PMI Netherlands 2017 Summit: Reconstructing Project Management

On Tuesday I was present at the PMI Netherlands 2017 Summit. The yearly congress for PMI Netherlands Chapter members and interested project and program managers, either through Dutch sister organizations like IPMA NL or BPUG, or individually attracted approximately 100 participants. The programme on Reconstructing Project Management at the first floor of the Spant! theater in Bussum was limited to plenary sessions this time. That has advantages of providing each speaker the largest audience possible under circumstances. The disadvantage is the amount of sitting time. As you can imagine I was triggered by my Samsung Gear Fit 2 for not having moved for another 50 minutes. A personal reflection and takeaways.

Pearl GTL: a project build by a community of 52.000 people

Rob Kretzers at PMI Netherlands Summit 2017Rob Kretzers, until recently with Shell, was the project director for the Pearl Gas to Liquid construction project in Qatar during the first decade of this century. He was facing three challenges:

  1. create a culture of safety
  2. complex technology
  3. size and execution complexity

Genuine care for people, starting with the ten in the earliest phase to an impressive 52,000 at peak times, simple rules but strict adherence helped. You have to invest in people. Outside your comfort zone, the difference is made. The journey from fundamental R&D in an Amsterdam lab to full-scale implementation in Malaysia and a ten times bigger site in Qatar took decades. By keeping projects small you can manage these large temporary organizations. Modelling proved to be key regarding processes. facilities, and supporting infrastructure.

Personal learnings as project director Rob KretzersBy creating Pearl Village, a real village with 60 national holidays being celebrated each year, sports facilities, 42,000 beds, a real mayor, etc. created a home away from home for the expat engineers and construction workers. Main lesson: a deeply felt accountability. Raise bad news early, don’t accept late surprises. Keep looking outside. Learn from the best. Be decisive and courageous.

On a personal level for Rob that meant deliberately taking his 35 leave days, plus a full-week personal development each year, having his wife stay with him in Qatar and have the support of younger Shell employees, and technical experts.

Vanguard projects, challenges for project managers

Marcel Hertogh at PMI Netherlands Summit 2017Marcel Hertogh took examples from large Dutch construction works like the Eastern Scheldt Storm Surge Barrier, the A2 highway tunnel in the city of Maastricht and the extension of the Port of Rotterdam (Maasvlakte 2) to show that extending the project scope may increase the buy-in of external stakeholders and move a monofunctional project to a multifunctional one generating additional benefits and value, while co-financing brought in additional budget.

Talking about sustainability in projects lessons learned came from the tender for the Victory Boogie Woogie tunnel project in the city of The Hague. Safety was crucial in the Sluiskiltunnel project. In these cases, the project manager made the difference, took the bold step to reconstruct the project scope and enlarge its potential.

That same approach is now injected in the Gaasperdammerweg tunnel on the A9 highway south of Amsterdam.

Digging for Change: Understanding change and resistance in inter-organizational projects

Alfons van Marrewijk at PMI Netherlands 2017 SummitAlfons van Marrewijk put on a different lens to look at resistance by taking a cultural approach to project management. A holistic view is important, as is the awareness that the physical/technical and social side of projects is intertwined. Symbols, rituals, meaning are cultural elements in every project. Projects are made by people.

Alfons’s reference projects were from the utility sector. Attempting to unite nine different contractors and providers to simplify subsurface infrastructure was a pain in the ass. Top-down change initiatives neglecting the actual workforce didn’t work out. Neither did bottom-up experiments without senior management involvement. Observations like:

  • the vagueness of top management involvement
  • shadows of the past and future dominating the change process
  • low profile testing of innovations
  • extremely difficult implementation

reinforced distrust disrupted relationships, etc.

FAST 4 Principles Needed To Achieve Success and Drive Results

Gorden Tredgold at PMI Netherlands 2017 SummitGordon Tredgold was proud to have deep pockets, short hands, and a bunch of good illustrative stories to highlight his FAST acronym of project success and failure factors. Let’s learn from failures because quite often we:

  • do the wrong job
  • do a poor job

Focus, what do we target? Create clearly defined goals and objectives, no more than three goals. Communicate these goals, clearly, simply, and often.

Accountability, who’s involved? Create clear roles and responsibilities. Hold people accountable for outcomes. Be accountable yourself.

Simplicity, how do we do the job? Challenge the team to create simple solutions. Challenge everything, remove waste. Use the Pareto (80/20) approach.

Transparency, what’s involved? Ensure complete due diligence. Create a plan of your progress. Communicate progress regularly to your teams.

Are you agile or Agile?

Microsoft is a gold sponsor for the event and sent Project black belt UK + NL Chris Pond to tell about business agility and Agile, which are different concepts. Of course Microsoft software products like Project, Project Online, Teams, OneNote, SharePoint, Team Foundation Server, etc. can support projects in their Agile setups.

Business agility, however, is requiring more. Pond took the example of Kodak, notably the inventor of the digital camera in 1975 but neglecting its market potential. By leaning on the current products like films, photo paper, etc. Kodak eventually was out of business.

Differentiators are:

  1. Fail fast, learn faster
  2. Customer-centric
  3. Low friction collaboration
  4. Employee engagement
  5. Bold leadership

It’s iterative and waterfall. An important Microsoft internal view on this was recently published by Satya Nadella in the book Hit Refresh.

Project Management 0.5 Change is Everything in Project Management

Richard Müller at PMI Netherlands 2017 SummitTarek Bhija and Richard Müller both work at Philips Male Grooming. The company is constantly reinventing itself to stay in business. Rather than simply selling razors, it’s about the interface skin and hair, plus a passion for a healthy skin nowadays. Early consumer feedback based on minimum viable products added a new approach to connected digital propositions, where PMI’s PMBoK used for hardware projects, SAFe for software. Eric Ries’s The Lean Startup found its way to Drachten 😉

Slowing down is accelerating

Roderick Bredero at PMI Netherlands 2017 SummitRoderick Bredero at age 29 faced the Australian parliamentary commission on defense and the Navy as the audience. Telling that you don’t have a clue isn’t something you will be rewarded for but truth to be told. Wow, missed opportunities by not bringing issues, doubts, and worries to the table before. Why?

  • no open communication
  • no vulnerability
  • no personal relations
  • no trust.

No wonder that project failed. It lasted 13 years to realize this. Roderick pleads for a time-out. You have to take time to reflect on the past, learn and improve. Several principles from the Agile Manifesto (2001) stress this as well. The speaker went on about emotional intelligence and partnering. Bredero sees three types of leadership in an organization: vision, management, and commitment, which actually comprises the corporate values.

Two impediments: perceived lack of time and fear of what others may think of you. Although appealing no scientific backup was provided.

Project issues/dilemmas

Jark Otten finished off with four dilemmas from projects he ran on behalf of KPMG, IBM, etc. Business conduct, intellectual property, and integrity in-company courses are not only required but to be applied in real-life cases as the ones he presented. The audiences still had enough energy left to provide all kinds of pieces of advice and effective reactions to the presented dilemmas.