PMI knows how to put on a Congress event! The first Congress I attended (and presented at) was in 1995. I haven’t attended them all since then, but I’ve attended quite a few. At the 2015 congress, I was hanging around the PMI booth talking to my good friend Marjorie Anderson (PMI). She had a remarkable, brief and amazing insight. I can’t remember her exact words, but it was something like: “I love the energy of this group, I can feel it!”
It took a few hours to sink in – but she was right on the mark. All the attendees were happy, engaged, thrilled to meet fellow Project Managers, and impressed with the great show PMI always organizes. Why didn’t I realize this 20 years earlier?
While thinking about the “Marjorie hypothesis”, I started wandering the halls (when I should have been part of the “Ask the Expert” group). While Absent Without Leave, I realized just how right she was. There is TREMENDOUS energy in a group of thousands of Project Managers. You just need to witness and reflect on it for a few minutes. I believe this energy comes from the unity of purpose and direction. Everyone was trying to learn more about their craft and their joint passion – Project Management, in its many variations and styles.
There was a dazzling array of varied presentations being given, and most of the crowd was eager to get to the next one on their list. Just standing in line to get my badge scanned I could sense the anticipation, interest and of course – the energy.
Which brings up an interesting issue. Which sessions should you attend? After 20 or so years, I’ve developed two methods of choosing. Neither is scientific or probably even recommended. But there is an overwhelming selection of sessions – too many to attend.
My first method is to the session with the biggest crowd waiting to get in. Maybe I invented “crowd sourcing!” My thinking is that a hundred or so Project Managers combined are MUCH smarter than I am. So, like a fish in a school, I followed them.
My second method is to attend a session that I know little or nothing about. After all, I am at the congress to learn new techniques, concepts and “stuff.” So, by going to a session that I know next to nothing about helps expand my brain a bit. Sure, I have interests that I can’t avoid – risk, aerospace or academic projects, but going to a healthcare project session (not my ball of wax) helps expand my brain a bit and I often pick up a concept that would *never* have occurred to me otherwise.
ASK THE EXPERT
For the past few years, ProjectManagement.com has invited me to attend the Congress as a Subject Matter Expert. The idea is that people sign up to ask a question of an expert and expect to get an answer or at least a direction to go in. It’s always a great experience and lot of fun for both the person asking and the expert. To tell the truth, I enjoy these 1 on 1 sessions more than anything else – even the 2016 marching band and beer!
Of the many people I’ve talked to in my “Expert” role, there has been an Engineering Senior from a major American university who was the project lead of an electric car build and competition wanting to know about how to task his team members, to a PMO manager of a billion-dollar company about implementing risk management as unified PMO activity. One eager PMP wanted to know why SAFTEY or safety planning is not a concern in the PMBOK guide. (A good question!) With a group at breakfast ‘expert table’ we talked about how each of us has dealt with complex technical issues. These sessions were brief, enjoyable and I believe; helpful to the person asking for help.
And, just to confirm the “Marjorie hypothesis” each person I’ve talked to during “ask the Expert” was filled with energy. They WANTED to succeed, they WANTED to learn a better way, they were thrilled to talk to another PM who understood their issues.
The typical perception of a Project Manager is someone who sits in an office and plans all day or, a Dilbert-like character. We all know this is incorrect and nothing illustrates it more than attending a PMI Global Congress. I’d like for non-PMs to attend! I’d like the Project Manager’s bosses and higher-ups to attend. Let them feel the “Marjorie hypothesis.” It’s undeniable.