I am reflecting on my experiences attending multiple PM conferences over the last couple of months. My aim is to identify and share emergent themes that are bubbling up across the project management profession.
Moritz Sprenger's "Voices in Project Management" retrospective on the PMI EMEA Congress had a topic that stood out to me. Mortiz made the keen observation as to why we are passionate about our profession, it is the PM mind-set.
An excerpt from Moritz’ blog post: “I have realized for why I am passionate about the profession of project management: It’s all about mind-set. The people I met [at PMI EMEA Congress] in Dublin had these things in common: Personal drive, the willingness to communicate, being results-driven, working passionately towards personal goals, and foremost: curiosity. These are exactly the traits that distinguishes a good project managers."
Project Manager mind-set. Is that what attracts us to the profession?
I would love to hear if others agree whether it is the mind-set that drives passion for Project Management?
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.
The PMI Board of Directors is discussing what the organization should be doing to facilitate implementation of its “strategy refresh".
The objective of the "refresh" appears to be a return to the original mission when the organization was founded in 1969 - service and support project management practitioners. Over the years, however, PMI has drifted from this initial focus. The current Board of Directors' discussions are asking the question: What can PMI do to demonstrate that it has the right focus and is providing value to its members?
From my perspective, there is a clear sense of PMI's shift toward the individual (not just chapters), as evidenced by the EMEA Congress 2019 program theme of “Innovation Made Possible by a Project Manager.” This shows movement toward serving the members better, but it also has me thinking about PMI's “strategy refresh".
Here are some of my thoughts on implementing PMI's “strategy refresh":
What opinions or recommendations do other members have around PMI's "strategy refresh"?
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!
In keeping with February's theme on Program Management, Bruce Harpham interviewed me for an article "What They Don't Tell You About Becoming a Program Manager".
It's worth a read for PMs interested in growing into Program Managers.