. Again, a lot of this is post-pandemic, but I think that that will be missed in the long run if they stay remote.

Courtney Lane (32m 2s):
Yes. Well, we will see what happens. It will be interesting to see what comes up to all of this. Well, as we were getting to the close of our time together, I'm just curious. If people were to walk away with one thing to know about Outcome Management that you would want them to keep with them, what would that be for this group?

Laura Dribin (32m 39s):
I think given your audience, I would really ask them to rethink what type of needs they have to manage some of these larger-scale initiatives they have. It shouldn't be the standard certified project program manager. That is important, but it isn't necessarily what will get them through a very complicated type of effort where you have a lot of moving parts and a lot of descent potentially along the way about the change.

Courtney Lane (33m 22s):
Absolutely. If folks want to connect with you or learn more about the services you all offer, what's the best way for them to do that?

Laura Dribin (33m 30s):
A number of ways. They can contact me via email, which it's They also can be looking at our website It gives you a little bit more information about it. I also have a newsletter on LinkedIn. If they want to, they can subscribe to that. I sometimes had a little bit of an offbeat way of sharing some of my thoughts. Any of those, and I can always pick up the phone and call.

Courtney Lane (33m 54s):
All right. I'm going to have to go find that newsletter. Well, wonderful. Well, thank you so much for joining us today, Laura. It has been really great digging in and talking with you. I appreciate you joining us.

Laura Dribin (34m 33s):
Courtney, thank you so much for the time. I appreciate this podcast and your audience. Thanks for having me on today.

Jim Stroud (34m 41s):
That was nice there. It was kind of cool. I like that.

Courtney Lane (34m 48s):
Anytime you can get me talking about organizational change management, I'm excited.

Jim Stroud (34m 54s):
Well, I felt like that podcast brought us closer because I found out a little bit about your backstory and how you got into consulting.

Courtney Lane (35m 2s):
Yes, new mom. Most people probably wouldn't have thought about consulting. Leave your stable in-house job and go out into the consulting freelance world when you have an 18-month-old at home, but it afforded me a lot of flexibility to spend a lot of time with.

Jim Stroud (35m 12s):
You are a woman here. You roar. I’m wondering how many other road warriors are listening to us right now. If they are, please give us an email or send us an e-mail. You can reach us at Operators are standing by, at least the ones that are not on the road. Any parting words there, Courtney?

Courtney Lane (35m 33s):
No. I just hope you have a wonderful day, Jim.

Jim Stroud (35m 37s):
It’s me driving down the road.

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