By Cyndee Miller
Talk about ending with a bang. On top of the amazing Ted Talks (read about those here), PMI closed out Global Conference unveiling its ranking of the 50 most influential projects of the past 50 years.
Thousands of projects were considered, but only 50 were chosen: the icons, the innovators and the game-changers that transformed our world. As an editor on PM Network, I’ve spent some quality time with these picks. Many of them—International Space Station, Google Search, the iPod, the euro—aren’t necessarily big shockers. They’re fundamental to the way we live, work and play today.
Just consider the number one project, World Wide Web. I mean, sure, I survived without it. But life with the web makes me infinitely more connected, arguably a lot smarter—and definitely more amused.
Yet part of the fun in being a reporter is ferreting around for hidden gems, the stuff not everyone knows. So while Google Search seems like an obvious top 50, I’ll bet you didn’t know the company added its image search function after people melted the internet trying to track down J-Lo’s now-legendary, barely there Versace green dress.
And there are plenty of projects on the list that may be a bit of a surprise. Some we covered in PM Network back in the day, not knowing just how much they’d change up the landscape. When we first covered M-Pesa, for instance, we were intrigued. But few have guessed how the team would use basic SMS tech to kickstart a banking revolution in Kenya—and then across other emerging markets.
On a personal note, I was over the moon about Harry Potter making the cut—and not just because I’m a diehard Potterhead. J.K. Rowling may not have a Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification, but the author did have a mighty team behind her that knew how to build buzz. We’re talking an intricately planned, top-secret rollout with £10 million in security measures.
After the big reveal, conference attendees got a chance to mix and mingle with several of the companies that made the list, including Riot Games, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, Wikimedia Foundation, Changi Airport Group, Bechtel, WeChat, IBM, Boeing and Wärtsilä Corp.
It was quite a closer for conference, and that’s a wrap for our events coverage. But fear not: We’ve got PMI EMEA Congress coming up 14-16 June in Prague, Czechia and the 2020 conference next October in Seattle, Washington, USA.
In the meantime, I gotta know: What do you think of the list?
By Cyndee Miller
I’m a city person—no ifs, ands or buts. I may have been stuck in the suburbs growing up, but I literally packed up and moved out the day I got a part-time job. I’m not alone, of course. The U.N. predicts 68 percent of the world’s population is expected to live in cites by 2050.
In an era of massive urbanization, a question arises: Who belongs in a city? Especially when it’s one of those shiny new megacities—only possible with a megadisplacement of existing residents.
For OluTimehin Adegbeye, the answer is simple: “We’re all already here. That answers the question of whether or not we belong,” she said in her Ted Talk at Global Conference.
A native of Lagos, Nigeria, she called on the audience to consider the human cost of progress. Case in point: the former inhabitants of Otodo Gbame, a coastal Lagos fishing community demolished to make way for a prime beachfront development.
It’s part of a push for Lagos to become “the next Dubai.” But, as Ms. Adegbeye says, “You don’t need to be the new Dubai when you’re already Lagos.”
The reality is that in cities from Lagos to Philadelphia (where conference was held), it’s often the residents of the so-called poor neighborhoods that give a location its personality, its culture. They’re also usually at the forefront of innovating solutions. They have to be.
And yet they’re losing this battle. Ms. Adegbeye encouraged people to push past their “but what can I do” mentality and recognize their power.
“We must hold our governments and ourselves accountable for keeping our shared cities safe for everyone in them, because the only cities worth building—indeed, the only futures worth dreaming of—are those that include all of us, no matter who we are or how we make homes for ourselves,” she said.
Project managers heard the message loud and clear—and gave her a standing ovation.
The four other Ted Talk speakers offered their own powerful takes on the theme of possibility: Jess Kutch on building an economy that works for everyone; Janet Stovall on the role of business in creating intentional inclusion; Anna Piperal on the promise of e-government; and Sandeep Jauhar, on the parallels of the emotional and biological heart.
For those who covet an opportunity to stand in the magical red circle, PMI announced a TedX program that will put a few select members up on stage next year. Stay tuned.
What story would you tell?
by Cyndee Miller
Pretty much every pundit out there has a theory about the future of work—and how things will actually get done. For a while, it was all about the gig economy. Now perhaps I’m horribly biased, but I’m way more intrigued by The Project Economy: execs structuring their organizations around a portfolio of projects designed to deliver the most value to their stakeholders. It’s happening—and you, my friends, are in a prime position.
Project managers are in the vanguard of The Project Economy, said Bob Safian, former editor of Fast Company, at the start of day two of Global Conference.
“Projectization is moving through the economy,” he said. “It’s happening—I hear it talked about in the halls of power in companies around the world.”
The future of work will be defined by tasks, not titles, Mr. Safian said. Technology is making existing structures within organizations feel archaic. And younger workers are looking at their careers as a sequence of tasks—a.k.a., projects—too.
People will work on a project, deliver value and then move on, said Tech Mahindra’s Vikram Nair during Sunday afternoon’s Fireside Chat with PMI president and CEO Sunil Prashara.
With that comes a new set of “it” skills. Forget soft skills—or at least stop calling them that. Stanford University’s Behnam Tabrizi is out to rebrand them as power skills—since they’re what will give people power in the future. It’s about communication, empathy and what he called understanding yourself, or “being clear about what your role is in the world” and “showing up in the most authentic way possible,” he said.
It’s also about embracing diversity: You need to have people on your team who don't look like you, said Frederic Astier of Accenture.
The Project Economy is going to require a different mindset—no matter your age or title on the org chart. “We must all possess a willingness and ability to adapt to the constant changes that are coming our way,” Mr. Safian said.
Chaos will rule. “The old rules of business don’t apply anymore,” Mr. Safian said. “We have to recognize that there are no new rules. There’s no real consensus about what’s going to succeed today.”
It’s a little scary, but also wildly exciting. So, are you ready?
Embraer Reaches New Heights: Lessons From a Record-Setting Jetsetter
PMI Global Conference 2019
Categories: PMI Global Conference 2019
by Cyndee Miller
It’s one thing to deal with disruption. But it’s a whole other to disrupt yourself—and put your self-proclaimed cash cow on the line.
With its new E190-E2 line, Brazilian aviation giant Embraer didn’t just design, develop and deliver a family of next-gen commercial jets. The company did it faster than any other competitor had with similar aircraft. And Embraer leaders readily admit it couldn’t have gotten there—or won the 2019 PMI Project of the Year Award—without some serious project management.
In accepting the award, Luís Carlos Affonso recognized the role of PMI and A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) in providing some structure to the company’s project management journey. “We would not be here if not for PMI,” said Mr. Affonso, the company’s senior vice president of strategy and innovation.
Fernando Antonio Oliveira, the company’s program director, noted that like a certain organization we all know, Embraer is celebrating its 50th anniversary. While it’s certainly a major milestone, he encouraged project leaders to keep looking forward: “Don’t think about the project results,” he said at the awards gale. “Think about how you’re shaping the future.”
Of course, we can’t talk about game-changers without mentioning the other Project of the Year finalists:
Société de transport de Montréal reimaginined one of the largest public transit rail systems in North America—making room for even more passengers.
By Cyndee Miller
“Don’t bring me problems. Bring me solutions.”
This seriously ranks as one of the world’s worst management dictates. And finally—to my eternal appreciation—someone is calling out all those folks who have uttered the phrase.
“If people only bring up problems when they have solutions you’re never going to hear about problems,” said organizational psychologist Adam Grant in the opening keynote at PMI Global Conference.
Squashing any mention of issues creates a culture where people doubt themselves. And in that kind of environment, bold ideas are left to die—or they’re taken elsewhere.
So how do you build a culture where the next great idea is pushed forward instead of put down?
A lot of it comes down to who you hire, according to Mr. Grant. You’ve got to seek out the givers and avoid the takers. “Givers are trying to figure out, ‘What can I do for you?’”
Takers, on the other hand, are the ones who steal all your ideas and take credit for all the work. “If you let even one taker onto a team, paranoia will start to spread and the givers will stop caring,” he warns. “The negative impact of a taker on a project or team is usually triple the positive impact of a giver.”
Think the Lannisters on Game of Thrones.
But how do you suss out the takers? I mean, it’s not as if they self-identify in the interview process.
Mr. Grant’s advice? Ask the right questions. Think about the behavior you’re most worried about on projects—team members taking credit from others, for example—and ask candidates how often they think that happens. If a person’s answer is something to the effect of “deep down I think people are fundamentally selfish,” that typically means deep down they’re fundamentally selfish.
But don’t confuse being agreeable with being a giver. Agreeable takers are usually the people who avoid conflict. They may be nice to your face, and then stab you in the back.
In theory, agreeable givers may seem like the best allies. But in reality, they’re often too afraid to rock the boat when an idea strives to push the status quo. In reality, it’s the disagreeable givers who make the best champions of new ideas. They may seem gruff and tough. But they’re the ones who will play devil’s advocate, who will challenge and poke holes in your brilliant ideas—all because they have your best interest at heart.
And once you get them on board, they’ll run through walls to make it happen.
“Disagreeable givers can’t wait to fight for a new idea and they’ll be more credible advocates,” Mr. Grant says.
Have you found your disagreeable giver?