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Project Professionals: Don't Let a Little Tiger Get in Your Way

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If anyone could get a room full of project and program managers mimicking a jockey on a horse, it's Jim Lawless.

The closing speaker at the PMI® Global Congress 2012 -- EMEA in Marseille, France, Mr. Lawless holds the United Kingdom's underwater deep-dive record and once became a licensed jockey to win a £1 bet. So when he outlined his 10 rules for taming the tiger within -- the voice inside that makes people afraid to take action -- the audience listened.

Mr. Lawless reminded the group that each person writes his or her own life story. "In the end, you're not going to ask 'Did I have a good story,' but 'Did I write it? Or did the tiger dictate it for me?'" he said.
 
A project or program manager might have a game-changing idea, for example, but is too afraid to take it to the CEO. The result is regret -- because the person let the tiger write the story.

Mr. Lawless' 10 rules for taming the tiger are:

  1. Act boldly today -- time is limited. Taking an immediate, bold step interrupts patterns and demonstrates that it's only the tiger stopping project professionals from doing what they want.
  2. Rewrite your rulebook. According to Mr. Lawless, everyone has an internal rulebook that prevents him or her from taking bold steps. Go ahead and change it up.
  3. Head in the direction of where you want to go every day.
  4. It's all in the mind. Mr. Lawless illustrated his fear of riding in a horse race by coercing the entire audience to get out of their chairs to mime the act. But he reminded the audience that fear tends to come at a time of opportunity. Tame that fear, and seize the opportunity.
  5. The tools for taming tigers are all around you.
  6. There is no safety in numbers. Heroes became heroes not because they blend in with the crowd, but because they stand for something.
  7. Do something scary every day.
  8. Understand and control your time to create change. Time is the only scarce resource, and therefore the most important thing to control.
  9. Create disciplines -- do the basics brilliantly. Project professionals must figure out what it's going to take to achieve their goal and then do those disciples every day -- brilliantly and without fear.
  10. Never give up. Commit to your end point, and nothing short of it. When Mr. Lawless pledged to dive to 100 meters (328 feet), he didn't go to 80 meters (462 feet) and see if he could go the rest of the way. He committed right from the start.
With those inspiring words, congress came to a close, with project professionals streaming into the French sunlight to tame their own tigers.

European Commission Makes Project Management Progress

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The European Commission is looking for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth through technology. And it's using project management to get there.

"Project management is at the heart of our activities," said Francisco García Morán, directorate-general for informatics at the European Commission, the keynote speaker at PMI® Global Congress 2012 -- EMEA in Marseille, France.

The commission's goal is to create a new generation of open, flexible and seamless e-government services, he explained. For example, e-health projects could help address Europe's aging population.

The vision calls for innovative digital services, simplified processes and better alignment between business and IT.

Yet the commission has faced many challenges, including insufficient infrastructure, higher workload and staff cuts -- even as it faces greater pressure to deliver value.

Mr. García Morán also said there's a new generation of workers demanding better technology.  "We have to provide the Facebook generation with the tools they're most familiar with."

To help achieve its vision, the European Commission implemented an information services project management board. It also created its own approach based on good practices from around the world, including A Guide to Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide).

"We believe we have raised the project management capabilities in the European Commission," he said.

The greater focus on project management has helped the group achieve a more holistic point of view and strike a better balance between business and project management.

There has been some resistance, however, which has to be managed through communicating the value of project management to the staff. "Change management is essential," he said. "It's an area where we are working harder."

In a later session, Stefan Tostmann, PhD, spoke about some of the other project management work at the commission.

With 27 sovereign states, 500 million stakeholders and 23 languages, it can be difficult to identify common project interests, said Dr. Tostmann, CAPM, resource director (acting) and head of financial services, European Commission.

The type of projects addressed can cover everything from aid delivery to IT. And one of the biggest challenges is ensuring that proposed projects can actually be implemented in the member states.

Despite progress, there remains a lingering misconception that project management is exclusive to the IT realm, where project management first took hold at the group.

"There's not a project management culture in the European Commission yet," he said.

Echoing Mr. García Morán's comments, Dr. Tostmann said the commission is facing increasing pressure to prove its own value. "Stakeholders want to know what they're getting out of it."

That means the commission must become more efficient, he says, and like Mr. García Morán, he says project management can help in that process.

Read more about change management.

Top-Down Leadership Doesn't Always Work in Today's Complex World

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There's no single definition of leadership. Whether they opt to emulate Sun Tzu or Steve Jobs, project professionals should assess their teams and organizations to carve out their own leadership strategies, plenary speaker Andy Craggs told project professionals at the PMI® Global Congress 2012 -- EMEA in Marseille, France.

Mr. Craggs, a global business consultant at The Learning Partnership, dubbed today's business world as VUCA: volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous.

As a result, the top-down, individual-driven leadership style prevalent 10 years ago is no longer as effective. Instead, leadership must happen at four levels: society, organization, group and individual.
 
That means leaders must cross boundaries to encourage interdependence, collaboration and innovation among three types of people:

  • Conservers tend to be reliable, promoting the organization's underlying system and values while striving for constant improvement.

  • Pragmatists build cooperation and gather input from as many sources as possible to seek common ground.

  • Originators have long-range vision and seek to lead via new approaches and systems.
Mr. Craggs emphasized to the attendees that they must tailor their message to their audience, as each of the three groups will react differently.

Drawing on his time working with Disney and Apple, Mr. Craggs demonstrated how different leadership styles can be effective in the proper context.
 
At Disney, the bulk of activity takes place in the operations sector, with the focus on protecting intellectual property and the brand. In the modern VUCA world, though, Disney's top-down leadership doesn't always work. Although the company did enjoy a record box office debut for its movie The Avengers, it has struggled to compete in the application and video game development fields.
 
Apple takes the opposite approach. The organization's leadership, being more agile and connected across the organization, is more responsive to market changes -- which has allowed it to thrive.
 
Mr. Cragg concluded his presentation by identifying three types of organizational leadership cultures:

  • Dependent: A top-down, hierarchical structure that can be effective in very large, siloed organizations, like Disney 

  • Independent: Characteristic of organizations with specialized but not necessarily connected functions, such as Apple

  • Interdependent: Typically function with agile, interconnected networks within the organization, a style common at companies like Twitter
 
By knowing the characteristics of themselves, those around them and their organizations, project professionals can tailor their leadership approach to maximize their chances of success.

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