The day kicked off with the Chairman of PMI, Randy Black, recapping the 2019 PMO of the Year nominees – Fannie Mae, McDonalds and Saudi Aramco. Sunil Prashara was brought to the stage to make the announcement – it was Fannie Mae!!
Then Mike DePrisco, VP of Global Solutions at PMI, was brought to the stage to welcome Hal Gregersen, Senior Lecturer in Leadership and Innovation at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to talk about how questions are the answer, and how we can discover the power of inquiry in the innovation process.
He shared how he loves that the word question has the word quest within it because it is a quest to find the right question. The right questions can be powerful catalysts to create positive change. How do effective questioners do it?
Some techniques include:
- Looking for what’s surprisingly, what’s unexpected?
- They compose and wait, much like how a photographer composes a shot and then waits for the picture.
- They compose conditions where questions can flourish.
- They actively seek passive data.
- They want to learn what they don’t know before it’s to late to do something about it.
- Fostering a lot of trust so that questions allow for transparent answers.
- The power of the pause – people will start telling you things if you just stop talking.
Then asked the audience to think about what are you doing now to figure out what you don’t know before it’s too late?
If you’re in a state of “I’m right, I know, I’m comfortable,” then there’s likely a culture of fear and questions will go out the window.
When Marc Benioff was interviewed for the book and asked: “How do you ask such great questions?” He said, “I listen.”
So how does one ask questions without being like an annoying child? A couple of techniques include 1) not asking questions for questions sake and 2) asking questions that lead to action – get up, get out and get moving in the world.
To build habits of catalytic questions:
- Default to ask, not tell
- Audit question patterns – for 24 hours, audit the questions that you ask and the questions that you receive. Are the questions that you’re receiving making you wrong, not right, uncomfortable? Are the questions that you’re asking causing others to pause to think about the answer? Are they questions that provoke reflection? Why are we even doing this? What would have to be true for this to be fantastically true?
- Brainstorm better questions – he had us do an exercise with our neighbor where we took 2 minutes to describe a challenge, and then 4 minutes to come up with questions, at least 15 – no answering, no preambling because that just “walks the person into the corner you’re stuck in.” The point of the exercise is progress, not a solution.
- Be Truth Seekers – compose the conditions so for all to ask fearless questions. He shared examples of how Amazon works backwards from writing a press release and how Disney/Pixar will have a Brain Trust, where for three hours at a time, a writer/director has feedback and questions on their story.
He also shared Salesforce’s V2MOM model, that asks:
- Vision – what is it that we really want?
- Values – What’s really important to us?
- Methods – How are we going to get to it?
- Obstacles – What is preventing us from having it?
- Measures – How will we know that we have it?
Questions to ask ourselves as leaders:
- Am I creating a safe space?
- Do we have a process to ask tough questions? One where we talk about it even if it’s a tough conversation. Knowing that there is a time and place where tough questions are welcome, opens people up to ask them.
Then it was time for lunch, and I had a great time catching up with a friend of mine who is also at the conference.
Where are we going? The future of Project Management and PMOs – Christine Aykac
In this session, Christine shared perspectives from the Future of Jobs report and gave a brief overview of the previous three industrial revolutions. Pointed out that the 4th Revolution that we’re in is not linear like the previous ones.
She then shared how the profession of project management has evolved from a schedule and analysis function to one that is requiring that we adapt to a complex and changing environment.
The session turned into a group discussion about the Power Skills/Soft Skills project managers need to be successful in the profession, and while we didn’t get to all the content, there were a lot of questions and helpful anecdotes.
Can’t We All Get Along? Getting Past the Project Management Methodology Wars – Laura Barnard, PMP and Jesse Fewell
This was such a fun session! It involved the two presenters, Laura and Jesse, role-playing various “war” scenarios and then there was strong audience participation to figure out how to help ease the tensions. Some of the highlights:
- Agile is about context, and context is king
- Solutions need to be fit for purpose/fit for use
- It’s more important to focus on “what are you trying to achieve.”
- Agile is about balance – for example, we’re all likely fans of the “payroll process.”
- Agile is empathy – assuming positive intent and that everyone wants to do a good job.
- Projects are about business – why are we doing something, what is the problem, what is the solution – any bickering about the “process” is seen as childish.
- Outcomes are more important than outputs; measure progress to impact.
- Every criticism is a symptom and a possible change management situation – usually, there’s a missing “why”
- Take your busy badge off
- It’s about relationships, results and reality
- Be willing to bend and pick your battles; down to earth and pragmatic.
PMO on a National Level – Ahmed Arab, PMP
When I saw on the schedule that there was an opportunity to learn how a country leverages project management approaches and that there was an opportunity to learn more about Saudi Arabia, I was in! Surprisingly, there were only about twenty of us in attendance, but it led to a lot of good Q&A at the end.
Ahmed‘s presentation detailed the frameworks, systems and processes used in the Vision2030 initiative that the King started a few years ago. I was blown away at how complex, yet surprisingly simple, the framework was. All work was mapped back to a higher-order objective and goal, and there were KPIs throughout.
I really hope this session was recorded because I could not do it justice by explaining it; however, I know I will be referencing the slides because the framework translates into any large scale operation. Also, really appreciated the efficient presentation style that shared a lot of information in a clear way, and we even ended early!
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