Voices on Project Management

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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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Contribute to the Project Management Profession

This weekend at PMI® Global Congress 2011--North America, I accepted the PMI Distinguished Contribution Award.
 
As the first Mexican national recipient of the award, it's an honor and a responsibility. This award represents the global recognition PMI bestows upon individuals who contribute to the growth of the project management profession.

In 2008, I joined a group of volunteers that acts globally and domestically. I learned about the extent to which PMI volunteers offer their services, including writing PMI standards, preparing questions for certification exams, organizing global congresses, and presenting at PMI events.

My first official volunteer activity was as a presenter at PMI® Global Congress 2008--Latin America in São Paulo, Brazil. There, I had the opportunity to meet practitioners from different latitudes and to share my experience working on multigenerational and multicultural project teams.

After the global congress, I had many more opportunities pop up to continue supporting PMI's culture of volunteerism and promoting the value of multicultural project teams.
 
I seized the opportunity to mentor young project managers and create project management knowledge. I was able to impact society after I helped the PMI Madrid, Spain Chapter translate into Spanish the Project Management Methodology for Post Disaster Reconstruction. The final product was ready at the time an earthquake hit Chile. The local chapter and Chilean authorities used this document to help manage post-disaster projects.

These opportunities have been excellent learning experiences that have enriched me personally and professionally. They've given me the opportunity to touch lives and persuade other colleagues to volunteer.

I've been lucky that the team members noticed my volunteer efforts and endorsed my nomination for the PMI Distinguished Contribution Award.
 
If you are an experienced project practitioner and would be interested to contribute to the profession you can:

  • Create project management knowledge. Write articles for project management magazines or chapter newsletters. Become active in a community of practice. Or, conduct presentations at PMI congress events or monthly chapter meetings.
  • Share your experience updating PMI standards. PMI standards are updated frequently and subject matter experts are required to create and manage the context of the new versions.
  • Bring fresh blood to your local chapter. PMI chapters always look for volunteers that can be part of the chapter board or who are willing to support the chapter functions.
How have your contributions to the project management profession enhanced your career?

See more posts from Conrado.
See more posts from PMI® Global Congress 2011--North America.

Posted by Conrado Morlan on: October 25, 2011 04:36 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

IBM's Watson Project a "Monumental Feat"

Earlier this year an IBM computer dubbed Watson trounced a pair of former champions on the TV quiz show Jeopardy!

No small feat.

It only came about after a complex project that resident Voices blogger Jim De Piante, PMP called the "single greatest challenge in the history of computer science."

Mr. De Piante, who served as a project manager on the IBM initiative, talked about Watson's creation with attendees at PMI® Global Congress 2011 -- North America.

The idea to launch the Watson project was spawned by the success of Deep Blue, IBM's chess-playing computer that won a six-game match against the world champion at the time.

The project scope was deceptively simple: win Jeopardy! But this required "some serious science." The computer had to understand natural language be able to arrive at a single, precise answer to a question, which was often loaded with quirky clues.

At the start of the project, IBM's technology could answer in about two hours and it was wrong about 66 percent of the time. Watson had to snip that down to three seconds and get it right 90 percent of the time.

Through an exhaustive series of testing, tweaking, perfecting and testing again, Watson achieved its goal.

Then the team had to figure out how to transport the 9-ton system across the country, from its home in upstate New York, USA to Hollywood, California, USA, where Jeopardy! is taped.

For a number of reasons, Mr. De Piante's team changed its approach: Instead of Watson going to Hollywood, Hollywood came to Watson. IBM built a "studio" and hired an actor to serve as the host. In the studio, they held "sparring matches," where Watson practiced against IBM employees and former Jeopardy! contestants. In 55 matches against former Jeopardy! champions, Watson won 39 times.

In the end, what began as an IBM researcher's far-fetched idea in 2004 was deemed an unequivocal success six years later.  

"Winning the Jeopardy! match isn't why our researchers created Watson," Mr. De Piante said. "The Jeopardy! match helped make us all aware of a technological marvel, which will radically change the way we interact with computers."

Mr. De Piante's presentation also featured five project practitioners playing a round of Jeopardy! against a demonstration version of Watson. The humans were no match for the machine.

See more posts from PMI® Global Congress 2011 -- North America.
Posted by cyndee miller on: October 25, 2011 10:07 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Gladwell Says "Tweakers" Rule

In a business landscape that seemingly puts a premium on originality, it's the borrowers and followers -- those who tweak the ideas -- that thrive.

That was the message best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell hammered home in a thought-provoking keynote address at PMI® Global Congress 2011 -- North America.

Mr. Gladwell outlined three types of organizational cultures:

1.    Intellectual ones come up with big ideas
2.    Innovative ones are entrepreneurial and risk-taking
3.    Borrower cultures nimbly combine the traits of the first two  

Paradoxically, the most successful organizations come behind the first wave of originality, adapting and improving the concept.

Before Apple became an icon of global innovation, for example, Steve Jobs borrowed and implemented ideas from Xerox to come up with the venerated mouse.

Tweakers and followers may not be the first to market, but they benefit from seeing how new technology evolves before they make their own market commitments.  "That kind of insight is only the kind of insight that comes to the one that follows," Mr. Gladwell said.

Just think of the search engine showdown between AltaVista and Google. (I think we all know how that one turned out.)

Of course, sometimes an organization's culture is dictated by its circumstances. In its early days, Apple had no choice but to borrow, follow and be nimble. It was "desperate," Mr. Gladwell said: It simply didn't have the staff or money to be as innovative as its wealthy counterparts.

"Resources can stand in the way of that hunger, of making a big difference in the marketplace," Mr. Gladwell said.
 
Organizations can change their culture of innovation -- if they have the courage and ability to admit they're doing something wrong. And that's a characteristic Mr. Gladwell classified as "insanely hard to find" in leaders. He added that almost any professional can become a practical real-world innovator, but only if that person has permission from management.

Innovation is a phenomenon of the masses, not of the elite, he said. "Tweakers" are the ones sparking the greatest advances, exponentially raising the power of existing technology by making small changes.

Read more posts from congress.

 
Posted by cyndee miller on: October 24, 2011 07:44 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Olympic Megaproject Unites Canada

John Furlong had a vision: Unite all of Canada behind the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. Under his leadership as head of the Vancouver Organizing Committee, that vision became the driving force behind the 14-year megaproject.

In a moving presentation at PMI® Global Congress 2011 -- North America, Mr. Furlong gave an insider's look at how, with solid risk management, the project team overcame a slew of unexpected obstacles to deliver the biggest project ever staged in Canada.

For example, all the team's scientific data -- going back 100 years -- indicated there would be enough snow on the mountain scheduled to host snowboarding and skiing events. There wasn't.

The result was a 24/7 effort on the eve of the event to bring in snow from 100 kilometers (62 miles) away. In the end, it was ready for action.

Rallying people behind the Olympic vision meant reaching out to every corner of the country -- literally in some cases. Part of the team, for example, was tasked to ensure that every Canadian had the chance to see the Olympic torch. Team members drew and redrew maps, trimmed out rest days from the schedule and ultimately pulled off a 106-day torch relay.

The darkest hour of the games came when Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili died during a training run. The outpouring of support across Canada helped Mr. Furlong realize the entire country was behind the organization. That backing helped his own team get through the crisis.

Mr. Furlong shared four takeaways from his Olympic experience:

  1. You have to have a vision, a belief in something so strong that it will get you out of bed when you feel like you can't.
  2. If you're given the leadership role, surround yourself with people who are not the same as you, and who won't be afraid to challenge you, but will still stick together.
  3. Even in your darkest hour, you have options. Although you risk humiliation and failure, if you don't have the courage to fight, you don't know what you're capable of.
  4. Never sell your integrity to anyone. Once you do, you can never get it back.

Mr. Furlong finished with this advice for all project managers:

"Sometimes you have to get on your hands and knees and claw your success out of the dirt."

See more posts from PMI® Global Congress 2011 -- North America.

Posted by cyndee miller on: October 24, 2011 09:54 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Miracle" Project Wins PMI Project of the Year Award

Shave US$100 million from a project's budget and your stakeholders will likely be thrilled. Shave another US$100 million from the budget and the entire project management profession will likely take notice.

The team behind the Prairie Waters project of Aurora, Colorado, USA, did just that. And last night at PMI® Global Congress 2011--North America, it was named 2011 PMI Project of the Year.

After a two-year drought in Aurora, the project aimed to provide an added 10,000 acre-feet to the city's water supply.

What set this particular project apart from the pack? "Excellent project management" and "a little bit of luck," said Larry Catalano, manager of the capital projects division for the City of Aurora, as he accepted the honor.

"Just imagine for a moment: one program management firm, three construction managers, four city project managers, five design engineering firms, seven general contractors, 10 bid packages, 36 regulatory agencies, 140 property easements, 410 permits and 11 city council members representing 330,000 people that weren't too happy about their water bills being increased," he said. "Sprinkle in a few attorneys here and there and add an owner-controlled insurance program and I think it's a miracle we got this project done at all."

Mr. Catalano called Prairie Waters "truly a legacy project" for the city.

The project required constructing a 34-mile (55-kilometer), 60-inch (1.5-meter) pipeline, four pump stations, a natural purification area and one of the world's most technically advanced water-treatment facilities, which handles 50 million gallons (189 million liters) per day.

During the project's design phase, city council members required project leaders to cut US$100 million from the initial estimated budget of US$854 million. In the construction phase, project leaders created incentives for contractors to come up with ways to deliver the project more cost effectively, while maintaining safety and quality standards. Any cost savings were split evenly with the city and the contractors.

The project was ultimately delivered for US$653 million -- and two months ahead of schedule.

The Prairie Waters project was honored along with two finalists: Oak Grove Steam Electric Station, Franklin, Texas, USA and EMAL Smelter Complex, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

Look for video case studies of all the finalists along with more awards coverage and a full list of winners on PMI.org
Posted by cyndee miller on: October 23, 2011 08:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
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