Speaker Spotlight: Brad Brezinski – Developing 10 Percenters!

Brad Brezinski develops “10 percenters!” It is the driving force behind S2A, the organization he founded in Cincinnati. He is President of S2A and also serves as Strategy and Innovation track chair for PMI. 

“My entire purpose, the thing that gets me up every morning, the driving force behind my organization is to develop 10 percenters,” Brad says. “Who’s a 10 percenter? Simple, a person who understands the company’s strategy, even if the C-suite doesn’t.”

Brad speaks from experience; having lived in both worlds. His education and career began with an opportunity to join the highly selective nuclear engineering program in the U.S. Navy. After graduation, Brad received orders to Norfolk, Virginia, where he worked as a project engineer aboard the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Dwight D. Eisenhower.

“I was primarily involved in electrical and nuclear power systems on the Eisenhower,” said Brad. “They needed someone to move into a more formal project manager role. That’s how I got into the project management world initially.”

Brad was one of several project managers responsible for the nuclear refueling of the U.S.S. Dwight D. Eisenhower, the first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier of its class to be refueled. He managed similar large-scale projects aboard the U.S.S. George Washington and at the Naval Submarine Base in Groton, Connecticut where he also served as liaison to General Dynamics for the Navy. During 14 years of active duty nearly 10 years was in project or program management.

“I had a really great career,” Brad said. “It was easily the best decision I made to join right out of high school.”

Brad recognized a repetitiveness to his future career path, prompting his decision to accept a new challenge with a civilian defense and aerospace manufacturer in Cincinnati during 2009. His assessment and recommendation to restructure resulted in a successful transition of their project management organization in just two years. He was asked to stay and accepted a position as Vice President of Finance and Strategy, before eventually becoming Chief Financial Officer and Vice President of Strategy.

“In early 2014 I had a really great opportunity to pursue my doctorate at Case Western,” said Brad. “The focus of the doctorate was in strategy and innovation, with an emphasis on mid-market strategy.”

Brad was able to work out a plan to divest some of his responsibilities with the company to pursue studies at Case Western. Typically he was in residence in Cleveland one week out of every month while spending the rest of the time back in Cincinnati. His research revealed the brief 50-60-year history of corporate strategy has been focused on large U.S. corporations with models built primarily on economic theories.

“My assertion, and the focus of my research, was those strategic solutions don’t work in the overwhelming majority of organizations,” said Brad. “They’re based on a context that’s just not right. It puts most business leaders and project managers in a position of trying to implement Fortune 30 concepts within their unique context and it doesn’t work.”

Through talks with other business leaders Brad realized a clear need and began to develop corporate strategy frameworks to cover a variety of contexts for smaller companies. S2A was created to protect those intellectual properties. By the end of 2015 it was clear there was a market for S2A’s solutions. Demand for his expertise increased and he shifted his attention to S2A. Initially the company was focused on helping organizational leaders. In early 2016 Brad saw a real need for people who implement, project managers who carry out strategic intent, to have a greater understanding of what strategy is, where it comes from, and how their work connects to it. He references a Kaplan & Norton study that supports it.

“There exists an incredible language barrier between the C-suite and your everyday project manager on the subject of strategy,” he said. “Only 10% of people say they understand their company’s strategy and its connection to their daily work. It’s hard to run a business or a project with those kinds of numbers.

Brad turned the focus of S2A to help project managers understand what is shaping strategy, how to recognize and tactfully communicate when reality does not match the assumption-based strategy.

“There seems to be a lack of focus on the human side of strategy. Just because it makes sense rationally or financially doesn’t mean a company is going to adopt it and bring it to life,” said Brad.” The human side of it has to be considered as well.”

Brad sees a huge gap in communication between PMs and C-level executives. He stresses the importance for PM’s to understand and speak the language of the people developing the corporate strategy. Project managers have the unique responsibility of understanding how information really moves through an organization. Frequently they understand team culture and values better than the C-suite. It is a PM’s job to understand the strategy and communicate the differences when reality does not match the original assumptions.

“Every piece of content, every public speaking engagement, every workshop and seminar, every e-course, every mentoring and coaching session, of S2A is focused on developing the 10 percenters,” Brad said. “That’s it. That’s why we exist. We’ll supply you with the tools for thought and practice you’ll need to join the exclusive ranks of the 10 Percent.”

For more information about how to become a 10 Percenter, connect with Brad on LinkedIn or go to:

 Article by: Chuck Gibson | Contributing: Katarina Triguba

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