Project Management

Voices on Project Management

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Voices on Project Management offers insights, tips, advice and personal stories from project managers in different regions and industries. The goal is to get you thinking, and spark a discussion. So, if you read something that you agree with--or even disagree with--leave a comment.

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Creativity Is for Project Managers, Too

by Cyndee Miller

“We are all inherently creative,” proclaimed Google’s Abigail Posner at PMI Global Conference.

And yes, that includes project and program managers.

Every year, Fast Companythat arbiter of all things cool and cutting edge— releases its 50 most creative people in business. It’s (justifiably) filled with big names like cosmetics guru Pat McGrath and Netflix VP of innovation Chris Jaffe. And while there aren’t a whole lot of project and program managers who make the cut—there is a whole lot of talk about how all those brilliant ideas got executed.

It’s a different kind of creativity, which doesn’t often get the spotlight. But Ms. Posner knows the score. “Some of my favorite partners are project managers.”

As head of strategic planning for Google, she’s constantly on the hunt for that next big idea. For her, it starts with one fundamental question: why? “[By] understanding what makes [people] tick, you’ll develop a foundation for so many ideas,” she said.

From there, look for the links. Creativity is making connections that others haven’t, Ms. Posner said. “Ideas don’t come out of nowhere. They don’t fall from the sky. There is no eureka moment.”

That means project and program managers must be open to lots of stimuli from a range of collaborators.

“The more you can ideate with people—especially people who think differently than you—the more creative you will be,” she said. “Do not try to be creative on your own.”

And although teams must resist the temptation to overanalyze, don’t throw too wide of a net. Even creativity can benefit from some constraints—something project leaders are probably very familiar with.

A quick survey of attendees revealed not all project managers consider themselves to be creative, but Ms. Posner sees it as part of everyone’s DNA.

“Being creative is what defines us as human beings,” she said. “We just don’t realize we have the tools inside of us or how to harness them.”

That’s it from this year’s conference, but I’ll have plenty more to report on from this year’s PMO Symposium on 11-14 November. And mark your calendars for the 2019 Global Conference on 5-7 October in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.

In the meantime, what’s your creative strategy? How do you and your team get past any innovation slumps?

Posted by cyndee miller on: October 10, 2018 12:56 PM | Permalink | Comments (22)

Kids These Days

by Cyndee Miller

Every generation is doomed to a stereotype.

Millennials will not survive without a non-stop stream of validation. They’re special—why can’t you see that?

Generation Xers are loners who would rather take a sick day than participate in some team-building exercise.

Baby boomers can’t text so they insist on scheduling epic face-to-face meetings.

Author Cam Marston offered a different take. Stop thinking of them as stereotypes. They’re preferences. And in a workforce that spans five generations, project and program managers better get a handle on the roots and repercussions of those preferences, said Mr. Marston in his Day 2 keynote at conference. It’s the only way they’re going to make the most of their teams.

“You will become infinitely more powerful if you can understand your preferences and set them aside and let your colleagues’ preferences shine through,” he said.

As pretty much anyone who has a job will tell you, that’s not quite the reality. Gen Xers and baby boomers expect millennials to come into the workplace and behave just like them. But it turns out younger project team members have their own ideas, Mr. Marston said.

Project leaders could stand to be a little more self-aware. Be conscious of what they ask people to do and how they ask them to do it, he said.

As if all that wasn’t complicated enough, I hit another session on the multigenerational workplace from Sarah Leslie, PMP. A senior project manager at Teague, she’s also a self-proclaimed Xennial. Yup, it’s a thing: Born between 1977 and 1983, they have the cynicism of a Gen Xer and the optimism and drive of #millennials. Think Beyoncé. Since few of us have had the pleasure of working with Queen Bey, you may want to simply seek out one of these creatures on your team.

Like Mr. Marston, Ms. Leslie advocated for project managers learning to make the most of the each group’s strengths. Baby boomers, for example, are a generation of storytellers, making them a natural for project retrospectives.

Now, as an Xer, I’m tempted to tell you to figure it out yourself. But in the spirit of embracing preferences, I’ll pose the big question: How are you faring in the new multigenerational workplace? Any tips you want to share? And does anyone else think these complement sandwiches are ridiculous?

Posted by cyndee miller on: October 08, 2018 04:15 PM | Permalink | Comments (9)

When Passion Meets Project Management

by Cyndee Miller

After Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, many—including me—wondered if the storied city would ever be the same. Slowly but surely, citizens, companies and non-profits began to rebuild.

One of the most ambitious efforts was Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System’s Project Legacy. The decade-long, US$1 billion project resulted in a state-of-the-art healthcare center serving some 40,000 veterans.

That fighting spirit was honored last night when it was named Project of the Year.

“New Orleans is a beautiful city full of culture and this hurricane devastated it. But it did not destroy its soul,” said Fernando Rivera as he accepted the award at the PMI 2018 Professional Awards Gala.

Yet passion alone didn’t get this project across the finish line. “We couldn’t have done it without the principles and skills of project management,” he said.

Mr. Rivera didn’t leave the stage without acknowledging the outstanding work of the other two finalists:

Poor roads, impassable bridges, a site located 620 miles (1,000 kilometers) from the nearest port and the worst economic recession in Brazil’s history. Let’s just says Fibria faced its fair share of hurdles as it expanded its hardwood pulp production facility in Três Lagoas, Brazil.

The project to deliver the industry’s first forest-to-port pulp operation wrapped two months early, nearly US$500 million under budget and with no serious accidents among workers. It also provided a huge economic boost to the community, creating more than 40,000 temporary gigs and 3,000 long-term jobs. And by incorporating big data, machine learning and automation, the project gives Fibria an edge on the innovation front, too.

The other finalist was McDonald’s Digital Acceleration project, an aggressive tech play—especially for such an established player—that put customers in charge of how they wanted to order and pay. It all started in March 2017, when the fast food behemoth’s president and CEO vowed to company shareholders that the chain would deploy mobile order and pay in 20,000 restaurants by the end of the year.

The team not only beat the deadline by a month, but it delivered the project nearly US$10 million under budget. And the response was massive. Within months of the project’s launch, the app had racked up 30 million downloads and 110 million redeemed offers in the U.S. alone.

It wasn’t just the big-budget projects racking up kudos. Attendees also got a look at this year’s PMI Award for Project Excellence winners (which all had budgets less than US$100 million):

University Health Network created standardized, timely and meaningful electronic discharge summaries for its 35,000 annual patients across a Canadian healthcare system.

Savannah River Nuclear Solutions excavated, consolidated and covered massive amounts of ash and contaminated soil alongside a closed coal-fired power plant in the U.S.

The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland rolled out a new online platform to replace its paper-based system used to track physicians’ progress across 36 medical competencies.

Want more? PM Network will take a deeper dive into all the project action over the next few months. Plus, you can check out video case studies on PMI’s YouTube channel.

Posted by cyndee miller on: October 07, 2018 09:20 PM | Permalink | Comments (13)

Make Change Part of Your DNA

by Cyndee Miller

Throughout its history, Los Angeles has picked up many a well-known nickname—La La Land, City of Angels, The Big Orange come to mind. But it might be time to add a new one to the list: Champion of Change.

Over the years, this city has proven it’s ready, willing and able to not just embrace change, but lead it. Just this year, the L.A. metro became the first mass transit system to adopt body-scan technology to screen passengers for explosive devices. The city has also stepped up as a leader in water diversification, laying out an ambitious goal to slash reliance on imported water in half by 2025. And my favorite example: P-22, the cougar who calls the Hollywood Hills home. A veritable celeb, he’s changing attitudes about how wildlife can cohabit with the local denizens.

This change-happy city makes the perfect backdrop for PMI Global Conference, where talk of change dominated. It all started with keynoter Jon Dorenbos, whose entire life has been a study in adapting to change.

The retired pro football player turned magician has faced unspeakable family tragedy, life-altering health conditions and an often-unpredictable career path. It’s a slate of challenges that, understandably, left him with a negative view of the world. “I blamed a lot of people when I wasn’t having success,” he said. “The more I blamed people around me, the more I lost myself, bit by bit, piece by piece.”

Eventually, he let the negativity go and revaluated who he was bringing into his inner circle. “You are who you surround yourself with,” Mr. Dorenbos says. “Surround yourself with people who you want to win more than you want to win.”

That new outlook brought him success beyond imagination, including a Super Bowl ring and a final-round finish on “America’s Got Talent.”

The secret, he says, is a willingness to embrace—and not become a victim of—change.

“The sooner we can come to grips with our reality, the sooner we can accept that change is not a bad thing,” he said. “It keeps us on our toes.”

No doubt words that resonate with the hardcore change makers, but how do you convince skeptical stakeholders of that?

Posted by cyndee miller on: October 06, 2018 09:28 PM | Permalink | Comments (12)
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