Lessons learned at the PMXPO 2018 part 2

My Project Management Institute (PMI) membership made it possible to join the 11th edition of the annual PMXPO virtual conference for free. An exciting line-up of speakers on various project management topics in disruptive times. Although the online conference sessions were held in a sequence on Thursday 20 March, sessions that couldn’t be attended then, are available for on-demand watching in the next two months. After yesterday’s first part I now offer lessons from the second part of the conference.

Creative Thinking: Engaging Your Stakeholders, Improving Your Requirements

After years of research and practice, Teresa Lawrence has good news. Creativity and creative problem solving can be taught. Using tools from Creative Problem Solving (CPS), anyone can become deliberately creative and arrive at novel and useful solutions to the perplexing, complex and ambiguous they face.

There’s divergent thinking for generating ideas and freewheeling, a broad search for many diverse and novel alternatives. Judgement is deferred, quantity and new connections are important.

Convergent thinking is meant to judge options, bring focus and make decisions. Objectives are checked without killing novelty. There’s no natural balance between the two. You have to use both and emphasize one over the other, depending on the needs.

When to use divergent thinking?

  • stakeholder identification
  • definition of done
  • develop portfolio management plan
  • procurement negotiations
  • risk analysis
  • alternatives generation,
  • etc.

When to use convergent thinking?

  • paired comparison
  • selection criteria setting
  • alternatives generations
  • project selection
  • setting ground rules
  • sprint retrospective
  • project performance appraisals
  • risk process facilitation
  • etc.

Tools for divergent thinking:

Tools for convergent thinking:

  • Highlighting: hits, cluster, restate
  • Card sort for prioritizing ideas
  • POINt to develop ideas


InitiativeOne has an in-depth article on problem solving, worth reading.

2018 Pulse of the Profession®: Success in Disruptive Times: Highlights from PMI’s 10th Global Project Management Survey

PMI Communication specialist Melissa Buchanan and manager market research Tricia Cabrey provided an overview of the state of project management as reported in the 2018 Pulse of the Profession®.

  • 9.9% of every dollar is wasted due to poor project performance down from 13.5 percent in 2013.
  • GDP contributions from project-oriented industries will reach $20.2 trillion over the next two decades.
  • If your organization fails at project management, you’re putting too much at risk in terms of ultimately delivering on strategy.
  • Do managers really understand that projects are key in delivering change and contribute to strategic initiatives?

Champion organizations—those who complete 80% or more projects on time, on budget, meeting business intent and having high benefits realization maturity—are continuing to mature their project talent, capabilities, and culture. Because of this, they have higher project success rates (92 percent versus 32 percent for underperformers), enjoy more successful business outcomes and waste 21 times as less money due to poor project performance.

Success starts with the right approach to support project delivery. Investments in actively engaged executive sponsors pay off. Scope control is key. 52% of projects experience scope creep or uncontrolled changes to project scope. Mature delivery capabilities minimize risks, control costs, and increase value.

Regardless of whether predictive, agile or hybrid is used, organizations that use some type of formal project management approach are successfully meeting their goals. And champions are better at choosing the best-fit approach.

Project professionals will broaden their skills and learn in new ways. Soft skills have become more important than ever. Certification is important for mid-career growth. Organizations are facing heightened competition and ongoing disruption. Digital transformation’s impact on project work is massive. Succesful organizations see that no one single factor drives success. The emphasis on organizational agility is growing. There’s a steady focus on benefits. Next practices are needed to handle current and future challenges. Smart organizations understand that proven project management practices lead to greater success and less waste.

The Conundrum: Your Project Ends, But Its Outcome Lives On

Rich Maltzman addressed sustainability and how it is hiding in plain sight even in the 6th edition of the PM Book of Knowledge. It is not always about ecological aspects. It’s more about holistic, long-term thinking and a perspective of long-term success. Consider the outcome of your project as realizing benefits for stakeholders 5-10 years after it is transitioned to Operations. Sustainability redefined as being in business forever. The Triple Bottom Line method asks you to see beyond the traditional bottom line of business to the profits that your business makes socially, environmentally, and economically. Measuring your business using the Triple Bottom Line is one of the best markers of how sustainable your business is, and how profitable it really is. You can measure this with the Sustainability Wheel instrument.

In 2010 Maltzman wrote Green Project Management, which had a follow-up in Driving Project, Program, and Portfolio Success: The Sustainability Wheel in 2015. He borrowed ideas from Philip B. Crosby‘s Quality is Free (1979), the movie Deepwater Horizon (2016) about the 2010 disaster. Cost of good sustainability outweighs costs of poor sustainability. You may think of risk management, but then include safety and environmental risks, which the BP Macondo Well risk register prevented. Apply life cycle thinking. A nod to Maltzman’s experience in the Netherlands are the lessons from Dutch writer Harry Mulisch‘s Discovery of Heaven (1992). Think of the end of the end.  What and when is your project’s impact? Project, program and portfolio management is an enterprise ‘thing’. Volkswagen emissions scandal (diesel gate) was used as an illustration of the disconnect between projects and enterprise.

PMBoK’s 6th edition talks about overall risks impacting the project as a whole and variations of the outcome, has escalation as a new risk response. We’re bigger than our projects. Let’s do right things right with lasting power, like IPMA Netherlands since 2014 emphasizes better projects for a better world. Rich Maltzman’s frequent updates on this topic can be found at the People, Planet, Profits and Projects blog at projectmanagement.com.

I’ll add lessons from Dave Prior’s session about Hacking Agile for Digital Agencies once I’ve watched it.