Voices on Project Management

Bloggers Sound Off: Congress Takeaways

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In this Voices on Project Management roundtable, two bloggers discuss their top takeaway from PMI® Global Congress -- from the perspective of an attendee and a presenter.


Every time I attend a PMI Global Congress, I am ready to discover exciting learning opportunities. Congress gives me the opportunity to interact with peers, discuss best practices, common issues and the latest trends in project management. But my biggest takeaway is the networking. 

But networking opportunities do not start at the congress -- you can start contacting attendees in advance and use the congress as a venue to meet them and interact with project management practitioners from all over the planet. Many of them stand out from the crowd with ribbons color-coded to their credential, so you can network more easily with targeted groups (for example, PgMPs have a specific ribbon). 
Attending pre-sessions also provides the opportunity to support and recognize peers, such as the awards gala on Saturday night (of North America congress) or attend Sunday morning workshops where the state of project management is discussed. Here, I've found inspiration from fellow project managers to continue engaging in volunteer opportunities.

Even the Exhibit Hall is a great opportunity to network with vendors and educational institutions and learn more about the products and services they offer. And you never know, from those interactions you may find potential job opportunities.

In conclusion: Network, network, network! That's my advice for getting the most value from congress. 


Your value as a project professional is determined by how much value you can create for others. This value is a function of two factors. The first is your personal capability to supply a need. The second is your ability to reach people. That increased reach would increase your ability to create value. 

PMI Global Congress is about increasing our ability to create value by increasing along both of those dimensions. Each of us brings to congress the value of our own experiences, our own learning, our own knowledge. So one of the most valuable things we can do is to share that with others. When we share what we know with others, we are creating value for them. Likewise, when they share what they know with us, they are creating value for us.

Certainly, there is much value to be created from participating at congress as an attendee in terms of increasing personal capability as you learn from others and as others learn from you. But participating as a presenter provides the possibility to create considerably more value because you are able to reach so many more people.

For me, the top takeaway at Congress isn't what I can take away, but rather what I can give away! And as a presenter, I can increase my reach and share the value of my experiences with many more people.

What was your top takeaway from congress? Did you attend as an attendee or presenter?

Project Management: The Vessel for Innovation

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Innovation seems to be the new mantra for companies -- even though it has affected and shaped all aspects of our lives. And innovation covers not only the creation of a product, but also includes the process to produce it, how it's delivered to customers and even how value is generated, both for the company and the customer.

Some argue that processes and policies are barriers to innovation. These people confuse innovation with creativity and believe that trying to implement a well-thought-out, standardized process to manage innovation will constrain the results. But the opposite is true: A method for innovation sets the ground for achieving success in an efficient way. After all, creativity is only a part of a more complex innovation process, driven by project management -- and as such, you could say that project management is the vessel for innovation. That's because the best way to guarantee your organization's innovation efforts are well-managed, successful and deriving true value is through the use of program and project management tools. In addition, portfolio management can help define where to invest innovation dollars.

The problem is that those in the innovation field do not necessarily see project management as a useful tool, and those in project management do not feel that what they do is so beneficial to the innovation process. But let me give you seven processes to break down those perceptions for the sake of fostering innovation:

  1. Innovation happens in a company or a project team when leadership sets up a culture and environment for it. Senior management should first define why innovation is important, how success is going to be measured and how it will be rewarded.
  2. Define a standardized innovation project life cycle. This definition should include a description of the interim products that are expected at the end of each of the major phases.
  3. Innovation is a social process: It's about the people in the process. Creativity and new ideas always come from different sources. Therefore, flexibility, constant team interactions and empowerment of team members should be embedded in the process. 
  4. Innovation is all about failure. Enough room to fail fosters creativity and eliminates barriers that could seriously limit our ability to change. But knowing when to stop a failed project is also important. Leave bad ideas quickly.
  5. Always pilot-test what you are proposing before taking it to a full scale. Gain enough data to either modify what was defined initially or to definitely cancel it, if the product or service developed is not successful.
  6. Innovation doesn't have to mean new product development. Manufacturing processes, delivery, distribution, customer experience and financing are all fertile grounds for innovation. 
  7. Project management itself needs to be innovative. Adapt the tools and techniques to the type of projects that you have. If you think, for example, that agile or lean tools can be beneficial, test them and use them.

For organizations that compete on a global scale -- that is, most companies -- innovation can be their most important competitive advantage and the factor that guarantees long-term success. Innovation might sound like the flavor of the month, but in the future, success will be on the side of organizations that know how to do it and excel at it.

How does project management foster innovation at your organization?

Building Maturity, Battling Complexity

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Today's marketplace and customers make new demands that fuel complexities in our organizations through a number of external factors. These factors require an organization to become agile to meet the new demands. In many cases the external factors include:

  • Globalization of world markets, which introduces many organizational dynamics and new ways of working with governments
  • Continuing evolution and development of technology, coupled with foreign and regional economic investment 
  • Rise of emerging markets, which opens new opportunities for consumer expansion 
But beyond external factors, the first and most important issue of complexity is determining the structure of our project management system. This includes the level of project supply and the rate at which they can be staffed by skilled project resources. PMI's 2012 Executive Guide to Project Management showed that over time, those who matured project management in their organization improved their outcomes as depicted in the graph below.

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So while it's clear that mature project management practices are beneficial to success, how can an organization build this capacity and resources? Many are prone to take them from more mature industries. For example, as the supply of projects increase, organizations are trying to poach IT project managers or even an SME as the project lead. It is expected that the leaders roll out the new initiative while they may not have knowledge in structured delivery approaches. So what choices do we have in balancing the complex level of supply and the rate of demand for project managers? 

My thoughts on what choices we have here are below. They include two traditional options on controlling the level of work and the rate of staffing skilled workers. I'm also offering a third and more innovative perspective, for those who want to increase their agility by changing their management culture.

Option 1 (traditional):

Description: Control the level of the supply and reduce the project intake to focus on fewer initiatives.

  1. Sacrifice business opportunities for flawless planning and execution on the approved business initiatives, only limiting our ability to be agile
  2. Increase the rate in project management knowledge in fewer project managers (decrease in project managers caused by the reduced project intake)

Option 2 (traditional):

Description: Increase the rate of new projects launched and hire more project managers.

  1. This may become increasingly costly for organizations to add headcount if clear benefits cannot be determined
  2. Projects have a defined duration at which at the end of these initiatives, one may need to release these resources and then a knowledge drain may ensue losing organizational capability and capacity

Option 3 (innovative):

Description: Effect a change in corporate cultures by committing the organization to increase project management disciplines across all employees.

  1. Organizations that commit to accepting project management approaches as part of the management behaviors will increase cross-functional collaboration and business agility to drive competitive advantage
  2. A development framework and roadmap will be required for employees to be made aware and trained to accept the methods and tools, and commit to use of the tools in their projects

Which choice represents your organization's preference: to follow the traditional options, or is it time for a cultural change

About This Blog

Voices on Project Management offers insights, tips, advice and personal stories from project managers in different regions and industries. The goal is to get you thinking, and spark a discussion. So, if you read something that you agree with — or even disagree with — leave a comment.

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