3rd PMI Netherlands Summit: The Thin Line between Project Success & Failure

pmi_site_header_2On June 12, 2014 PMI Netherlands Chapter and CKC Seminars organized a third Summit in Figi Zeist about the Thin Line between Project Success & Failure. To wrap up: you are that thin line. You can tame your tigers and make change happen. Happiness is what you ask for every day. Are you happy? As project manager, customer and team? Would you do this project again? Happiness is contaminating your environment. The ‘wow’  factor of a passion in action changes the way you approach a project, collaborate and stay sharp with pursuing right answers to the why question. Be open minded, tackle risks as that’s your job and prepare for the future. All of this is more important than a certification in project management, a particular framework or methodology. It will bring project success within reach.

Thomas Juli – Leadership, happiness & Project Success

The German Dr. Thomas Juli, was the first keynote speaker. Next to running and expanding his own consulting business and building the Institute for Project and Business Transformation he is lecturer for innovation and technology management at the Wilhelm Büchner Hochschule in Darmstadt, Germany, an accredited, private university for distance learning.  He is founder and president of i-Sparks, an open online community that helps and motivates individuals and organizations turn their project challenges and failures into projects for success. He is the author of Leadership Principles for Project Success (CRC Press, New York, 2011). and was happy to be with us, and we showed to be happy with his message.

Like Pharell Williams sings in Happy, it contaminates. To channel your passion to produce tangible results, it needs focus, strategy, aligned priorities and motivation. It starts with the why? (read Simon Sinek‘s Start with why). Then envisioning. Think of the different effect of ‘I have a dream’ and ‘I have a plan’. And of course, you need to accomplish, so acceptance criteria, plans and actions are needed to get there. Summarized as Motivation, Vision and Project (MVP) it’s good to align your personal MVP to the team’s and company’s to get the ‘wow’ factor. Passion needs structure and strategy to sustain. Collaboration, performing teams and learning from frequently delivered results are important. Issues need to be resolved and priorities aligned to the MVP compass.

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Failure is necessary to achieve something. Get into motion. Join the movement. Be the change. Check Actionforhappiness.org.

Parallel tracks during the Summit concentrated on:

  • real stories about real projects
  • the secret behind every successful project
  • the human factor as critical succes factor
  • local interest workgroups & q&a’s
Eric Soenens – Purpose and People before Project

Eric Soenens (change manager at Philips) told about the move of Philips International Headquarters into New Ways of Working, exploring its successes and pitfalls as it moved 1,300 top-heavy professionals into a different way of working. Originally a building refurbishing project, it quickly required a higher purpose and strong stakeholder management. Soenens also stressed the importance of the why. Managing a cost or square meters reduction project is different from enabling to place to share your passion. Drivers for the project were collaboration, trust, productivity, team work, and company pride.
Eric Soenens Philips
Alignments starts where talking stops and listening begins. Stop & be present. Write down what’s been said and paraphrase. Show that you’re actively listening. Check your understanding. Resistance will be there. It may be the fear of uncertainty, change, losing control, away from the comfort zone, loss of power, capacity issues or no direct personal benefits. At the Philips project resistance was managed by user involvement, co-creation of the results. It’s often the transition (process), not the change (outcome) itself that causes stress. Don’t fight over positions, discuss interests.

Amy Andrade – Making the impossible possible: is there sanity and success in the midst of chaos?

Amy Andrade (former director of Applications, CareSpot Express Healthcare, now entrepreneur at Andrade Group) wanted to look at a current large successful project in an environment of many objectives to achieve with stringent deadlines (8 months) to get to market. What are the elements that allowed the project to be successful, though by best practice standards it was impossible? Success was measured as: no body bags and no cash flow hiccups. Elements that contributed to the project’s success: innovation, vision, leadership, collaboration, communication, community and connection, but also teamwork, passion, urgency and challenge, preparation, focus, perseverance and new technology. Apollo 13‘s collaboration to get a square peg in a round hole clip served as backup illustration.


Is this in your project management DNA? Amy shared a reading tip as well: Warren Berger’s A More Beautiful Question. And guess, why is one of the beautiful questions you must ask.

Ed van der Tak – Achieving optimized team member self-control (using the Critical Effort Methodology)

Ed van der Tak TA, PPA (chairman of the Dutch Planning & Scheduling Institute) introduced the Critical Effort Methodology, but not after reflecting of a changed world, taking a selfie and spending costly minutes on that concept before turning to self-management and the increase of the flexible workforce in nowadays personnel needs. Ed wanted to call for urgency, but basically showed the same developments in automation that my own professor, Aart Bosman did at the University of Groningen from 1990-1993: connecting isolated solutions, the move to Management Information Systems (MIS) and Decision Support Systems (DSS) and what Ed called Project Management ERP systems, we know now for years as the CA Clarity or Microsoft suites around Project Management tools.

To enable self-management taking place in self-organizing teams Van der Tak doesn’t recognize the need for Agile or Scrum approaches, but basically personal productivity tools, task management support to prioritize individual tasks by current value to the team / organization. The perception of work load must be different. The concept of time is different too under certain circumstances. Read more on this in Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow. Contributing value to each and Individual task still needs overview of all tasks, dependencies, and available resources (time, money, people, tools). Who will enable that and based on what information? What’s new here?  I myself was not convinced of this alpha version of ‘Critical Effort Methodology’, but there will be more interaction and hopefully iterations:

Jim Lawless – Taming Tigers

Countless thousands more have been inspired by Taming Tigers by Jim Lawless, one of the world’s leading inspirational speakers, and CEO of the Velocity Corporation. With his team, has implemented successful change programs in companies including Apple, Barclaycard, Atos, Axa, BT, Aramark, Skrill Group and Badminton England. The “Tiger” is Jim’s metaphor – The Ten Rules are practical tools to overcome any barrier.

  1. Act boldly today – time is limited!
  2. Re-write your rule book – challenge it hourly
  3. Head in the direction of where you want to arrive, every day
  4. It’s all in the mind
  5. The tools for Taming Tigers are all around you
  6. There is no safety in numbers
  7. Do something scary everyday
  8. Understand and control your time to create change
  9. Create disciplines – do the basics brilliantly
  10. Never, never give up!

He insists on testing principles of change on himself before advising others. In 2003 he took a bet to be a jockey at a race within one year lacking any horseriding experience before. In August 2010, he used Taming Tigers to become Britain’s Deepest Freediver, the first Briton to dive below the magic 100m barrier on a single breath of air. The presentation is unique because Jim has undergone “impossible” change twice to prove that his principles work.  We all got a copy of Taming Tigers today, so I’ll read and review it later. Jim’s second book – The 7 C’s of Cultural Change will be in the shops in September 2015.

Laurentiu Neamtu – The Open Minded Project Management Framework

Laurentiu Neamtu (Academic Director at La Salle Almere Campus) introduced the concept of open minded Project Management, which basically sustains there is no best Project Management framework but a combination of best practices adapted to the specific project. The standards should fit to the project and not vice versa. The success rate depends on understanding the project and the right combination of standards. Neamtu had grabbed some elements from the Succes/Fail ratio, the balance between risk and change, importance of hard skills and soft skills for project management, the Agile Manifesto to Dan Pink‘s takeway from his book Drive, and – again – Simon Sinek’s Start with the why. Neamtu wanted to stress the importance of trust, but nearly stranded in a discussion on social media and the need for face 2 face communication in distributed project teams. Somehow ‘waterfall’ got pissed at again. This time including claims, that waterfall stands for ‘no interaction with the consumer’. Anyone has evidence for this? The Open Minded Project Management Framework happened to be no more than:

  1. prioritize value creation
  2. adapt standards to context
  3. facilitate your projects, you’re no expert anymore.


Martijn Jong, Partner & Director, AMI Consultancy, was involved in Maasvlakte 2 – the expansion of the Port of Rotterdam – the biggest civil engineering project in the Netherlands since theDelta Works.  It was completed on May 22nd  2013 – under budget, within time constraints and with a satisfied client! In an interactive discussion with the Maasvlakte 2 stakeholders, contract manager Menno Steenman (Havenbedrijf Rotterdam) and Peter Klip (project director) Martijn Jong took us to the project highs and lows and offered a close look into the project kitchen. Besides time & money (controlling constraints), stakeholder satisfaction (building teams and involvement of stakeholders), preparation for the future (fitness for purpose) is important. Determining whether Maasvlakte 2 also accomplished the third goal was asked to the stakeholders and the audience. Like De Jong I read the announcement of Klara Paardenkoper’s thesis of the shrinking ‘hinterland’ of the Port of Rotterdam, so I remained seated doubting whether or not all this new land will indeed be used within the next 15 years, as was the goal. Lessons from Maasvlakte 2: no process managers, step forward, deploy small teams with subject matter experts. That proved to be successful.

As from June 16th presentations and pictures of the Summit will be at www.pmi-netherlands-summit.com. The fourth Summit will be one June 11th, 2015. Will you be there too?