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PM Essence
Reflections from PMPC 2013

- Madhavan S Rao, PMP, Assurance Consulting
It was a great experience, participating in the latest Edition of the annual conference organized by PMI Bangalore Chapter – PMPC 2013, held during Sept 12-14, 2013. This is the 8th consecutive year that this conference has been delivered to packed audience. The sessions went with clockwork precision indicative of the conference itself being planned and executed as a Project. The capacity of 700 was fully subscribed well ahead, and registrations closed 12 days in advance of the conference dates. As shared during the co-conference, 50-60% of the audience were repeat audience, who have been consistently participating in this Conference over the years.

The theme of the conference was Architecting Project Management - for Business Transformation. One of the concurrent theme many speakers brought out was, we are living in a world of VUCA, Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity or VUCA and this is plaguing the health of many projects. The continuous fluctuations of the Rupee against the dollar is also through all project predictions to the wind.

Linear Project Management came to be seen as good, but with severe limitations. To achieve Business Transformation, achieve more with less, overcome limitations of the external ecosystem – speaker after speaker bought out the need for Innovation. Several case studies, project success stories, technical papers and Poster sessions all bought out the message of – the need to be innovative. It is worthwhile for us to reflect on the quote - “The way we approach a problem, can change the very nature of the problem itself.” 

Some of my take-aways include:
1) Engage with the 'Business Problem', that generated the Project
2) Establish traceability of the project impact to Organization strategy
3) Am I thinking? Am I suggesting New Ideas? Just following the PM Processes and SLA based Project Execution is just 'hygiene'. This may not be sufficient to offset the uncertainty and volatility that can throw the Project predictions off-guard.

4) ‘Business as usual' mindset may ultimately be a regressive state. We must demonstrate to ourselves : Non-stop Innovation. Not all our ideas may get practically implemented. However we must demonstrate the churning of new ideas by us as Project Managers as well as encourage our Project Team to do likewise. A few examples that was bought out included as well as encourage our project team to do likewise.

a. The Case of 'Dainik Bhaskar' Newspaper that achieved Market leadership on day 1 of launching a new Newspaper.

b. The Case of Aaravind Eyecare Hospital – that improvised processes to enhance Surgeon's capability to perform 40 surgeries a day – by streamlining the upstream and downstream processes as an assembly line, while keeping the Quality excellence intact.

c. The Case of Kirloskar Pumps, where they 'made the Problem redundant' by devising an large 'Water Gate Valve' that did not need the conventional Gate mechanism. Instead it used an innovative 'Air Lock' mechanism to achieve the function. This enabled them to reduce Project Cost by about 1/4th or so.

d. The Case of an Army General who could 'think and conceive' of a bridge during 'wartime' being under water, instead of constructing a conventional over-water bridge and attracting survellance detection system of the enemy This enabled the success of the 'Bridge Project' to achieve the Project objectives in this particular ecosystem.

e. The Case of Iceland which achieved annualized 14% CAGR for several years consecutively and develop its economy, while many other countries were in throes of a downtrend.

f. Examining from the perspective of – “What is Good in the Bad”. The case of Post-it product (or rather a byproduct of a failed experiment).

g. Many Innovators think from a 10x perspective – that result in a 'Leapfrog' outcomes. The pattern we can see is : “ Do not solve problems – Make them irrelevant'

h. One session bought out the case for – employing Intrapreneurs in Organizations, and providing them  with an enabling Mentor.  This would allow Organizations to harness the entrepreneurship
mindset that these individuals bring to the table. We need a few such people to complement the large contingent of 'Process driven' professionals that most Organizations have.

i. While pursuing an Entrepreneurial venture – beware of the 'Crossing the Chasm' phase. It may be worthwhile to be aware of the 'timing' and 'hang in there' to make a 'comeback', when the ecosystem is more conducive.

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5) Successful Transformation involves a well thought through Change Management as an integral part of the Project Lifecycle activities. It also involves balancing seemingly conflicting goals of Project
stakeholders.

6) Get used to the constant need to experience Change as well as the foresight to introduce Change, when it does not conventionally seem necessary.

7) Constant Learning – Am I thinking deeper? Am I engaging the Minds of my Customers or Stakeholders? One of the sessions brought out the case of a Transportation Project sponsor looking at the scenario Not as 'People to be transported from A to B' but 'Engaging the Minds of Individuals being transported'. Can we have a passenger in seat no 7 pose a problem in the ipad screen on the back of the seat in front? Can the passenger in seat 35 respond with an answer that connects the 2 minds. While the practicability of solution can be debated, this underscores the need for the PM of 'thinking deeper' and proposing solutions. ' Can a photo of a Cheque, be taken on a mobile and sent electronically and processed, with security features inbuilt?

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To conclude, here are some takeaways for me:

“What More is Possible?” is a thinking Mindset that needs to be cultivated by Project Managers. This will enable a culture of going beyond 'Linear Project Management' to achieve Business Transformation on a Leapfrog scale.

The lessons learnt from the conference does full justice to the theme of the conference – Architecting Project Management – for business transformation'. Kudos to the learning spirit of all participants of PMPC 2013.

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