PMI Global Insights

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The Project Management Institute's annual events attract some of the most renowned and esteemed experts in the industry. In this blog, Global Conference, EMEA Congress and experienced event presenters past, present and future from the entire PMI event family share their knowledge on a wide range of issues important to project managers.

About this Blog


View Posts By:

Cameron McGaughy
Kristy Tan Neckowicz
Jack Duggal
Saurayan Chaki
Dan Furlong
Marcos Arias
Danielle Ritter
Marjorie Anderson
David Maynard
Sandra MacGillivray
Deepa Bhide
Karen Chovan
Nadia Vincent
Lawrence Cooper
Michelle Stronach
Kristin Jones
Yves Cavarec
Laura Samsó
Fabio Rigamonti
Sarah Mersereau
Gina Abudi
David Davis
Nic Jain
Emily Luijbregts
Cheryl Lee
Priya Patra
Karthik Ramamurthy

Past Contributers:

Catalin Dogaru
Carlos Javier Pampliega García

Recent Posts

Interview to Thomas Walenta, PMI Board of Directors

What from PMI Global Conference will you put to work this week?

What I've learnt at #PMIcon17

The Agility of PMI

#PMIcon17 - A round up.

What I've learnt at #PMIcon17








It's been a week since #PMIcon17 started and it's been a time to reflect on a few things that were really visible to me during the conference that I think is valuable to share with the wider community.

  1. Volunteering: A really valuable way to connect with others and give back to the community is through Volunteering. Either with your local chapter or with other professional organisations.
  2. Talent Management: It's vitally important to understand your own worth in your organisation and also as a Project Manager. Make sure that you understand what you're worth and also where you can still develop as a Project Manager.
  3. Innovation: Be innovative, be a 'bar raiser', 'thought provoker', 'change maker' and be this not just for one day, but constantly. Analyse what you're doing and what you can do better. What can your organisation do better? Are you thinking about how Project Management could be better?
  4. Collaboration: As Project Managers we can be stronger within the community if we collaborate together to give more knowledge to each other. Are you collaborating enough?
  5. Generational Project Management: Project Managers seem to have a longer more valuable shelf life than other industries and roles. During the conference, there was a great combination of younger Project Managers just starting their career with other more seasoned Project Managers who had so much knowledge and information to share. As an organisation and industry we need to be aware of this and work on sharing this knowledge together.

Personally, I felt that the Conference not only highlighted the opportunities that we have as Project Managers to learn and develop as stronger Project Managers but also showing the possibilities that are available in the PM world to contribute and grow.

What next?

Where will I be going from now? I'll be continuing to connect with everyone that I met to make sure that we can continue collaborating and sharing knowledge. I'll also be making sure that my 'contribution' to the Project Management industry remains involved, active and giving back just as much as I have been learning!

What will your contribution be? How can we collaborate together?

Posted by Emily Luijbregts on: November 04, 2017 10:24 AM | Permalink | Comments (7)

Backward Expert


This is a backward blog posting!

This will be my final post before leaving for Chicago tomorrow morning.  So, I wanted to do this one more like the way I think about things – BACKWARDS.  Instead of telling what areas I can help with, I thought I’d ramble about what areas I like to talk about!  I guarantee it would be an entertaining discussion.  Just make select an open appointment here:  then wander over, say hello and lets just talk about one of MY favorite things.

1.  Project failure.   I know more than I ever wanted to know about this.  There was a group of us that Left NASA at the same time and moved to Orlando to start a company dedicated to turning around troubled projects, programs and operations.  When we started, we thought we’d seen just about all the problems that project can get into.  WRONG.  For the next 5 or 6 years we only worked on turning around projects that were at least 100% over budget, perhaps 3 or 4 years late, had irate customers… or simply failed to deliver anything of value. 

It’s not easy to judge project failure!  EVA won’t do it.  It’s a very subjective thing.  “Could anyone have done better in the same situation?” is a basic test, but there are many more. 

So, we fired, hired, replaced, improved… bought contracts, had contracts “novated” to us, and were very successful ending up with a stand-along building and 70 employees.  There’s a lot of trouble out there!   There were project mistakes made that I didn’t think cold be made.   We worked on Casino projects, entertainment projects, airline projects, and many other types.  

Our group learned a lot!  I love to talk about a failed project and how it can be recovered.  Number 1: be ready for stress.  We called being personally ready “the full wax job.”  Exercise, diet, mental toughness, how you dress…  no kidding!  But you need to be prepared.

2.  Working with a team that has widely diverse skills.  If the team gets diverse enough, sometimes you can’t understand what the other people are saying.  I’ve managed teams with theoretical physicists, mathematicians, brilliant engineers and more – of course, they were totally convinced they were ALL CORRECT, don’t even think about doubting their work.  This was great fun.  I loved it and learned a whale of a lot about things they didn’t teach me (a humble engineer) in school.

3. Project risk.  How to think about it, how to predict it, how to anticipate it, how to communicate it, how to budget for it, how to look for the often-neglected positive risk.  It’s CRITCAL that project managers and their teams master this skill.   I’ve had friends die a horrible death  because we (in a larger sense) didn’t manage risk well.

4.  Have the courage of your convictions.  Tell people what you believe, tell the bosses what your project team believes.  Don’t fall into the trap of “drinking your own bath water” or the “echo chamber.” 

Well, I feel better!   Wander over and chat with me!

-- Dave Maynard


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Posted by David Maynard on: October 26, 2017 01:47 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

Rethinking the Charter

Since I retired after 26 years in one company, I have had assignments in various PMOs in different industries.  I’ve been in the energy sector, the insurance sector, credit card services, industrial/manufacturing, and now healthcare.  Every industry has struggled with the project charter.  What does baselining it mean? Does it ever get updated? Who should issue it? And the list goes on.  And while PMOs in all these industries try to invent the perfect process – we are ignoring one important aspect.

The project charter, as defined by PMI, does not meet the needs of today’s business!

Before you call me a heretic and an incompetent – hear me out.  The problem I have with the charter is it becomes a reformatting of existing information, bloated, and redundant – and it doesn’t provide the project team with the most important information it needs.  Shouldn’t the charter give the team a definition of what success looks like?

I propose the charter should be extremely streamlined.  After all, how many people, let along executives, will read a 14 page charter?  Many charter templates contain information that is already in one artifact and will no doubt be included in another.  I propose we throw away the bloated all-inclusive charter of today and replace it with a simple charter.

Project Organizational Wrapper

You need to have the organizational wrapper of project control structures.  If the project pipeline has a defined Demand Process and there is a demand id, it should be in the charter.   This should also be aligned to the business case information – what went into the approval, and other justifications.  No need to repeat them in the charter – they already exist in a corporate database of record.  If information is in two places – that doubles the risk of inconsistency, confusion, and delay.

If you have an integrated project management system (IPMS) that tracks project work in process – then that project id should be there. Projects assume titles and identify from the ideation phase through project initiation.  That title, or name, should be included in the charter because that’s the lingo that has defined the initiative.

Should be results focused

Once the project is ready to kick off, the work initiative needs to be focused on the results.  If your organization is mature enough to be doing Benefits Management Realization, the charter should map directly to the benefit register.  The next section of the charter should be:

What does success look like?

Quite simply – what is the vision in reality?  Knowing what success is far outweighs the value of several scope bullet points.  The definition of success can be expressed in several ways including:

Critical success factors

The essential areas of activity that must be performed well if you are to achieve the mission, objectives or goals for your business or project.

What can we do in the future that we can’t do now?

How do we measure success?

Not calling for specific key performance indicators here, but should have an idea of how we will measure success.  It also provides requirements for the product and what are the critical success factors.

External/legal requirements

If you are driven by a legal requirement or an industry standard (HIPPA or an ISO requirement comes to mind) than that should be identified.  The charter must identify conformation to external factors.

What benefits are being realized?

Again, if you have a mature benefits realization process, then the entire benefits quantification/qualification should be in place and your project is delivering outcomes and capabilities to realize the defined benefits.

Organizational RACI

The charter must be able to identify all the organizations that are impacted by the initiative.  After all, how did you get high level estimates for the business case if you didn’t have a means of identifying organizations involved?  This RACI should then be driven to know which groups need to receive and approve the charter. 

Time Frame

What time frame is expected for the organization to start to realize benefits?  Let’s avoid the charade of bottom up estimates and defining the schedule after you have all requirements defined etc.  We are driven by budget cycles and funding is only approved to last so long.  This isn’t to say those things can’t and shouldn’t happen, but at a Charter level – the approval has a defined end time.  This also helps define the scope.

I have purposely omitted several pieces of what is considered part of a charter.  Not that I don’t think they are important, I do, but they belong in defined sections of the project plan.  There is no need for budget as that should already be in the business case approval – and I don’t know if it directly contributes to the definition of the outcomes and capabilities.    Scope is implied in what success looks like and the Critical Success Factors.  If during requirements definition, a question is raised that doesn’t directly support the definition of success, than it is out of scope.  Assumptions, risks, issues, and constraints are all important, but they live elsewhere.  The charter should identify the future state, not dwell on the challenges of the present state.  And the charter should be a onetime document that is not modified or have addendums.  It initiates the work – other artifacts ebb and flow during the project life cycle.

In closing – the purpose of the charter is to authorize the project manager to start delivering on the project.  It is not to cut and paste from all over to make an all-inclusive summary of all business intelligence that justified the project.  I propose to make it a lean document focused on the outcomes and capabilities and the definition of success.  Items that have a workflow/life cycle (risks, assumptions, issues, etc.) do not need to be in a charter, they are taken care of elsewhere.  A lean, concise, and easy to read charter allows the team to focus on delivering within the success criteria.



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Posted by David Davis on: October 21, 2017 06:03 PM | Permalink | Comments (6)


Chalk Talk - A Valuable Problem Solving Tool

For some strange reason, I find myself blogging about chalk and chalkboards for a second time.  No, I’m not hung up on them. But, yes, I *do* enjoy good old-fashioned slate and the smell of dusty chalk.  But – that’s not the purpose of the blog.

To make things even more confusing they’ve started painting the inside walls of classrooms where I often show up at - with “whiteboard” paint.  Now that bugs me.   A student walked right up to the wall and started drawing on it with a marker!  It looked pretty much like any other wall.   I kept yelling it was just a wall!   Some of her quicker witted fellow students whipped out their phones and announced, “This is going on Facebook!”  But of course, they were all having a fine time with my old-man ignorance and it was a “white wall.” 

OK.  Back to Chalk-talk. 

Sometimes at NASA, working as a team we’d come across a problem that just seemed impossible.  We’d work for days, sometimes weeks trying to solve a single problem.  I remember multiple times staying up for 30 hours in a row trying to solve one problem – not recommended!  This sort of effort required third-shift coffee, cherry pies from the vending machines and lots of second-hand smoke.  

What’s Third shift coffee?  Each preceding shift was honor bound to have a pot of coffee waiting for the next arriving shift.  So, the guys on second shift, at around 11PM would make an extra strong pot for the third shifters arriving at 11:30 PM.  The first thing a real third shifter would do is to add a tablespoon of instant coffee to each cup.  Everyone knew what third-shift coffee was like.  A hard (not necessarily big) problem required around-the clock third-shift coffee. 

None of this is healthy, smart or conducive to solving complex technical or mathematical problems.  But… we did it.  Our (very good) branch chief would drop in from time to time, ask a few questions and then wander off.  At some point, based upon his instincts, he would call for a “CHALK-TALK.”  This meant we’d have to leave wherever we were working, go to a new / different conference room.  And take turns standing up in front of a chalkboard explaining what the problem was and how we thought it could be fixed.  We each took turns doing this.   

I can’t remember a single time when this method didn’t get us to a solution. We were all tired, grumpy, short-tempered and wired with caffeine, but it worked. Sometimes someone would be talking at the board and the solution would hit us all at-the-same-time like a hammer.  Other times, parts of the group needed to explain it to the others.  A few times only one person would see the solution and explain it to everyone else.   Again, no rules and not much of a pattern fell out.  But I can think of a few guidelines...


  1. Research the problem until you know all about it.  Exhaust all possibilities.
  2. Have a “judge” call for “chalk talk” time.
  3. Remove the group from the area of the problem – the more different the environment is, the better
  4. Have a blackboard, chalk and eraser (OK, whiteboard markers….)
  5. Let one of the group play “teacher” first.  If the solution doesn’t come, someone else takes a turn.  They can restart or build on whatever is on the board
  6. Participants don’t have to be quiet.  I remember them being QUITE vocal.  This involved name-calling, whistling, foot-stamping, whatever… But those sitting couldn’t stop the person with the chalk from expressing what they thought the problem or the path to the solution was.  The chalk was the power.
  7. The person with the chalk could give up at any time.  Someone would have to pick up the chalk, but hopefully not someone who just was “up.”

When a solution is arrived at – everyone knew it.  It was like the room filled with water.  Quiet.  People looked at each other.  Eyebrows went up.  Some people went home to sleep right then!  Other’s went back to (regular) work to try the arrived-at solution

Posted by David Maynard on: September 10, 2017 05:34 PM | Permalink | Comments (9)

Making a Difference: Learning How to Learn

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This past summer my 15-year old son was doing a course on careers. For his last assignment, he had to interview someone about how they chose their career and how it had progressed over time, so he decided to interview me. His last question was “what single piece of advice would you give someone starting out in life and career?”

I thought about it for a bit, and realizing what I said could really make a difference in how he looked at his life ahead, I gave him a simple four-word answer – learn how to learn.

My answer was based on a few realizations that I had based on my own career as well as the great job market uncertainties and opportunities that face today’s youth due to IoT, AI, robotics, climate change, social upheaval, an aging population – the list goes on.

I’ve probably changed directions in my IT/PM career a dozen times or more. It  is highly probable that most people under the age of forty (and even those above) will need to change career directions multiple times in their working life. As I noted in my previous post, my career changes were sometimes out of necessity, and sometimes for fun. I believe that one of the reasons that it was possible for me to keep reinventing myself, was because I like to learn new things.

Truth be told, at times I’m probably a bit too obsessed with it, but I do think it is what has kept me relevant, engaged, worthwhile to others, and most of all, worthwhile to myself. I am fascinated to read people who get things at a different level and then see if it can be applied at a practical level. I like to find out where some of the great ideas of our time came from and how they have morphed over time.

It’s part curiosity, part sheer joy in finding out things I never knew. 

Another reason I gave my son those four words as my advice is because we can never know everything. As soon as we can accept that reality, we can also accept the need to always be ready to learn. We won't know where those opportunities are until they are in front of us. Knowing that we can be ready to learn at any moment, is actually quite liberating. We don't need to be afraid of what we don't know. We also no longer feel the urge to hide not knowing something - it becomes just another thing we pick up along the way as we need it. 

There has been much talk over the years about "the learning organization". Organizations are made up of flesh and blood people (at least for now they mostly are). It is the people who learn. So my take is that to say organizations learn is to accord them anthropomorphistic qualities. We shouldn't. It's just people trying to find their way.

Uncertainty and ambiguity is the new reality. Knowing how to learn, and always being ready to learn, equips us for that reality - no matter our age.

As I approach sixty, I am in awe of people like Russel Ackoff, who at eighty is still learning and making a difference. Search for “A Lifetime of Systems Thinking” and have a read of a brilliant mind (hey, you gotta do some work here and show you are least a little bit curious!).

Over the course of the 2017 PMI Global Congress, you’ll have a chance to learn from some other bright minds and from each other. Bright minds like my friend and fellow Expert Karen Chovan who will be talking about The Necessary Culture for Soaring Performance on October 29th at 4:45PM .

Learning how to learn is also becoming a "thing" that itself can be studied. One of the most popular courses on Coursera is Learning How to Learn: Powerful mental tools to help you master tough subjects which I intend to take before Global Congress. I'll let you know in a future post how it went.

The world of projects is also undergoing significant change and this trend will continue. What is valuable today may be less so tomorrow. What is mere idea or not even known today, may be the thing of tomorrow. Reinventing ourselves can be scary or enjoyable. It's a choice that most people will have to make at some point if they want to continue to make a difference. Knowing how to learn can make it not only enjoyable, but gives us options and choice.

As long we as are willing and ready to learn, we get to continue to make a difference.

I'd be interested to hear the community's thoughts on learning and reinventing ourselves so we can continue to make a difference.

If you’d like to talk strategic intent, adaptive strategy, back-casting over forecasting, outcomes over outputs, any of the agilities, or pretty much anything you think I may be able to help you with in making a difference in your world, here is my availability during the conference:

  • Saturday the 28th from 1:30 to 4:30
  • Sunday the 29th from 3:00 to 5:00
  • Monday the 30th from 9:00 to 12:00
Posted by Lawrence Cooper on: September 07, 2017 10:44 AM | Permalink | Comments (10)

"Work is what you do for others . . . art is what you do for yourself."

- Stephen Sondheim