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Gregory Balestrero: July 2008 Archives

Some Answers, More Questions

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Well, the session on Researching the Value of Project Management has come and gone. It was captured on video and is now available through www.PMI.org.  Dr. Janice Thomas and Mark Mullaly did a great job in the presentation. They are working virtually around the clock digesting the 600 pages of documentation to deliver comprehensive, yet clear results. The good news is that there is ... well, good news!

The conclusions are very positive about the value that project management contributes to organizations worldwide. Their evidence points to the fact that it's not only tangible results that were achieved, but also intangible, such as better enterprise-wide decision making, more effective work culture, and stronger and clearer communication. In fact, they have identified a clear relationship between project management maturity and a rise in intangible benefits.

There are two other interesting points I came away with. First, none of the 65 organizations measure ROI of the project management. I guess I was surprised by that. Janice and Mark shared they felt that it seemed that it was either a lack of interest in the metric (go figure!), a fear of accountability (paranoia of job security), or perceived complexity of the measurement. I would have thought that more would have measured such a major investment. The other issue is that one of the real intangibles of mature project management competency is the ability to better deploy strategy. To me, this will be one of the greatest executive selling points. If we can clarify this ... make it more than anecdotal evidence ... we should be able to drive more investment in a mature project management competency.

Oh, and one more thing. I think we are going to see a lot more questions than answers from the study. Believe it or not, I am excited about that. The profession is rich with curiosity. PMI needs to continue to fund research to answer these questions. More importantly, challenging questions will be answered by talented researchers, and talented researchers will help build a cadre of competent faculty.

We are at an impasse, though, in that the study has not been fully digested. When I said that Janice and Mark are working round the clock, I meant it. They have an early August deadline to complete the analysis and submit the final manuscript for publication. The study monograph will be published in the early fall for all of us to read. I hate waiting for something I really want and need! However, I have waited four years for this, so I guess a couple of months more won't kill me! However, don't wait. Go to the website and see and listen to Mark and Janice yourself. It was a very polished and informative presentation.

More later.

Who's In the Pipeline?

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I am about to leave the PMI Research Conference in Warsaw, Poland, and head back to the USA. It has been a great meeting, very vibrant, with lots on interaction. Of all the interactions I have had, though, one thing stands out over the others. Yesterday, during my remarks, I shared that a strong base of research is the most important way to ADVANCE a profession.

Peter Drucker referred to the process as understanding the "organized ignorance" of a profession. I have to take exception to what I said. You see, after the presentation, Philip Diab, PMI Chair, and I took a photo with 19 Polish students who are here supporting the conference. They are all students at the Warsaw School of Economics, in undergraduate studies in Project Management.

When I talked to them, I was mesmerized. They display a visible mixture of wonder about learning, while never letting down their self confidence that they can tackle anything. The only way to describe it is that they were an empowered generation of youth. They have a clear sense of purpose, and they know that they have a vital future. There is no sense of entitlement, but rather faith in themselves. They see a future full of promise and filled with opportunities. And I am reminded that they are all here, giving up their weekends and weekdays, helping at the conference during their summer holidays. However, when the sessions start, they don't run outside or find other things to occupy their time ... on the contrary, they all run inside the session halls, listening, observing and learning. Amazing.

I was wrong in saying that research will advance the profession. No. This profession, any profession, will ultimately be advanced by young people, the young people entering the pipeline that will challenge the profession. They will bring the tools of the profession into new applications without fear of failure, and when they discover that those tools do not work, they will create new ones that will. It is this empowered generation that will advance our profession.

My only concern is that there are too few of these young people around the world. All of us, especially PMI, must find a way to add to the intellectual pipeline to build our profession. My travels around the globe, and our executive research, both point to the critical shortage of experienced, talent project professionals. Unless we fill the pipeline with talented youth like the students here in Warsaw, that shortage will only grow. Worse, the profession won't advance but rather will be "maintained." For this profession to achieve its full potential, it must be challenged with new ideas and concepts. Otherwise, we will have a profession defined by its legacy rather than its future. We must add to the professional pipeline and now.

Thank you, Warsaw, for the lesson.

More later.

Results at Last!

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13 July 2008--I am in Warsaw, Poland at PMI's Research Conference. It is very late in the evening on 13 July, and the conference actually begins tomorrow but tonight we were at a private reception to thank the researchers that have worked on a 5-year-long global research project on the Value of Project Management. It is an amazing "who's who" of PM researchers ... 48 renowned leaders from 15 countries. For the last 3 years they have studied nearly 70 organizations literally on every continent on the globe. It is a wonderful example of a multi-national project team working toward a common goal ... on time, on budget ... with a qualitative output that we hope will exceed our wildest expectations.

However, I need to get by this sense of awe over the management of the project and, selfishly, go straight to the end game: the RESULTS! Earlier, I said "we hope" the results will exceed our expectations because the full results are not out yet. Actually, Dr. Janice Thomas and Mark Mullaly, principal investigators for the project, will be presenting the initial findings tomorrow morning.

I have to say, I am "hungry" to get the results, yet I am anxious about the results. When we commissioned the study, we had to accept that one possible answer to the question, "What value has PM provided to your organization?" could be ... NONE! Risky, yes ... but the probability of that answer is very low if non-existent.

Since the 2006 Research Conference in Montreal, I have traveled over 400 days, meeting and talking to organizational leaders around the globe. I have seen first hand the dramatic value that a mature project management process has given government and business organizations. However, when I advocate for adoption of project management to those not currently embracing it, I am met with the same "stare and glare" ... "I appreciate your opinion, but give me the proof."

That is very frustrating ...  but understandable. Why invest in anything that will not give back value ... some clear, tangible or intangible, return on the investment. Well, this research project should push well beyond "anecdote" and into the realm of verified results ... the "best of the best" in researchers, grappling with the most difficult of all study subjects: VALUE.

More later.

Academic Forum

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There are other events taking place at the same venue as the PMI Research Conference. One was the PMI Academic Forum. As project management grows, so does the need for qualified degreed graduates from universities worldwide. A record turnout of 75 came to this event to share ideas on promoting project management education and making sure it meets the needs of the industry, corporations and governments.

PMI president and CEO Gregory Balestrero kicked off the forum with a passionate appeal on the urgency to fill the project management talent shortage and how academia can help.

Here's more from William Moylan, Ph.D., PMP, a member of the PMI Board of Directors and a project management  educator:

The forum provided a catalyst for forging strong partnerships between academic and business communities. The active dialogues among the participants, informative presentations and interactive Q&A sessions, along with the fun networking receptions all helped in deepening established friendships and kindling new associations. The sense of urgency, as noted by Mr. Balestrero in his opening remarks, set the tone for the day-long program. As the entire world becomes project-focused, the exciting challenges of the project management profession are mounting, and the need to educate the cadre of professional project managers is inherent to the solution.

Building partnerships between industry practitioners and academia seems to be a workable solution. The forum presentations encouraged attendees to continue the learning journey through technology transfer, professional development and active interaction with the intention to serve the needs of all stakeholders, especially the students of project management. As life-long learning is the norm for leading in a world of change, partnering is essential to gain the advantages and benefits of a disciplined approach to managing projects and programs. Let us all keep in touch as we partner together in this quest.

And PMI's Oxana Ahern weighed in with some other thoughts I've included below:

As part of the forum, Bill Wilson, Ph.D., professor from Cranfield University, and John Sharples, Shell learning officer, shed light on training programs designed by universities that teach project management at the program level at corporations such as Shell.

Klaus Brockoff with WHU in Germany, who happened to be sitting next to me in the audience, told me his university faced the same challenges (different priorities of academia and the corporate world; estimating the real costs associated with the endeavor) in their joint collaborative programs.

A presentation by Andrew Gale, Ph.D., professor from the University of Manchester, and Mike Brown, head of the Center for Project Management Rolls-Royce, discussed their partnership, which emphasizes not so much the development of hands-on project management skills but mainly critical reflective thinking about everyday project management practices.


Conference Scenes

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Attendees gather at the PMI Research Conference 2008 ...

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No More Mr. Nice Guy

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Project management isn't just a "nice to have" anymore. It's crucial, said PMI president and CEO Gregory Balestrero in his opening conference remarks.

And one of the best ways to push the profession forward is through research. Declaring a "new scale of commitment" to research," Mr. Balestrero outlined 16 research studies in the pipeline--and that doesn't even include the much-buzzed-about Researching the Value of Project Management.

The study marks a huge leap in explaining just how organizations can use project management to deliver results--consistently. Mr. Balestrero joked that when people asked him about the ROI of project management, he would throw out a figure of US$11. The truth was that no one really knew. But what the researchers discovered was that companies weren't measuring investment in project management. So how could they measure success? They're just looking for better ways to run their business. And what the study does is outline just how project management can help them do precisely that.

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