Viewing Posts by Aaron Smith
Project Management Institute has unveiled the 2020 edition of the Most Influential Projects, which highlights 259 efforts, each a distinct masterclass in how to navigate change and deliver results. The projects demonstrate many pivots born of the global pandemic, but also shifts in response to pre-coronavirus forces, from sustainability to quantum computing.
The honorees—an overall Top 50 as well as Top 10s in 30 categories—represent the creative spirit shaping how the world collectively reimagines a new future. What’s more, they describe an emerging playbook for impact and success in a world that will never be the same. Four key elements of that playbook are summarized in “Why Projects Matter More Than Ever”:
The Most Influential Projects offer a unifying theme: the ability to turn bold ideas into a new reality. As Melati Wijsen, the 19-year-old co-founder of UpLink member Bye Bye Plastic Bags put it: “We don’t look at today’s challenges as a burden. We look at them as an opportunity.”
You can explore the entire list, including Top 10 lists in 21 industries and nine regions, here, the home of the Most Influential Projects 2020. And the No. 1 Most Influential Project of 2020? It's the US$125 million COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator, which aims to identify, accelerate and scale potential COVID-19 treatments by coordinating R&D efforts.
What do a new line of doll kits for kids, a mental health care app, and a rehabilitation center in China have in common? They are all innovations inspired and developed with inclusion as their guiding force.
In the latest digital exclusive from PM Network, you can learn about four projects that committed to inclusive design, from planning to user engagement to final outcome. What is inclusive design? Kat Holmes, author of Mismatch: How Inclusion Shapes Design, says her favorite definition of inclusive design is “creating a diversity of ways for people to participate in a shared experience with a sense of belonging in that experience.”
What's it look like in the world of projects?
>> In China, a $153 million rehabilitation center, set to open in 2023, will provide services to people with disabilities aged 16 to 60, including recreation, art events and education. An Italian architecture firm is using therapeutic green spaces throughout the complex, which will connect directly to a light mobility system.
>> For marginalized people and intersectional communities, finding a therapist who can relate to their needs can be challenging. A new app called Ayana uses a questionnaire and algorithm to connect users to licensed therapists of similar values and backgrounds, including gender, ethnicity and orientation. The Los Angeles-based team built in end-to-end protocols to protect patient privacy and is seeking partnerships with nonprofits to make the app free for those who can’t afford it.
>> “Toys are a reflection of culture and as the world continues to celebrate the positive impact of inclusivity, we felt it was time to create a doll line free of labels,” says Kim Culmone, a senior vice president at Mattel, which launched Creatable World, the world’s first gender-inclusive doll kits, a year ago.
Four months later, the company expanded the line to include dolls without hair, with the skin condition vitiligo and with prosthetic limbs. Throughout development, Mattel consulted with physicians, experts in gender identity, and children who identify as transgender, gender nonbinary or gender fluid.
That kind of empathy-based, user-focused feedback is “inclusion in action” in the world of project management. And it’s a rock-solid guiding principle for any project to follow.
Have you checked out the latest Projects of the Week from PM Network’s new home for digital content? From a sustainable, semi-autonomous economic hub in Honduras, to a fleet of balloons providing internet access in Africa, to a resuable top-grade mask for healthcare workers, these ongoing projects promise to make a positive difference in the world.
In Africa, where internet usage is the lowest in the world, high-flying balloons will act at floating cellphone towers to try to close that digital divide. The Loon-led effort leans heavily on machine-learning algorithms. And as the project expands, it could be a life-saver for countless communities that haven’t been reliably connected to emergency services—not to mention the possibilities for remote education, telemedicine and much more.
In the U.S., a team of scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Brigham and Women’s Hospital has developed a new face covering designed to work as effectively as the top-grade N95 mask—but it can be used over and over again. The iMasc is cost-effective, scalable and, according to healthcare workers who tested it, comfortable.
And off the coast of Honduras, hopes are high that an adaptive residential complex known as Roatán Próspera will strengthen and diversify the local economy. The joint public-private partnership leans on modular design and traditional building techniques to boost sustainability and increase integration with Caribbean customs and culture.
All three of these efforts lean heavily on project management, creative problem-solving and direct stakeholder engagement. They address immediate, real-world challenges. They help people and communities. And by making a positive impact in 2020 and beyond, they’re inspiring others along the way.
Lights, Camera, Safety!
Whatever project you were working on to start 2020, things changed by the end of March. For many of you, the project came to a screeching halt, unable to overcome sudden disruptions brought on by the COVID-19 global pandemic. For others, the project carried on (and maybe even delivered), but it required rapid, often radical adjustments—from scope, budget and timelines to communication processes, risk assessment and more.
One sector that continues to be dramatically impacted by the new realities is the one that so many of us count on to escape reality—the movie-making business. Productions, large and small, have been shut down. We’re streaming more entertainment than ever, but new content—new movies, new seasons of favorite shows—are on hold indefinitely. Social distancing on a movie set? Cut!
So it is quite a story—and a Project of the Week on PM Network's digital home—that filmmaker Sam Levinson started shooting a film in June and completed it in July this year.
Malcom & Marie, starring Zendaya and John David Washington, followed local COVID-19 safety protocols, which meant the entire cast and crew quarantined during shooting as well as two weeks before and after shooting. Daily temperature checks and increased sanitation measures were among other precautions.
Malcom & Marie was a secret film project—until it wasn’t. Expect the big studios and other production companies to be motivated by the first known feature to start and “wrap” during the pandemic.
Hollywood loves to copy a winning script, after all. But in this case, any “sequels” will have to be as good or better than the original in managing the risks posed by a deadly virus. There are no shortcuts or second takes when it comes to safety.
In our latest PM Network Digital Exclusive, PMI Knowledge Coordinator Shari Rathet found inspiration from John Lewis, the U.S. Congressman and civil rights giant who died July 17 at the age of 80.
She also shared some project management-related insights from the Montgomery bus boycott of 1955-56 that had inspired Lewis himself—and many others—to join the civil rights movement.
“A glancing knowledge of the bus boycott might leave us with the idea that it was spontaneous … [but] a great deal of planning had led to that moment,” Shari notes. “We can see that the leaders of the boycott did a lot of things we now consider essential to good project management.”
Indeed, the civil rights movement can be viewed as a portfolio of projects that required heroic sacrifice from its participants but also planning and goal-setting, resource management, strategic alignment and risk management.
In their pursuit of justice and equality, civil rights leaders like Lewis understood the heavy resistance to change they faced, and the very real threats they would encounter along the journey. They weighed the risk and reward. They managed expectations. And they provided a vision for the future that lots of people could rally around.
That’s project leadership we can all learn from!