Viewing Posts by cyndee miller
Alexis Ohanian has racked up quite a list of accomplishments in his 37 years. He cofounded Reddit, sold it and then came back to help rescue it. He wrote a bestselling book. He cofounded a seed stage venture fund. But when it came time to have a chat with one of his fellow speakers at the latest gathering in PMI’s Virtual Experience Series, he seemed deeply concerned that people were going to be convinced he was a slacker. It wasn’t entirely unjustified. He was, after all, talking to Tanya Elizabeth Ken, the 17-year-old founder of LakshyaShala, an NGO dedicated to helping kids around the world gain equal access to education.
No shocker here, both of them had some interesting thoughts on how to revamp the educational ecosystem—a timely topic as kids around the world head back to school.
Introducing children to the virtual classroom forms habits that impact future work behaviors and outcomes. “Teaching someone how to learn online unlocks all kinds of doors,” Ohanian said.
With the vast power harnessed by digital learning comes an even greater responsibility to create platforms that are accessible. Despite all of the technological advances spurred by the global pandemic, systems of education remain unbalanced across the globe.
“Virtual learning can reach a wider audience, but we need to take into account the people who don’t have the access/resources,” said Ken. “If you want to solve a problem like equality in education, then we need to solve all the hindrances families are seeing.”
There’s still work to be done, she said. And while improving access to education sits high on her priority list, so too does improving the quality of education.
“The education system does not teach us entrepreneurship and project management skills,” Ken said.
Ohanian admitted he didn’t think much about project management until college and even then he used it mostly to plan his EverQuest guild or Quake 2 clan. But he also said those skills were the only way he was able to develop Reddit. “Project management is how you build a startup,” he said. (It’s also apparently how he helped plan his rather complex wedding. “It wasn’t always that romantic, but it was effective, gosh darn it.”)
Whatever the project you’re working on, this is a time that demands the ability to contend with astounding change. And empowering students to think of themselves as problem-solvers builds that agility from early on, said Ohanian. “Real life doesn’t have a syllabus,” he said. “The more a student can exercise the muscles of resilience, the better.”
Part of building resilience—on projects and in the classroom—is pushing past failure.
“You’re taught to avoid failure at all costs as a student, to get good grades, but life is full of failures and setbacks,” he said. “Get comfortable with failure—not because you’re not doing the work, but because struggling and disappointment and learning from it, that’s life.”
That theme of resiliency bubbled up quite a bit and it’s no doubt emerging as the new must-have skill as we all attempt to navigate the next normal. The goal shouldn’t be to just bounce back, but to bounce forward, said session speaker Greg Githens, PMP. Expect to be surprised—and seize the unknown, he said. Don’t let uncertainty stall progress: Do a lot and do it now, said session speaker Norma Lynch, PMP.
So get cracking. And get ready for the next Experience PMI event, “A New World View: Our Global Impact,” slated for 20 October: http://ow.ly/569n50Biskx
Before we reconvene on the Interweb, tell me: How are you becoming a more resilient leader?
By Cyndee Miller
Full disclosure: I’m a big fan of Trevor Noah. But even I was a bit surprised at his eloquence in speaking about managing projects—and what it takes to deliver them.
And those skills are coming in handy in these strange times.
Noah said he felt “inspired” by the opportunity to rethink how he does everything.
“It’s not often you get an opportunity to completely revamp what you do,” he said. “We cannot ignore the situation we’re in. It would be a disservice to not emerge from this without thinking about better ways of working—of living.”
That means abandoning your comfort zone. His approach? “I wake up every day saying this could be the day I get fired,” Noah said. “It makes me appreciate the fact that I’m not. It also makes me ask what else would I be doing?”
There are no rules, Noah said. And that opens up new opportunities for people to reinvent ways of working, to rewrite the rules and to reemerge better than before.
“For any project manager who’s out there thinking about the moment, try to apply yourself to thinking about how you would like an ideal system to be, as opposed to trying to apply an old system to this new world,” he said.
And yes, that includes one of the greatest questions of our Zoom-filled times: Do you really need that meeting? Or can you handle it over a text?
“We are in a situation where we can challenge conventional thinking,” PMI President and CEO Sunil Prashara said in talking with Noah. “Be realistic and optimistic at the same time. That allows you to innovate.”
Note: This optimism isn’t the kind of unchecked, unicorn-and-kittens, pie-in-the-sky optimism. Meaningful innovation only happens when it’s based in reality. And right now that reality is intrinsically linked to COVID, which is serving as a catalyst for iteration and the exploration of new systems. The little virus is the ultimate gamechanger. “There’s nothing like a crisis to ignite innovation,” said Shobhna Raghupathy, PMP.
That means ditching those old prescriptive ways of thinking and activating a new set of power skills. Adaptability, communication and collaboration are the must-haves in the age of disruption, said Erick Means of CDW.
And forget failing fast. You’re still failing, said PMI’s Scott Ambler. Project leaders should instead aim to fail less often, learn faster and succeed earlier.
Much of innovation is tied to tech, of course, and project leaders mustn’t ignore the sometimes-sticky ethical issues that will inevitably bubble up.
“Every conversation about technologies should consider, ‘Okay, what are the ethical implications? What are the unintended consequences?,’” said Rana el Kaliouby, author and CEO of healthcare Affectiva, an MIT Media Lab spin-off focused on “bringing emotional intelligence to the digital world.”
The effects aren’t always what they would appear on the surface.
“My biggest concern is not that robots are going to take over—it’s that we’re accidentally building in bias in unintended ways,” said el Kaliouby. The best way to combat that? Build diverse teams of people with different POVs and perspectives.
Mark your calendars for the next Experience PMI event on 9 September, when Reddit’s Alexis Ohanian and Lakshyashala Edutech’s Tanya Elizabeth Ken will lead the conversation on entrepreneurship and resilience. I’ll see you there—virtually, of course.
I’ll close out the same way PMI started each session throughout the day, with a simple question: What’s the one word you’d use to describe the work you’re doing today? Tell me in the comments below.
By Cyndee Miller
Project leaders are no strangers to change. But between a massive shift to remote work and a global recession looming, many wonder what it all means for their careers.
These are unprecedented times, no doubt—but previous downturns can help point to a path forward, explains PM Network® columnist Lindsay Scott on a recent episode of Projectified™. She predicts an “extremely competitive” job market, “just as it was back then in 2008 to ’11,” following the economic meltdown known as the Great Recession.
That makes networking a must, Scott says, even if it has to be adjusted to the realities of today. With happy hour mixers and conferences IRL likely not happening anytime soon, she offers up a nice hack for virtual events in a recent PM Network® digital exclusive: “Open the chat functionality on the video conferencing software to join real-time conversations during presentations. If you like what you’re reading from others, hop onto conference messaging to let them know and make more formal introductions.” The same goes for speakers: Reach out with a thank you, noting what you enjoyed most about their presentation. “It’s an easy way to warm up the introduction you’ll make later via email or LinkedIn,” Scott says.
Here’s where I add a blatant plug for PMI’s Virtual Experience Series and point you to my post about the last event—and remind you there’s another one on 25 August on the theme of The Community: Together We Rise.
Beyond virtual networking, now’s the time to take advantage of any extra pockets of downtime to sharpen skills. During the last downturn, Scott said, many project leaders neglected their professional development and were unpleasantly surprised by the underwhelming response they got from HR. So whether it’s checking out free learning resources from PMI or devoting an hour each day to keeping up with trends or prepping for a certification exam, putting in some work now can give you a real career edge.
“When it comes to a crowded marketplace with lots of people suddenly looking for work … you want to find some way that you’re going to be able to stand out,” Scott says on Projectified™.
And it’s not just about technical chops. The COVID-19 crisis is bringing communication to the fore, she says. It’s always been “a massive part of project management,” but with so many people managing dispersed virtual teams, there are new areas to learn about: “How do we keep people motivated and engaged? How do I make sure that their well-being’s all right? How do I make sure that they’re on track with their deliverables and they’re checking in and all that kind of stuff?”
Given the current climate, perhaps the most valuable skill of all will simply be the ability to embrace unrelenting change. “I believe black swan incidents, like Brexit or COVID-19, might become a new normal phenomenon in the future,” says Stephen Xu, PhD, PMP, head of the project management office for business unit infrastructure at Alibaba Group, Hangzhou, China. “That will make strategic agility even more important,” the PMI Future 50 leader told PM Network®.
For project leaders with the right skills and the right mindset, career prospects remain bright. “Organizations are still hiring,” Scott told Projectified™. “It’s about understanding what those organizations are and what their particular opportunities are.”
How are you making adjustments to your career development during the COVID-19 crisis? Share in the comments below.
By Cyndee Miller
Whipping up tapas and shaking cocktails isn’t your typical day in Project Management Land. So why was I watching master chef José Andrés prepare seafood delicacies as PMI President and CEO Sunil Prashara played mixologist? It was all part of the fun—and the learning—at the first gathering in PMI’s Virtual Experience Series: “My Work. My Life. My World.”
Not to sound too much like a fangirl, but I went into the conference really looking forward to the presentation from Andrés. (And no, this wasn’t just about his salt air margaritas). This fellow is one impressive manager of projects. Not only does he helm more than 30 wildly popular restaurants, he’s also creating super-smart solutions to hunger and poverty through his non-profit. Along with the group’s disaster-relief efforts around the world, it also stepped up its response to the COVID-19 crisis, delivering 150,000 fresh meals in dozens of U.S. cities every day.
How does he do it all? Well, along with demonstrating how to create some tasty tapas from his home in Spain, Andrés also revealed his personal secret sauce: You’re only as good as the people around you. To have success, you have to provide others with the opportunity to succeed, Andrés said.
That means teaching them how to adapt. While projects certainly require planning, there are just too many variables in the world to cover everything, he said. And often, the one you didn’t plan for is the one that happens. “The communities that will be successful today will be the ones that are ready to adapt to any circumstance,” Andrés said.
Sometime that means breaking out of the same old patterns: “Don’t be shy of big, bold ideas,” he said. “This keeps you going. This keeps you motivated.”
The idea that people and purpose are “critical to business success” as the hype goes is not exactly earth-shattering. But what struck me was how the concept resonated just as much with a superstar Spanish chef as it did with a strategic lead at a U.S. healthcare giant.
“People are what make things happen,” said Wale Elegbede, PMP, director of strategy management services at Mayo Clinic.
That’s true whether it’s putting together small plates in a Spanish restaurant or transforming a big company. “We’ve seen in our research that the successful organization sets itself apart from others by transforming not just the organization, but the employees,” explained Emil Andersson, a project manager at The Brightline™ Initiative.
And those people need purpose. “The biggest mistake we make in any type of gathering is we assume the purpose is obvious,” explained Priya Parker, author and host of podcast Together Apart. “Always start by stating the purpose of a meeting. And then connect people to the purpose—and to each other.” That’s especially true for next-gen team members: Millennials and Gen Zers need to “work for purpose, not just a paycheck,” said Foodeo CEO Marcel Furmie, PMI-ACP.
To create a team of true changemakers, though, project leaders must build trust. “Trust provides a sense of safety,” said Dan Mircea Suciu, PMI-ACP, of Babeş Bolyai University in Cluj-Napoca, Romania, during a presentation on the neuroscience of project decision making. “And when team members feel safe, they’re more productive—and more comfortable taking appropriate risks.”
Missed out on the action this time around? Tune in to the next Virtual Experience Series event on 25 August with The Daily Show host Trevor Noah. I’ll be there.
In the meantime, let me know in the comments below: How do you help the people around you succeed?
By Cyndee Miller
Greta Thunberg isn’t messing around. Joining forces with three other young climate change activists, she called on political leaders last week to stop talking and actually do something: “Our current system is not ‘broken’—the system is doing exactly what it’s supposed and designed to be doing. It can no longer be ‘fixed.’ We need a new system.”
For many people, taking on such massive issues can be overwhelming. And even the mighty Thunberg admits to Reuters she was “very worried” when she first began. “But when I started doing something, then there came hope from that. Because hope comes from action.”
Hope comes from projects.
Thunberg is part of a new generation of leaders who see that potential—and are using it to transform and define the future. Unflinching in the face of change. Naturally collaborative. Digitally fluent. Deeply committed to social good. Constantly learning.
This is the PMI Future 50. And they’re coming in with their own POV on building a better workplace—and a better world. There’s architecture activist Pascale Sablan, determined to right the social injustices embedded in design. Alagesan Hanippuya, PMP, is forging a fintech future in Southeast Asia. Tiago Chaves Oliveira, PMP, is pushing for more creativity and innovation in Brazil’s government. Gregory Daniels, PMP, is helping Zoom manage a 30-fold traffic surge amid the COVID-19 crisis. And there’s Thunberg, too.
They’re all putting their own stamp on the future of work and how projects get done. Deloitte reports nearly half of millennials and Gen Zers prioritize making a positive impact on society, for instance. And 32 percent of Gen Zers say they’re motivated to work harder and stay longer at a company if they have a supportive manager, per The Workforce Institute. It’s common enough advice for leaders, but this new cohort is determined to put it into action. “We need to take care of people. Just asking for results will not work. We also need to try to understand their needs and their perspectives and to encourage each person to ask critical questions,” says Gabriel Costa Caldas, director of operations at GPjr, Brasília, Brazil.
This also means a shift in the most in-demand skills. “I would expect big-picture thinking, creativity and empathy to play an even bigger role in successful project management,” says Miishe Addy, CEO of Jetstream Africa, Tema, Ghana.
Read more about the youthquake and meet all the Future 50 leaders in a special issue of PM Network® and in a series of videos and digital exclusives. (Pro tip: This is a multimedia affair to be enjoyed. Flipping through the pages of the magazine is a grand experience where you can take in everything and everyone at once, along with loads of pretty pictures. Check out the digital profiles and you’ll find most have Q&As at the end with some content that doesn’t appear in the magazine. And the videos let you see and hear these leaders in action.)
How is the next generation of leaders transforming your organizations and industries? And who gives you the most hope for the future? Fill me in in the comments.