I’m really excited for the next four days to learn and hear what other PMO leaders are doing and for the awesome networking opportunities this event brings. Eight hundred of us have gathered at the Gaylord Rockies Resort & Convention Center in Denver, CO from November 3 through 6 for the Project Management Institute’s PMO Symposium.

Flew in today from Chicago, fortunately the flight was on time (even a little early) and arrived at the hotel to grab lunch before registration and the session for those who are attending the event for the first time.

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After checking into registration, checking in with the speaker lounge to ensure that the correct presentation was there, I was off to the orientation for new attendees.

Orientation for First-Time Attendees – Sarina Arcari, PMP

Really appreciated the run-down that Sarina Arcari gave for those of us who are here for the first time (link to session). There are about 800 people attending the conference from a variety of industries and PMO roles. She shared how while there is a lot of learning in the sessions, there is a lot of value in the networking that can happen at the various breaks and receptions.

She shared the quote at the beginning that “at any moment, the decision that you make can change the course of your life forever” and said that she’d come back to that story at the end.

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She provided an overview of the attendee data:

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Then it was time to discuss the day-by-day schedule and the various formats, sprinkling in some tips like that the presentations are already in the app and to get to sessions early.

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Then, she returned to the story of how when she attended the conference years ago, she observed a PMO accepting the PMO of the Year award, and when she went back to her team at the time, she asked “why can’t that be us?” Years later, they won the award!

It was a really good level-setting on what to expect from the conference, and I really appreciated the insight into who is attending.

After that session, there was a little bit of a break, so I explored the resource center and learned about the Brightline Initiative, which I was surprised I hadn’t heard about before given my work with PMI and the Agile Alliance, but it was great to get a rundown on the objectives of bringing the benefits of program management and agile to the c-suite.

Leading the Agile Evolution – Let’s Play Ball – Alison Bakken, PMP

Sssh…don’t tell, I had so much fun in this session! Alison Bakken covered the top components and pitfalls to an Agile evolution and really helped the content hit home by having tables team up and literally play ball.

She level-set that organizations today are being faced with continuous change and increasing complexity, which creates a strong demand for agility and adaptability.

The primary aspects of agile and adaptive organizations are those that are:

  • open to learning and taking risks
  • able to thrive in and adapt to change
  • highly collaborative; team members constantly collaborate with each other
  • accountable for the whole; teams don’t try to bake a cake one slice at a time

The four key components she shared are:

  1. Being Mindful of the Roots and Leaves – the roots of a system are the behavior and cultural aspects of an organization, and the leaves are the processes and frameworks. We need to continuously assess if the process is driving the right behaviors. Some times we become so focused on the practice, we forget about the mindset.
  2. Empowering Teams – we need to be servant leaders and give control to others to create more leaders. When recruiting for project managers, she shared that one thing she looks for is can they help build team competencies. They’ve also implemented a Dojo, which is a learning program where teams bring their project into the program and focus is placed on learning for six weeks. Learning could be focused on anything from a technical aspect to team dynamics.
  3. Reshaping the Project Ecosystem – adjusting how projects are started and organized so that agile governance allows “good things to happen,” with appropriate guide rails.
  4. Building a Community of Learning – she shared how Thomspon Reuters has created a learning platform to share out and evangelize agile concepts throughout the company.

I really like the map/grid that she shared on Building a Community of Learning and Practice and that there is a Pit of Success!

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Then it was time for the fun to begin with the game of teams figuring out how to get ping-pong balls into a bag. I’ll save the details of the game, and share the intent. The intent was to help teach agility within teams and continuous improvement. The team I was on continued to get better with each iteration (there were a total of three). Someone said it best, “for a table full of Type A people, we were all collaborative and no one took control.” It was with that collaboration and listening to everyone’s ideas, that we were able to improve with each iteration. After each iteration, we discussed how we could improve, and we tried out new things. We got better and it was fun!

After a team retrospective, then it was time to recap and go over Action Steps for when we’re back in the office:

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After the session, it was time to head to the reception where I enjoyed meeting new folks and talking about project management! Looking forward to tomorrow!


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