In a world fueled by change, project practitioners — the people who truly understand it — should be revered, said author Jon Duschinsky, a keynote speaker on the third day of PMI® Global Congress 2014 — EMEA. "And yet you're not," he said. "A project manager isn't respected within society. But it's time to change the conversation around what you do by changing our words and our thinking."
To change perceptions of the profession, project managers should:
The goal is to focus on the result, not the process, Mr. Duschinsky said. "Move from managing a project to inspiring people to care about the outcome."
Change is a watch word at Formula One, the global auto-racing championship. "The last 15 years have seen such a dramatic change in our industry," said Mark Gallagher, who has worked on Formula One for almost 30 years.
After a series of sponsors — tobacco companies, dotcoms, banking institutions — collapsed in the late 1990s, Formula One took a new tack. The organization developed a massive sporting project for the first time in Malaysia. Working in a different business and government environment, Formula One had to establish infrastructure and logistics requirements and operating procedures still used today.
More recently, Formula One spotted another massive change headed its way: growing demand for environmental sustainability. It wasn't going to be an easy fix for an organization not exactly known for being green. "We take a bunch of fossil fuel and burn it, live on television, in front of 300 million people. And then we burn rubber. We also fly 500 tons of equipment around the world." Formula One had its marching orders: "Turn innovation into something that can benefit everyone." The result is an engine that still performs at 800 horsepower and lasts the same distance, but burns 40 percent less fuel.
To deliver that kind of cutting-edge innovation, organizations must make the most of their teams, said Mr. Gallagher. "It all comes down to how we harness our people and get the team working with a high-performance attitude," he said. "When we can listen, they can give us the winning edge."
What advice do you have for effective change management? What did you learn at congress?
Organizations tend to look to the past to predict the future -- yet that's not the best path to innovation, said author James Burke, Tuesday's keynote speaker at PMI® Global Congress 2014 -- EMEA. "Conformity is essential to security in the present moment," he said. "But unless an organization updates that paradigm, it won't be able to process change."
To cultivate innovation, organizations must learn to think relationally and connectively across business units. And armed with transferrable skills and knowledge, projects practitioners can serve as that valuable connection. "Innovation surges in the connective space between specialist silos," he said. "The goal is to foster broad-view generalists rather than narrow-view specialists."
Organizations should also be leveraging big data. "'Data exhaust' can be used for predictive analytics," Mr. Burke said, "and also helps people break out of the box."
Innovation isn't the only thing that has organizations scrambling. Complexity can also threaten an organization's competitive edge -- and the projects and programs it undertakes.
"Complexity deals with a lot of unknown unknowns -- things you can't predict," said Dave Gunner, PMP, PfMP, at HP, a PMI Global Executive Council member organization. "You don't know when one thing will lead to something else."
Complexity means different things to different people, said Mr. Gunner, chair of PMI's Navigating Complexity: A Practice Guide core committee and moderator at a congress panel on the topic. But the three main elements are: ambiguity, human behavior and systems behavior.
The predominant characteristic depends on the type of project or program you're running, said Fadi Samara, PMP, of C4 Advanced Solutions. When he worked at a startup, it was more about the systems. But the people factor often takes center stage when working on a project with multicultural teams.
And beware: Sometimes it's the project practitioners themselves. "Don't be a victim of self-inflicted complexity," said Sam Alkhatib, PMP, of Cupertino Electric. "Don't do things like micromanaging, focusing on narrow projects, creating the impression you're advancing projects while in reality, you're digging into holes. Unnecessary layers of management, confused accountability and confused communication makes complexity worse."
Mr. Samara said the biggest issue is oversimplification. "People underestimate complex projects due to lack of experience," he said.
So what does it take? More than 80 percent of respondents to the PMI Pulse of the Profession® survey ranked leadership as the most important skill to deal with project complexity. The panelists agreed: "Leadership is what makes project manager successful," said Mr. Samara. "It gets resources to do things for you, helps you facilitate problems through relationships and allows you to navigate to a solution."
PMI® Global Congress 2014 -- EMEA kicked off in Dubai, where nearly 1,000 attendees got an insider's look at how project management helped turn a pearl-diving village into a world-class city.
"Dubai has a reputation for megaprojects, not only large, but iconic -- incredible feats of engineering," said Mark A. Langley, president and CEO of PMI, at the opening session of congress. "Not only the best and biggest projects, but the best project and program management to ensure success."
When it comes to project performance, he said, PMI Pulse of the Profession® data reveals the Middle East does much better than the rest of the world.
And Dubai stands front and center. The transformation of what was once a vast desert into a world-class city has been "staggering," said His Excellency Mattar Al Tayer from Dubai's Roads and Transport Authority.
He outlined five economic building blocks:
While oil fueled early growth, Dubai has a grand vision -- and from grand visions come grand projects.
Take Dubai World Central, a next-generation aerotropolis ultimately capable of handling 200 million passengers by 2016, said His Excellency Khalifa Al Zaffin of Dubai Aviation City Corp.
And while the project is designed primarily to house commercial and residential districts, its competitive advantage lies in Dubai's strategic location. "One-third of the world's population is within a four-hour flight -- mainly from the Middle East, North Africa and Southeast Asia regions that together have US$3.6 trillion GDP," Mr. Al Zaffin said.
Dubai is leveraging that strategic location to carve out its place as a major global player. A new Silk Road is emerging, with 55 percent of the Middle East trade now with India and China, said Dr. Nasser Saidi of Nasser Saidi & Associates and former chief economist at the Dubai International Financial Centre.
Part of the Dubai's success lies squarely with securing project and program buy-in at the highest levels. In the case of snaring hosting duties for World Expo 2020, local, municipal and federal government were all involved.
"In other expos, it was always the mayor of the city particularly who was responsible," Dr. Saidi said. "Here, responsibility is right at the top, which leads to better coordination, strategic planning and getting things done."
Along with World Expo 2020, two other platforms are driving Dubai's future growth, said keynote speaker Mr. Hassan Al Hashemi of the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry:
Dubai's evolution is nothing short of amazing. And it will only continue with World Expo 2020, an engine for change powered by innovation and supported by expertise in project and program management.
Where do you look for inspiration?