Lessons learned at the PMXPO 2018 part 1

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. Today part 1.

Lessons in Innovation from the The Simpsons, the most successful show in TV history

Joel Cohen (Emmy-Winning Writer and Producer of The Simpsons) graduated as a biologist from the University of Alberta (B.Sc.) and York University (M.B.A.). The series had more than 630 episodes since its debut on December 17, 1989, although the dysfunctional family already was featured in bumpers since 1987. Cohen spent half an hour explaining the characters, guest appearances, and the international reception.

What made The Simpsons so successful? The environment that created it. Setup and punchline just as in a joke. Relatability. Have a safe environment to let even bad ideas be aired and pitched. Ideas need momentum and a continuum of other’s ideas. Don’t expect efficiency, welcome waste. Diversity in the team really helps. 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration. Look to a problem from a totally different angle. Someone has to filter and select from the ideas. Use a focus group and get their feedback. And the ideal team size? Seven plus or minus two, just as Agile frameworks recommend too.

How can a project manager leverage innovation?

This CA Technologies-sponsored session was titled The Modern PMO, but turned out to be something totally different. The 15-minutes talk took the innovation challenge as a starting point. The word innovation is often misunderstood in a business context. Innovation is not the same thing as ideation, invention or a corporate process. As project manager can leverage our unique position as execution leaders. Show through metrics what improvements or added value were delivered. Is the world a better place after your project’s completion?

Imagining the Future of PMOs

Mark Mullaly started off with the history and drivers for a project management office. Standardization, a source of documentation, guidance, and metrics on the practice of project management and execution according to Wikipedia. The PMBoK doesn’t say that much about PMO. Three predominant modes are supportive, controlling and directive, says the book.

The complex projects executed since the 1950s asked for support, tools, best practices, assuming that these should be applicable and relevant elsewhere. Since the 1990s PMOs were created and documented. The focus on individual projects, reporting and monitoring project status, advocating organizational practices and management of overall projects drifted away from the intended added value. The average age of PMO is two years. A PMO is perceived as a temporary solution, an intervention. That raises questions regarding viability.

The PMO’s contribution must be clear. Examples could be scenario planning. Gaining acceptance is critical. What is implemented needs to be relevant and appreciated.  Only then there will be a future for PMOs.

Forces shaping PMOs:

  • relevance over one-size-fits-all
  • emphasis on process over results
  • role of delivery over advocacy
  • influence of demanding over enabling

The PMO can survive if it alongside the project manager focuses on:

  • commitment to the delivery of results
  • less emphasis on process
  • greatest emphasis on personal accountability for getting it done
  • freedom to choose, but accountability and ownership for those choices
  • success measured by the results that are delivered
  • willingness to tolerate educated, well-chosen risks
  • tolerance of mistakes, to a point
  • an expectation of learning, growth, advancement, and embrace of challenge
  • unlikely to suffer fools gladly
  • PMO as champion and gateway
  • emphasis on talent management and strategic guidance