14th International Project Management Day: People, Passion, and Purpose in a Digital Age – Part 2

The 14th International Project Management Day, an online event hosted by the International Institute of Learning, focuses on People, Passion, and Purpose in a Digital Age. Today’s organizations need the right people to lead the charge into the digital frontier. Those people are project managers whose passion and sense of purpose galvanizes their teams and stakeholders to bring their very best to every project, every day in pursuit of major change.  In this second of two reviews, I’ll take you along the key takeaways of keynotes and other presentations. See Part 1 published on 2 November for the first portion of takeaways of other keynotes and video presentations I watched.

For more information on the IPMDay or possibilities to register and watch the recorded versions, please head to IIL’s website.

Malcolm H.M. Holloway – Machine learning and other AI: Are You Ready?

Malcolm H.M. Holloway (formerly IBM Watson assembler) explored the way Machine Learning (ML) and other forms of Artificial Intelligence (AI) may impact the project manager. Typical examples of machine learning leveraging our personal lives are:

  • spam filters in email
  • targeted content in Facebook
  • likely purchases at Amazon

There’s no free lunch. You provide the data. These companies do the analysis and present you their learnings. In a work environment think of call centers, HR and law practices, medical diagnosis, agriculture, marketing, insurance, finance, etc. Efficiency, better returns are aimed for.

More data sources, quantum computing, cheaper ML/AI technology, and new algorithms will continue to change this landscape and possibilities. Maybe AI will not replace your job. It will affect it. Gary Kasparov is quoted: “Machines have calculations; people have an understanding. Machines have instructions; we have a purpose. Machines have objectivity; we have passion.”

As project managers we will have to deal with ML/AI:

  • being part of our work and personal lives today.
  • improving and becoming more embedded in our world.
  • augmenting people changing our world.
  • ability to anticipate that and focus on more intuitive and ‘messy’ parts.

Ed Hoffman & Larry Prusak – The Knowledge Factor – People, Passion, Teams, and Knowledge Capability

In 1997 Larry Prusak wrote Working Knowledge with Thomas H. Davenport, a book that highlighted how organizations are addressing the importance of knowledge. It was the era of the knowledge worker and knowledge manager.

Knowledge capabilities are cross-functional, repeatable, and measurable. Business and environmental agility challenge dynamic capabilities. Hoffman and Prusak shared from their NASA experience. Apart from unique features there are universal areas of critical knowledge and work like:

  • Business domain
  • Social capital
  • Financial
  • Programmatic
  • Technology and digital tools

Start with why? (indeed Simon Sinek‘s circle) instead of what or how knowledge should be organized. For NASA answers were failures, expert diversity, demographics, digitalization, and inconsistent performance. The how consisted of people (respect and inclusion), learning focus, problem centricity, federation, and the mission or strategy driving the execution. What was implemented? Case studies, publications, face to face knowledge services, online tools, knowledge networks, lessons learned and knowledge processes, as well as search/tag/taxonomy tools.

Diepak Kasi – The Power of Vision in the Digital Age

Diepak Kasi (trainer at IIL and Rawsome Life) – a fellow Dutch betraying his home country by his accent – puts it rather simple. IT’s not what you know. It’s what you do with what you know. Having the right people on the project is not enough. Vision is crucial. What’s the reason for this vision? Then alignment of stakeholders to that vision is important.

The challenge in the digital age is to get the vision stick amidst a tsunami of distractions. Noise must be reduced, focus increased. Stakeholder engagement means keeping everyone connected to the vision. Reinforce the vision using multiple channels. Appeal to emotions.

Apparently simple means may be effective and funny though:

  • Catchy project name.
  • Great tagline.
  • Project chant.

Michèle Longpré – Dynamic Stakeholder Engagement

Related to the previous session this one brought by Michèle Longpré (Gordian Consultants) starts with PMBoK Guide’s emphasis on dynamic stakeholder engagement with a separate knowledge area. As I’m preparing my PMP certification exam, I’m well aware of this.

Longpré uses the example of the award-winning Ethiad Airlines challenge of developing an aligned leadership culture to have:

  • Consistency in performance
  • Engaged and aligned employees
  • Common culture among employees
  • Development of the national workforce

Stakeholder analysis and putting stakeholders in a grid is the first step. Then: meet them, listen to concerns and ideas. Touch the hearts and mind of stakeholders. Stimulate interaction, show the engagement, mix stakeholders to obtain a variety of opinions and ideas. That paid off in the organic growth of the organization. Sure the Winning Behaviors project ran into risks and challenges. Michèle shared these, ending with lessons learned:

  • Involve the right people from day 1<: people need to be part of it to buy into it./li>
  • Agile deployment: deployment must be targeted for each area.
  • Use technology: make it easy for people to access, have multiple points of entry.

Jeff Sutherland – Scrum at Scale: The Path to Agile

As former US Air Force “Top Gun,” Dr. Jeff Sutherland is the inventor and co-creator of the Scrum framework. Funny is that Sutherland’s keynote revealed that Scrum project management was the original concept.

Why? Because the absence of the word project (management) led to the belief among Scrum fanatics that project management became obsolete with the emergence of Agile frameworks like Scrum. Developed in 1993 and formalized in 1995 with Ken Schwaber, Scrum has since been adopted by the vast majority of software development companies around the world.

A recent poll of thousands of Scrum practitioners in the U.S. and Europe has found that 66% of organizations are at the beginning stage of scaling Scrum. The biggest challenge to this advancement, from startups to Fortune 100 companies, is management being locked in a Waterfall mindset, assuming that agility only applies to developers. In order to achieve the radical improvements in productivity possible with Scrum, the management must change their strategy, goals, and incentive programs. This is the path to business agility.

How to truly deliver and scale up? Sutherlands shared examples obtained at Scrum Inc. and described in Scrum: The Art of Doing twice the work in half the time. Scrum deployment is driven by exponential technologies like the Internet of Things, Robotics, Big Data, Open Data, and eFinance.

It starts with one team with a Scrum master. Practices implemented can lead to six times higher velocity in under three weeks. A Scrum of Scrum is recommended as scaling mechanism with a Scrum Master. That can be brought to next levels (Scrum-of-Scrum-of-Scrum…). Executive Action Team can oversee 125 teams in this setup. How to scale up the Product Owner? A Chief Product Owner works with the team Product Owners, setting priorities for multiple teams. Chief Chief Product Owner is used for the next level. At the top, you need an Executive Meta-Scrum with a CCCPO. Jet fighters at Saab Technologies are built with hundreds of Scrum teams using this scaled version of Scrum. Another 2017 example is Toyota USA facing challenges like:

  • Staff being educated in traditional waterfall management.
  • Dealing with 70% outsourced work to waterfall-managed processes at external organizations.

It worked, just like BMW transitioning their 4,000+ engineers to Scrum at once. Tesla is lean, innovative, and Scrum-oriented. Maersk discovered the Moneyball of Scrum. Removing waste and inefficiencies pays off!

Sutherland claims to support Moore’s Law in software development. Same curves to cut cost and deliver value by accelerating can be drawn. John P. Kotter in 2014 wrote Accelerate: Building Strategic Agility for a Faster-Moving World about the underlying principles. Fragile, non-sustainable Scrum or other Agile implementation don’t work. Only restructuring the organization can deal with organizational debt. Spotify, Microsoft, Salesforce, and SAP do count as good examples. Managers need to lead. Read more at Scrum Inc case study on modularity.

In the Q&A Sutherland referred to a bridge being built in the Netherlands with Scrum. That one caught my curiosity of course. I can’t find the exact example online, although the IT systems for the new Botlekbrug in the A15 in the Port of Rotterdam area were developed using Scrum.

Mark Parzygnat – Blockchain – Coming to a Transaction Near You

Technology-specific project management is what delights Mark Parzygnat (program director Blockchain at IBM). The project manager is the conduit to both technology, company, and community influences. Risk management and change control become more important when projects grow in complexity and technologies used.

Parzygnat, who works for the Hyperledger Community, explained the open source, distributed ledger technology, of which blockchain is an example. Uncertainty replacement by a transparent, secure, collective source of truth is creating value in a different context. What does it mean for projects and project managers?

  • Open is enticing. When done correctly it reduces costs, prevents vendor lock-in, and leverages a large community.
  • Open is often misunderstood. Open source is free, and not to be confused with open standards. Open source also means moving from software license fees to a different business model.
  • Open means another form of governance or the absence of a central governance. The community of contributors is also open for entrants.
  • Open means also dealing with diverse cultural backgrounds, time zone differences, multiple agendas, and contributors working from their own free world. Ownership and responsibility to complete tasks still need attention. Think of documentation, setting ground rules, the consequence of project delays. Tools to support the community are extremely important. Who’s paying the bills?

As a project manager, you still have an important role in facilitating meetings, bringing people together, removing impediments, communications, aligning with strategy and ambitions. Nothing moves faster than technology. A project manager can help to control and incorporate possibilities into valuable products and services. Understand what you’re trying to accomplish.

Bryan DeBates – Out of This World Project Management!

With seven minutes lost watching spinning wheels, logging out and in, switching back and forth between Chrome and Internet Explorer, I finally stumbled into Bryan DeBates (Space Foundation) sharing a detailed schedule of an event for students. Mission in a Mars lab combined with project management skills become available for every school in the world. It sounded like a 17 minutes advertorial, not a keynote.

Shobhana Gupta – NASA’s International Space Apps Challenge: Inspiring Innovation from Citizens and Students

Shobhana Gupta (AAAS S&T Policy Fellow at NASA’s Health and Air Quality Applied Sciences Program) highlights NASA’s Open Innovation environment, an example I recently learned from Jeremy Heiman’s book New Power.

Space Apps Challenge is the world’s largest hackathon – a 48-hour event that occurs simultaneously in cities around the world. Again, a 17 minutes success story without lessons learned or Q&A.

That was it for the IPMDAY 2017. On 1 November 2018 the next International Project Management Day IIL Conference will be held.