International Project Management Day 2018: Project, Program, and Portfolio Management in an Age of Digital Disruption (part 2)

Literally, thousands of fellow project management professionals gathered online for the International Project Management Day 2018: Project, Program, and Portfolio Management in an Age of Digital Disruption, an online learning and knowledge sharing event organized by IIL. After yesterday’s first part, today I share other lessons I learned this long day sitting and interacting at my laptop. Five keynotes, 18 on-demand prerecorded videos on various topics, and lots of more content to enjoy even weeks after the actual event on 1 November 2018.

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Innovation Project Management

Dr. Harold Kerzner (Senior Executive Director, IIL) first introduces his audience to innovation. Be aware that cost reduction measures are a short-term solution, where innovation aims at future profits. The output of innovation are products and services, new business models. Peter Drucker stated that only marketing and innovation drive growth.

Kerzner explains the difference between incremental and disruptive innovation. Project management approaches should differ between the two. Project management is what delivers business value. Innovation management, in its purest form, is a combination of the management of innovation processes and change management. While incremental innovation may not bring significant changes, disruptive innovation will demand changes.

Three ways the project management and innovation combination is criticized:

  • traditional project management is a one-size-fits-all approach
  • there’s no controlled environment for contemporary projects
  • the devil’s triangle for project success (time, cost, scope) cannot be used for innovation

Note, that the sixth version of the Project Management Book of Knowledge addresses value and benefits management. Just like Agile and Scrum are frameworks and required project management to accommodate, innovation also requires project management to evolve and be not rigid anymore.

Note the emphasis PRINCE2 in its 2017 update puts on tailoring. In Lost Roots: How Project Management Came to Emphasize Control over Flexibility and Novelty, Sylvain Lenfle and Christoph Loch state:

Managers need to recognize the type of project at the start, resist institutional pressure to adapt traditional ‘rational’ approaches to all projects and apply an appropriate approach – one tailored for the type of project.

Must-haves in innovation project management in order to deliver value:

  • feel comfortable with ambiguity and uncertainty
  • see the big picture
  • know and related to the team and the firm’s growth objectives.
  • know the firm’s tangible and intangible assets (capabilities and resources)
  • get close enough to the customers to know what they will buy.

Collaboration with marketing and sales is necessary. You’ll have to reconsider the number of metrics, scope management, resource management, methodologies, etc. Various environmental factors influence innovation goals. Kerzner’s call to action is to publish articles that identify innovation competencies that project managers must possess, and bridge the gap between innovation, project management and business strategy.

In the last part of the presentation, Kerzner highlights some innovation types and the way winners like Netflix, Apple, Amazon, Google, and Craigslist tuned traditional business models obsolete. Brainstorming, design thinking, storytelling will become important skills for project managers. As a project manager, will you be among the winners or the losers?

How to Get in Front of Conflict Before It Gets in Front of You

In this presentation on workplace conflict management, Christa Kirby (VP, Global Learning Innovation, IIL) first distinguishes between functional and dysfunctional conflicts. What makes conflicts so hard to deal with?

Can’t conflicts be solved in a collaborative and productive way? There’s a strong business case for it because the costs of dysfunctional conflicts are embedded in time spent on dealing with the conflict, increases absence levels, legal procedures, productivity losses, disengagement, and motivation.

Feedback from managers directly impacts employee engagement. Perceptions often are only assumptions, but with real emotions coming in. Human nature (fight, flight, freeze), culture (the way we do things here), and our own personalities (e.g. using the DISC model) kick in.

Are biological survival mechanisms, cultural elements, and our own personality traits effective in a specific situation?

Kirby refers to Thomas Crum’s The Magic of Conflict. Conflict is just an interference pattern of energy. Although many ‘tricks’ don’t have a lasting effect, you can try to transform the patterns, channel energy in a more effective direction. What pops up as an issue, may have many underlying problems like personalities, emotions, interests, self-perceptions, hidden expectations, and unresolved issues from the past. Feelings are important and cannot be neglected.

It’s easy to de-humanize other persons than to accept them as complex human beings. Kirby explains the lifecycle of conflict. Challenges on personality, cultural and biological level make conflict management difficult. Solutions can be found in taking a ‘whole brain’ approach. Self-regulation strategy for the Amydala Hijack We can choose how long we feel emotions.

Six steps to a conflict resolution conversation:

  1. Identify your goals for the conversation
  2. Create a safe space for the discussion to take place
  3. Seek out the other party’s perspective
  4. Listen to understand instead of reply
  5. Share your observations and perspective
  6. Engage in collaborative problem solving

I was happy to hear Christa Kirby recommend Kerry Patterson – Crucial Conversations (2011). A manifesto like Managing Conflict: A Practical Guide to Resolution in the Workplace (2017) by David Liddle has, may help you to build a culture of open dialogue. IIL has a new Everything DISC Productive Conflict course to learn more.

The Culture of Feedback in Agile
Sandra Bellong (senior manager Analytics & IT Services at Amadeus) has now 10 years of Agile experience as Scrum Master and Agile Coach. The culture of feedback is an important pillar next to frameworks, techniques, and behaviors in introducing Agile to an organization. Think of TripAdvisor, Amazon, Airbnb or Booking reviews prior to booking your next trip or dinner,

Feedback is embedded in the fundaments of Agile frameworks, such as Scrum. Transparency requires trust. Inspection implies a feedback loop, Adaption means implementing lessons learned to improve the process and products the team is working on. Bellong explains the structure of Scrum and Tuckman’s stages of group development.

A serious game Crew was used to activate the feedback loops across all employees. Gamification can help learning and development. Quality feedback is key to learning, performance, innovation, and engagement. The Crew Game provides a fun and effective way to master and practice the art of giving and receiving feedback. You will be playing different roles as members of a flight crew who have to manage challenging conversations. The wellbeing and safety of the passengers depend on you!

Feedback is a gift. Constructive feedback, fact-based with chosen words and check whether the message is understood, is just as important as receiving feedback.