PMI Global Congress 2013 – New Orleans – First look

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PMI Global Congress 2013 – New Orleans – First look

Like This Blog 0 Steve Fullmer
Added by October 28, 2013

First full day in New Orleans for the PMI Global Congress 2013. I can’t decide whether I want to talk about the food or the excellent program. Two thousand eighty one registered attendees from sixty nine countries. The United States, Canada, Brazil, Nigeria, and Japan head the list, with strong showings from Saudi Arabia and the middle east. Three main program tracks with seventeen sessions per breakout period. I am so glad that I took the time to review alternatives and reserve seats in advance.  Session after session posted as “at capacity”. Reservations required for seats, or fine dining on Bourbon Street.

Three is the magic number this year. Move over Triple Constraint, project management has a new triangle: the Talent Triangle. Technical Project Management, Leadership, Strategic and Business Management.  Congress tracks focus on the Talent Triangle with strategy and leadership commanding significant attention. Intrinsic skill sets are de-rigueur, and creativity reigns supreme.

Keynote speaker Daniel H. Pink perfectly set the stage, reminding attendees to reconsider the role assumed by project managers. Across the planet, 9% hold Sales careers. The other 91% are merely involved in selling. Everyone is a seller. YOU are a seller. Sellers no longer have an advantage. The new adage should be ‘Seller Beware’. The information age and online resources create information parity so that the sales agent is now at a disadvantage.

The new ABC’s of selling are Attunement, Bouyancy, and Clarity. Attunement requires that we consider both the buyer’s language and the buyer’s perspective. Studies prove that reflecting back the buyer’s language is 70% more effective than using product knowledge or sales process experience. Bouyancy is equivalent to resilience. Faced with rejection every day, the ability to rapidly recover from failure is a required skill set. Given that clients can now access the Internet for most answers, we all need to become more effective at accessing, curating, and distilling information. Project managers tend to over emphasize problem solving, although most stakeholders can discover how to answer the problem themselves once they understand the problem. The goal ought to be helping sponsors and stakeholders identify the problems they don’t know they have. The latter approach delivers product value – and creates seller value.

This global congress is about placing a new spin on tested practices. Historically, project objectives need to be S.M.A.R.T. – specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. Kris Reynolds reminded attendees that objectives need to be S.M.AAA.RR.TT. The additional A’s include Actionable and Agreed upon. Realistic is no longer sufficient, the goals also have to be Relevant. And while relevance relates to timeliness, we also need to Think Critically. There may even be a fourth A – Anticipation. Reaction is no longer sufficient. We need to pre-meditate customer needs.

Stakeholder management , the newest Knowledge Area, is rapidly expanding to incorporate alignment with external agendas, and gaining a better understanding of risk and uncertainty as it relates to stakeholder thresholds. Jack Duggal delivered a treatise on change, urging attendees to consider making change rather merely becoming or serving as a change manager. A few of his comparisons follow:

Making ChangeManaging Change
Owning changeLeading change
Long term gazeTargeted end dates
Intrinsic skillsExtrinsic skills
Adoption, experienceExecution
Embrace and acceptLimit and control


People tend to break down project elements to affect better management. But we lose the big picture in the process. I loved Jack’s comparison to looking at ourselves in the pieces of a broken mirror. We fail to see the value of the whole when looking at the many disjointed pieces. Returning to fundamentals requires focusing in the big picture rather than the details, even though we need to start from the bottom up. New opportunities almost demand non-conventional approaches.

Project management continues to be about change, and still the failure rate for change initiatives continues to exceed 70%. Studies suggest that even when the value of change is essential, for instance the recommendations made to a patient after heart surgery, 93% change nothing. Becoming transformational is hard. People are change adverse.  Or perhaps see only the challenge in each small step rather than the value of the goal.  A great project manager has to believe, empathize, gaze into the future, own the issues and the outcomes, and become respectfully deviant. Respectful deviance means accepting full ownership even in the face of strong objections. A tall order; demanding strong, individual strengths to become the example for positive change in the face of adversity.

During my last session of the day, Kevin Cullen guided us to recognize and consider the elephant in the room. Attendees were challenged to consider our flawed perspectives and approaches. That which we resist tends to persist in opposition to us. We need to face the issues by generously listening to the source, and communicating the value of what we hear – from ourselves or others. Elaborating on sources of project failure, a Franklin Covey study shows the largest root causes for project failure:

  • 85% of failures occur because team members do not know the real project goal.
  • 87% do not know what specific actions they should take to achieve the goal.
  • 80% don’t keep score. They don’t know how close or far from the desired goal they are.
  • 72% are not held accountable for their focus and their efforts.

The proposed solution is applying straight and honest talk with ourselves and with everyone else on the project stakeholder list. Acknowledge the elephant, confirm its value (or the value of its owner) to the project, and engage those creating or raising the issue to become a part of the solution.

At the end of the day, both the presentations and the constant flow of rice, beans, ham hocks, smothered greens, and Cajun redfish had sated my hunger.

Before I sign off for the night, dreaming of key lime pie and chocolate bread pudding, one announcement bears repeating:

The 2014 PMI Global Congress will be held in Phoenix, Arizona with the main event occurring between October 26-28. I look forward to seeing all of you in Phoenix next year!

Steven Fullmer
Interface Technical Training Staff Instructor

Steve teaches PMP: Project Management Fundamentals and Professional Certification in Phoenix, Arizona.

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