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Leading in a constantly changing environment

Leading in a constantly changing environment

  • 4 September 2019
  • By Lee Yen Pheng
  • 8 mins read

Leading in a constantly changing environment

Lee Yen Pheng is Head of Project Office, Group Operations & Technology, managing the entire portfolio of projects for OCBC Bank in Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong and China. She shares her experiences and the kind of people she looks for to join her team.

“I joined OCBC Bank in 2002 as an internal auditor. Over the years I’ve been with the Bank, I was given opportunities to drive changes in the organisation. Like many of my peers, I had the benefit of being rotated through various functions and portfolios within the Bank throughout the years. Having first started with Group Audit, I moved on to take up various roles in Treasury and Technology, before joining the Technology Project Office, where I am now.”

Integrating new members

“For the last two years, I have been leading a team of over 65 project managers. On average, we deliver about 120 projects across Singapore and Malaysia a year. As a leader, I’m very focused on the task – on getting things done and delivering business capabilities. However, I also strongly believe in building and guiding the team.”

“My first experience in the working world was as an admin intern, and what made a lasting impression was how critical it was to have guidance as a new joiner to the company and team. I know I felt pretty lost without it. This is why I make it my responsibility now to ensure my new members are properly integrated so that they can be productive and effective at the soonest.”

“In the Technology Project Office, we have a structured training programme for new joiners. Depending on seniority, it can last from three months to two years, covering a range of technical and soft skills needed for the job. We started the programme two years ago and have been continuously refining it, leveraging input from the team. We know it is successful from the outcome of our delivery and feedback from both the business and staff.”

Transformation of the team

“I’m very proud of how my team has grown and transformed. We used to be a much smaller team. Our way of working and the methodologies we used to deliver projects have also transformed significantly. In the last two years, we have streamlined our processes, introduced Agile and Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery (CI/CD) with DevOps. Our time-to-market has reduced by two-thirds over the last two years, whilst never losing our focus on quality of delivery.”

Qualities of a Project Manager

“Project Managers must be passionate about delivering capabilities and solutions. That is the starting point. When I appoint them, I assess how they could contribute to the team and the Bank’s digital transformation journey. This is not only for the Bank, as it is important for my people to feel useful and valued. It gives them confidence and job satisfaction. It is a win for the Bank. It is a win for my people.”

“You must also have good interpersonal skills. We often work on cross-country projects, thus cultural differences must be understood and considered. He or she must also be able to be fluid but focused enough to roll with the punches while still getting the job done effectively and on time.”

“I look for energetic people who are resourceful. People who are street-smart and make things work. Confidence is important. I encourage the team, including younger and less-experienced team members, to be confident when dealing with stakeholders and senior managers.”

“The environment in our Bank is one of constant growth and perpetual innovation. This means that we are always undergoing change and transformation to get better, faster, more innovative and progressive. The person who comes onboard our team must be open-minded, able to deal with changes and ideally, thrive in a changing environment.”

On creating a department culture

“Teamwork forms the cornerstone in the Project Office. For the department to be effective, we must look out for one another as well. Eventually, we deliver as a team. No one is a hero. We pull as one. As a result, our culture is very family-like. People are willing to help one another and pull together as a team.

“Every fortnight, we hold a townhall session to share our work on current initiatives - what we have learned, how we are progressing and our key achievements. We hold monthly team - building events such as bowling and social activities, sometimes involving our business partners.

“After all, I believe, we are not machines, but we are people. And people need to be nurtured, cared for, valued and encouraged to do well. And when we do well as a team, we celebrate!”