The PM Congress 2019 ran April 11-12 on the campus of the Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) in Netherlands. The conference had the provocative tag line "Adapt or Die", but its theme was the more-grounded "Research Meets Practice". There was good mix of academics, practitioners, and students from TU Delft in attendance at the conference. The organizers had the forethought to include several breaks during the two days and evening events to allow networking and sharing of ideas.
This edition of my retrospective will focus on the conference key note sessions.
Key Note presentations:
Prof. Lynn Crawford (Dir. of the Project Management Program at The University of Sydney, Australia) used a mind map visualization to organize her presentation themes: Forces of change, Research, Practice, and People. (Very nice technique that I will have to use someday!) Lynn challenged the conference attendees with the question: "Are project management practices behind the times?" Essentially our profession and its related training needs to move from a focus on technical skills to assisting project managers develop a variety of skills, abilities, and different mindsets currently not central to our profession.
Lynn also noted that we will move from project management to "project leadership". The usage of "Project Leadership" is a subtle change that I am starting to hear more and more as I attend international project management conferences. The evolution is one I welcome.
Marco Eykelenboom (Exec. Project Director at Fluor Corporation) addressed the complexity and challenges of the project management profession. Marco shared learnings, insights, and experiences from managing large, complex projects in the energy sector. One useful takeaway was the use of visual status reporting on Marco's teams. The teams at Fluor would generate one-page "Weekly Flash Reports" with pictures of the project's progress. These artifacts resonated with both stakeholders and team members. A second key insight from Marco's presentation were polling results to the question: "From your last successful project, what were the key success ingredients?"
Not surprising, the top three responses were:
Marco's last key takeaway for managing complex projects was to emphasize the focus on Mission, People, and Balance between human versus technical aspects of project management.
Prof. Dr. Hans Georg Gemünden (Chair for Technology and Innovation Management, Berlin University of Technology) shared research findings on the value of Project Management on innovation projects. The research focused on answering the questions: Does Project Management delivery value? Or is Project Management only a self-deception based on an illusion of control? Based on his research, "project organizing" does indeed create business value but with diminishing returns. Project Management creates higher value for more complex projects versus those with lower complexity. Hans Georg advised the audience that Project Management matters, but we cannot manage projects as we always have. Highly innovative projects need to be managed in a different manner. Ideation, user centric, and collaboration are more important than planning and controlling. Hans Georg correctly noted that current PM standards do not this as they have a focus on formalized processes as key success factors.
Gerard Scheffrahn (Project Director at OT Osborne) spoke about project organizing and innovation, using Amsterdam's long-delayed North-South metro line expansion project as a great case study. Gerard encouraged Project Managers to spend the majority of their time in what Stephen Covey termed the "Circle of Influence”. In other words, PMs should focus on the decision making process and proactively work from the center of their influence and constantly expand it. Hearing stories about the complexities of building the North-South metro line were also interesting and enlightening.
"Evolve or be Disrupted"
The pace of change and disruption in the business environment demands that Project Managers acquire and grow new skills. Indeed, we need new tools and models to operate in a more flexible, discovery-driven world. To be successful, our profession needs to look past the rigor and discipline of managing projects and embrace agility and collaboration, thinking about customers first, innovation and adaptive leadership. Design Thinking has emerged as a successful methodology that organizations use to approach problem-solving and delivery of innovative solutions that delight their customers.
This article provides an updated list of resources that Project Managers (and others) can use to become more knowledgeable on Design Thinking. (In no particular order.)
IDEO (pronounced "eye-dee-oh") an international design and consulting firm headquartered in Palo Alto, California, has been a leading proponent of applying design thinking methodology to design products, services, environments, and digital experiences.
Frog is global product strategy and design firm founded in Germany and currently headquartered in San Francisco, California. Frog has developed and made available a "Collective Action Toolkit" that helps put design-thinking tools into the hands of local change agents to transform their communities. While this toolkit is more geared to solving community problems, the tools and methods can be applied to problem-solving in the government and business sectors.
If there is one place to start learning more about Design Thinking, I would highly recommend the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford, more commonly known as the "d.school." The d.school provides an excellent "Virtual Crash Course on Design Thinking" on their website.
The LUMA Institute provides training programs for learning and applying key practices of human-centered design. Their "Looking, Understanding, Making" approach is very accessible to average people who may not necessarily think of themselves as "innovators".
Google Ventures (GV)
GV has developed a 5-day process for tackling business questions through design, prototyping, and testing of ideas with customers. A guide for "The Design Sprint" is laid out nicely at their website.
IBM Design Thinking
IBM Design Thinking is billed as a scalable framework to help teams understand and deliver. At the heart of this framework is a is a set of behaviors focused on discovering users’ needs and envisioning a better future, called the "Loop." The Loop is a continuous cycle of observing, reflecting and making.
Interaction Design Foundation
The Interaction Design Foundation is a 16-year-old nonprofit community, founded in Denmark, whose aim is to lower the cost of design education. IDF offers an extensive library of design-related textbooks and comprehensive instructor-led online courses.
Canva is a graphic-design tool website, that uses a drag-and-drop format and provides access to over a million photographs, graphics, and fonts. In 2014, the Canva team unveiled the Canva Design School; a new platform, workshop series and teacher resource hub designed to increase the world’s visual literacy.
Design Council UK
Design Council’s stated purpose is to make life better by design. It’s mission is to champion great design that improves lives and makes things better. The Design Council aims to harness design to drive business growth and improve service efficiency, design practical solutions to complex problems, create better, more sustainable places, and to lead and share the latest thinking on design.
University of Copenhagen's Innovation Toolbox
The aim of the innovation toolbox is to support teachers with planning and carrying out innovation & entrepreneurship teaching, both in relation to minor processes and workshops as well as longer-term courses. The innovation toolbox provides an overview to Design Thinking and provides over forty methods to use on projects.
Hasso Plattner Institute (HPI)
HPI is an institute and faculty of the University of Potsdam. Since 2007, the HPI School of Design Thinking has brought together students and academics from different fields to work in multidisciplinary teams where they learn to become innovators and to develop user-friendly products and services.
I am passionate about the intersection between Design Thinking and Project Management and welcome any feedback or comments on available Design Thinking resources.
I am a big proponent of proactive career development. Professional training and conferences are a great way to stay current on industry and business trends, gather new ideas, and expand our networks of like-minded individuals from around the world.
Over the past year I have been assembling a list of the top project management conferences that we as project leaders should consider in order to grow our careers and knowledge. This is not the ultimate list, but will provide you with plenty of new ideas. Plan ahead and save the dates!
Deliver Conference (January 2019) is based out of Manchester, UK and covers the full range of project execution methodologies. The sessions aim to help those who lead digital projects to learn and grow existing expert knowledge and be successful in their jobs and careers. In the end, it is all about delivering customer value.
Resource Planning Summit (Feb 10-13, 2019, Nashville, TN) is advertised as the premier thought leadership event for promoting best practices in resource management, demand management, capacity planning, and portfolio management across industries.
Change Management Conference (April 28 - May 1, 2019, Orlando, Florida) is the annual meeting of the Association of Change Management Professions (ACMP). It brings together change management professionals to share the latest business solutions, explore best practices and trends, and offers networking opportunities.
International Scientific Conference on Project Management (April 25 - 26, 2019, Riga, Latvia) is organized by the Research Institute of the Project Management of the Faculty of Business, Management and Economics, University of Latvia, in cooperation with the Professional Association of Project Managers. The aim of the conference is to discuss results of scientific research in project management issues and the sessions are conducted in English.
PM Congress “ADAPT OR DIE” (April 11-12, 2019, Delft, Netherlands) is organized by the Delft University of Technology and the PMI Netherlands Chapter. This year's theme is "Research Meets Practice: Towards Project Management 3.0" with the aim of building bridges between research and practical expertise.
New Trends in Project Management (April 2019, Gdańsk, Poland) is organized by the PMI Gdańsk and focuses on the exchange project management knowledge and best practices in Poland and abroad.
APM Project Management Conference (May 2, 2019, London, UK) will explore how the profession is Delivering Value in a Transforming World, and transitioning from a position of facilitation to influence. There are three streams of focus: adapting to develop your career, working smarter in your approach to projects and how to develop your performance.
UMD Project Management Symposium (May 9-10, 2019, College Park, Maryland) pulls together project managers from the Baltimore-Washington metro area, and abroad, for DC’s premier PM symposium. The PM Symposium a great hub for scholars and practitioners to meet and share their latest technological/organizational achievement and cutting-edge vision.
Global Scrum Gathering (May 20-22, 2019, Austin, Texas) is organized by the Scrum Alliance and is organized around multiple themes, such as Champions of Agile, Community of Agile, Organizational Transformation, Scrum in Hard Places, Scrum Toolkit, Scrum in my Heart, and Scrum in Unusual Places.
Agile & Beyond (May 2019, Ypsilanti, Michigan) is a grassroots, volunteer-run conference that helps people learn about agile principles and practices, as well as covers topics that help make people and companies awesome. I attended and presented at AAB18 and found the conference and its sessions to be well-run and informative.
PMI EMEA Congress (May 13-15, 2019, Dublin, Ireland) is organized by the Project Management Institute and gathers project, program and portfolio managers from around the globe. They are there to discuss best practices, identify new trends and reinforce core industry skills. This year's theme is "Be a Champion of Change".
HAPPYPROJECTS19 (May 23, 2019, Vienna, Austria) brings together project management practitioners and academic researchers to share information about new theoretical developments and best practices, as well as facilitate networking with participants of other companies and speakers. This year's team is "Reset".
Project Summit Business Analyst World is a series of conferences for project managers and business analysts. Participants can earn up to 26 PDUs/CDUs and the sessions are accredited by both PMI and IIBA. PSBAW Conferences are held in Orlando (April), Toronto (June), Washington, DC (June), Vancouver (September) and Boston (October). The Toronto event has their largest attendance.
Project Management in Practice (June 14-18, 2019, Boston, MA) is organized by Boston University and covers a wide range of topics of interest to both academic and business professionals. The two-day conference is also available online, and PDUs are available for attending the sessions virtually.
PMO Conference (June 2019, London, UK) focuses on portfolio, program and project offices. Attendees will learn about the latest PMO research, discover new PMO ideas and techniques, and network and share with other like minded practitioners.
Agile2019 (August 5-9, 2019, Washington, DC) is dedicated to furthering Agile principles and providing a venue for people and ideas to flourish. The annual event is organized by Agile Alliance is touted as "where the Agile tribes meet".
Women in Agile (August 2019, Washington, DC) is half-day workshop that strives to expand as a community and continue supporting, cooperating, and compassionately including all underrepresented groups in the Agile community. This event has coincided with the Agile2018.
The Digital PM Summit (September 2018, TBD) is organized by Bureau of Digital and brings together professionals who manage digital projects. The conference welcomes all methodologies and approaches, from Agile to waterfall and hybrid, offering new perspectives in a social networking-friendly environment.
PMI Global Conference (October 2019, TBD) is organized by the Project Management Institute and is the preeminent professional conference for project managers world-wide. The event focuses on the evolving role of project management, this conference is open to project, program and portfolio professionals and will discuss new ideas and approaches, while giving participants the opportunity to make new relationships and strengthen existing ones.
Australian Institute of Project Management National Conference (October 2019, TBD) is the premier event for the project management profession in Australia. The annual conference is the platform for project leaders, both established and up-and-coming, to gain knowledge and share experiences on a range of areas that impact the management of projects today and in the future.
PMO Symposium (November 2019, TBD) is organized by the Project Management Institute and provides participants access to executive-level networking, workshops and discussions. Participants will come away with insights that can be used to build resilient PMOs.
Again, this is not an exhaustive list. Whatever conference you decide to attend next year, and whatever the lessons learned, you will know that you can face the future of project management with confidence when you are equipped with the right tools for the job. Keep learning and growing!
I posted a new Slideshare on the topic of "Guidance for Project Managers".
Here is the Slideshare Link. Your feedback is welcome.
I just attended a multi-disciplinary tech conference named Abstractions in my hometown of Pittsburgh, PA USA and it was awesome!
The Abstractions conference brought together 1,500+ individuals involved in modern software development, including: software developers, software architects, UI/UX designers, DevOps, QA testers and community leaders, with the purpose to teach, learn, and connect. I was one of the few project managers (or management types) in attendance, but I have to tell you that I returned from the conference with a much broader horizon of the field.
While the primary focus of the conference was software development, the sessions covered a wide variety of topics and I found many tracks that sparked my interest and intellect.
Here are select session topics that I attended during the conference:
Conferences are an important professional development opportunity. Most provide best practices, innovation tracks and terrific networking.
After this recent experience, my advice is to use conference attendance to your advantage. Don't limit yourself to PMI-only conferences. Seek out a multi-disciplinary conference to attend and be prepared to broaden your horizons!
I welcome any feedback or comments on this article.