Approaching halfway – KTP project between Strathclyde University and William Grant & Sons

Ian Brydson - KTP Associate

The end of year one in my two year KTP position with William Grant & Sons / Strathclyde is fast approaching. I am lucky enough to have a week’s holiday booked where I can step back, reflect on what has happened so far and prepare myself for round two. 

Me 

Until moving into the spirits industry I had spent my entire career in agriculture. First of all leaving school at 16 to work on the family farm and then progressing to university where I came out with a degree in engineering. After a two year graduate programme I became a product manager for a European manufacturer of agricultural machinery. After a number of happy and successful years I decided to broaden my horizons and return to university to complete an MBA with the goal of changing industry. This I duly did in 2013 and proceeded to spend the next 18 months in self-employed consultancy. Eventually the longing to be part of a fast paced global organisation took hold and I was successful in securing the KTP associate position in May 2015. 

Project Background 

William Grant & Son (WGS), founded nearly 130 years ago, is a hugely successful family owned spirits business which continues to move into new markets with new products. Famous brands include Grants blended whisky, Glenfiddich single malt whisky and Hendricks Gin. In 2014 the Packaging & Supply Chain division of the business identified that it could benefit from improved project management governance in order to meet its ambitious targets for growth. Subsequently the KTP position was born. The objectives being to create a project management process suitable for WGS, implement it and give the business better control of the initiatives it had underway. 

The story so far 

After a few weeks of meeting & greeting, company familiarisation and understanding the project requirements it was time to start moving things forward. Due to the scale of the business and the realisation I was about to embark upon a significant cultural change, I felt I could not execute the project alone. For that reason I assembled a change team made up of key people from different departments who had been involved in running projects in the past. I held a series of workshops with these guys with the first one being a general chat about how projects run in the business and how they could be improved. This proved highly beneficial in terms of getting engagement and spreading understanding of the KTP. Quite quickly I had a project management process together and was preparing to get as many people using it as possible. Then I started to understand more about the company and my thinking changed. 

I started to realise that while WGS may not have had a company wide project management process, they had plenty of independent processes being used in various units across the business. Many of which had been in place for a long time and those practising very familiar with them. It was going to be difficult to try and pull everybody onto a new way of working, especially when they perceived no problems with what they were currently doing. The bigger problem, it seemed, was that while projects were being controlled, everyone was controlling them differently. There was no overall visibility of the projects being undertaken. All of sudden there was a need to avoid creating another process to add to the list, but to create an overarching governance structure which managed the multiple processes and gave some centralised visibility of key information. 

This really is an over simplification of the last ten months of my KTP, but it emphasises the main points. In between times I have been involved in running smaller projects including one on product traceability in market and another on more effective materials stocking levels. This has given me a great understanding of how the business operates and allowed me to gauge how projects are currently managed. 

The next steps 

I am fully aware that to implement cross functional project governance across the business unit is a big challenge. There is a need to be realistic about what can be achieved. I am currently planning and seeking approval for my plans from senior management. It is likely I will start with a cross section of projects or departments to begin the process and prove what benefits it can deliver. This will hopefully lay the foundations for rolling out to the whole of packaging & supply chain. Watch this space for further updates! 

What the KTP is doing for me 

I cannot stress enough how much the KTP associate position is aiding my career development. It has given me the opportunity to combine my previous experience with my MBA learning and apply them practically in a strategic thinking role. Entering a completely new industry has been a steep learning curve, but also a very challenging and rewarding one. William Grant & Son has some exceptionally talented people and I am in a position where I can learn from many of them. 

Due to the budget afforded to me I have become a registered change management practitioner, a PRINCE2 practitioner and attended a global conference in London organised by the Project Management Institute. The conference emphasised the importance of connecting project management with change management and this has heavily influenced my thinking about the KTP project. I have also achieved foundation level accreditation with the Association of Project Management and am working towards Project Management Professional (PMP) level. 

In summary the KTP is giving me the opportunity to build myself up as a serious project management professional with significant industry experience. This will be invaluable for me going forward and allow me to really add value at William Grant & Sons.

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