Chapter Communications Blog

Transformation must be personal

Author: Tahirou Assane Oumarou, PMP

Director of Brightline, PMI

Tahirou Assane Oumarou 100x100

Tahirou Assane Oumarou will be speaking on March 31st at PMI Switzerland's online event "Leading a dynamic people-centered transformation."

The original full article by Ricardo Viana Vargas, Tahirou Assane Oumarou and Emil Anderson was first published in The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) on January 12, 2021.

Transformation is personal. Always. Think about it. Organizational change is brought about one individual at a time. A change of behavior or a change of outlook by one individual in an organization is the cellular basis of achieving transformation.  Individual transformation of employees is (at least) as important as any organizational transformation. Without it, the chances of any transformation succeeding are low. Without it, the chances of an organization continuing to evolve and respond to new changes are almost non-existent.

And yet if we look around at organizations time and time again we find lamentable levels of employee engagement and transformation programs which look good in a deck of slides, but which fail when they face the first hurdle of reality: convincing and motivating people to act.

First, engagement.  The research into employee engagement is uniformly depressing.  Research by Gallup for its State of the Global Workplace report concluded: “Worldwide, the percentage of adults who work full time for an employer and are engaged at work — they are highly involved in and enthusiastic about their work and workplace — is just 15 percent. That low percentage of engaged employees is a barrier to creating high-performing cultures. It implies a stunning amount of wasted potential, given that business units in the top quartile of our global employee engagement database are 17 percent more productive and 21 percent more profitable than those in the bottom quartile.” It is worth repeating the key statistic: a mere 15 percent of people engaged in their work.

With employee engagement at these abysmally low levels, organizations then instigate transformation programs with little consideration of or consultation with employees. It is no secret that people are recognized as the most important source of an organization's competitive advantage. And the same goes for transformation; the main hurdle to overcome in large change programs is the human one. Likewise, the main power to harness in large change programs is the human one.  Regardless of which industry, geography or type of transformation, the solution is the same. Yet, paradoxically, we find that people are frequently the most misunderstood asset and least leveraged capability.  

It is easy to say how important people are, but it is often difficult to translate the recognition of this importance into implementation.  There are subtle skills which need careful development individually and organizationally.  Our own research at the Brightline Initiative suggests that hiring and retaining top-notch talent facilitates a smoother journey for transformation. But, make no mistake, ensuring you have the right people in the right places with the right skills is a big challenge.

Across all the respondents in our research, reported success factors for implementing strategy included “sufficient resources” and “existing talent with the right skillset” as the top two ingredients. While “resources” can refer to many different things—capital, technology, equipment, time—it certainly includes people, teams, and sufficient talent.  Across all respondents, 28 percent noted that their organization focuses more on developing internal talent; 50 percent stated they invest in both hiring and developing existing talent, but place a higher priority on the latter; 16 percent said they focus on both hiring and developing talent, but place more emphasis on recruitment; and just 6 percent noted they are more heavily focused on attracting external talent. 

When examined from the perspective of faster- versus slower-transformation organizations, we see significant differences. Faster-transforming organizations were nearly twice as likely as slower- transforming respondents (34 percent vs. 19 percent) to report a greater focus on developing internal talent.  This highlights the importance of improving internal learning and development programs, while still continuing to invest in recruitment efforts.   Transformation must come from within. 

Once the focus is on the organization’s internal talent, leaders must attempt to get everyone on the same page. The ultimate task is to change key beliefs and behaviors as changing and nurturing the organizational culture is one of the most difficult and complex things a leader can take on. 

How to begin

Transforming from within must begin with an appreciation of how people naturally perceive and experience change. Employees tend to view transformations in one of three ways – as a threat, as a burden, or as an opportunity. Too often leaders fail to recognize the fear of being replaced or minimized due to transformation, or actually stoke those fears through opaque or limited communication. Faced with these challenges we encourage each employee participating in the transformation, at any level, to focus on their personal strengths and unique contributions to the organization, and to connect these to the vision of  the organization after transformation – helping them to understand how they can contribute to the transformation effort, and how the transformation will help their progression and growth. 

This self-evaluation exercise is typically a three-step process for each participant: 

Define your aspiration of where you want to be – create a Personal Vision Statement that defines where you want to be. It is important that this is within the transformation context – and defines what you can contribute to the transformation, and what you want to get out of the transformation process.

Develop an understanding of yourself. There are multiple tools to choose from – organizations have had some success with personality tests such as Myers-Briggs, Enneagrams or GC Index, or tools such as StrengthsFinder. 

Develop a Personal Transformation Plan, and share with your transformation team as a method of making, and getting, a public commitment. 

A key aspect of leadership of transformation is instituting and responding appropriately to these reflections.  At Brightline the primary tool we use for employee transformation is called the SEE Model. SEE stands for Strengths-Evokes-Elates. The three-part SEE model helps people define their calling within the context of transformation. The aim is to find the intersection between: 

Your strengths – the areas of work in the business and the transformation where you are or are willing to become good at 

The elements of the transformation that evoke personal meaning – the things that give you long-term satisfaction 

Actions that make you feel elated – activities and actions that give you immediate joy.

Many organizations find it difficult to involve employees so intimately in forming and leading the transformation. But, never forget that change is a human endeavor and, as such, can make delivering strategy a messy and complicated process. People have different interests, motivators and tolerance – which influence behaviors and create potential misalignment and barriers. Their response may not appear rational at first, because change is often processed as a threat. New strategies always require different ways of working, so leaders must recognize the time and effort required to shift individual interests, mindsets and behaviors. Once that is practiced, employees will in return feel engaged and help leaders make the transformation a success. 

Tahirou Assane Oumarou, MASc, P.Eng, PMP has over 20 years of experience in leadership roles, civil engineering, strategy, transformation, and project management. As Director of Brightline at PMI, Tahirou oversees the activities under the three benefit pillars of thought and practice leadership, networking, and capability building. Through Brightline, Tahirou led the development of the Organizational Transformation Series and championed Brightline flagship event Strategy@Work. 

Prior to PMI, Tahirou worked as the deputy director of infrastructure and project management group in the United Nations Office for Project Services supporting the successful implementation of peacebuilding, humanitarian, and development projects around the world.

Before the United Nations, Tahirou was a senior project manager with the Ministry of Transportation in Ontario where he provided technical capabilities and expertise to ensure excellence in the delivery of complex highway projects with multi-disciplinary teams. 


How to Tailor Your Project according to PMBOK® Guide 7th Edition

Author. Thando Dube, PMP

Thando Dube 100x100

With the advent of the PMBOK® Guide 7th edition last August, we saw a shift away from the traditional Knowledge Areas and Process Groups that most project managers fondly relied on for “Tailoring projects”. This shift has left many project managers in search of solutions on how to tailor projects. Should they continue using the Knowledge Areas and Process Groups or integrate the twelve Principles of Project Management to lead them in tailoring the eight Performance Domains to fit the project context as proposed in the PMBOK® Guide 7th edition?

These are important and genuine questions that need to be addressed to assist project managers to fully exploit the benefits and new perspectives offered in the PMBOK® Guide 7th edition.

PMBOK® Guide 7th edition describes tailoring this way: “Tailoring is the deliberate adaptation of the approach, governance, and processes to make them more suitable for the given environment and the work at hand”.

As noted in the introductory pages of the PMBOK® Guide 7th edition, tailoring projects to the unique characteristics of the project management approach has been underlined in previous editions of the PMBOK® Guide. In the 6th edition, more emphasis was given to how project teams should think about tailoring their approach to project management. This information was placed in the front of each Knowledge Area and provided consideration for all types of project environments. 

In the 7th edition, the wheel has come full circle with an entire section dedicated to Tailoring.  Why this change we may ask?  We have seen from the above examples that the predefined processes and methodologies embodied in the Knowledge Areas and Process Groups are open to tailoring, however the complexities of the changing environments and the VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity) world of today, tailoring is an approach that has taken a pre-eminent role and is characterized by the following principles:

  • Each project is unique
  • Project process success is based on adapting the unique context of the project to determine the most appropriate methods of producing the desired outcomes
  • Tailoring the approach is iterative, and therefore is a continuous process throughout the project

At this juncture, to understand why Tailoring Project has taken more emphasis in the PMBOK® Guide 7th edition, it could be useful to reflect on one innovation that revolutionized the use of mobile phones and paved a path for new generation smartphones: the iPhone.  The iPhone did not replace the mobile phone but brought a plethora of new possibilities and value add to mobile phone use in a response to the VUCA world of digital communication. This is my interpretation of the PMBOK® Guide 7th edition; it is not designed to replace the predictive and process-based approaches but serves as an additional reservoir of “techniques and tools” to equip project managers with additional alternatives in a more agile way of thinking such as adaptive and hybrid approaches to Tailoring projects.

These are personal views as a project manager and do not in any way represent the views of PMI, so then what are the views of subject matter experts?  Are you like me as a project manager facing challenges or dilemmas in tailoring your projects using PMBOK® Guide 7th edition? How has the PMBOK® Guide shift from a processes and tools approach affected tailoring your projects? To share these thoughts and those of other project managers and subject experts, a Romandie Events session on 7 April will host Stephane Derouin, former President of the PMI France Chapter. Stephane is an active Portfolio Hybridization Expert, certified Agile PM® and Agile teacher at ESCP for MSc in International Project Management. He is also the founder and President of HMI, a « Think tank » founded in 2018 dedicated to hybrid approaches and methodologies.

Event Venue: Hotel Montbrillant, Geneva, 7th April, 6.30-9.30pm

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Project Management Networking Zurich


Isatu Barrie, PMP

Isatu Barrie 100x100

Valérie Pierre, PMP

Valérie Pierre

After two years of no face-to-face events due to the pandemic, I believe that we all were longing for some human contact, to socialise with people and enjoy ourselves. 

Our main purpose for creating the Project Management Networking event in Zurich - (PM networking ZH) is to bring together the Project Management community through in-person networking and connect with like-minded people to share and exchange ideas, experience or just to chit-chat about everything!

The first in-person PMI-Switzerland networking event in Zurich – post-Covid restrictions

Our first in-person PM networking in Zurich after Covid rules were lifted in Switzerland, was held on the 17th of February 2022 at lunchtime. We had ten people that attended, and it lasted for one and a half hours. The event was held in Bohemia restaurant, Zurich. There were mixed groups, including seasoned Project Managers and others with diverse career backgrounds.

Our volunteers, Valérie Pierre and Isatu Barrie organised and hosted the event, and were at hand to ensure that it ran smoothly to give our guests the best experience. 

The Venue 

The venue was centrally located in Zurich and easily accessible by transportation. All the attendees were satisfied with the choice and were able to get there without any hassle. The customer service at the venue was also great, the food was delicious, and the staff were helpful and attentive. We had a great time talking and eating together.

The ambience 

The atmosphere was great, everyone was relaxed and enjoyed each other's company, and got to know one another informally. The conversations flow organically between attendees about various subjects including life in Zurich and elsewhere, food, activities they enjoyed in and outside work etc. Photographs were taken and shared. The time flew by so fast, as everyone was enjoying themselves and was delighted to be there.

After the event

A “Thank you” email was sent to our participants along with a survey form. A significant proportion of the participants gave us positive feedback; among the responses was that they found the networking event useful, are likely to attend again, and will highly recommend it to their peers. 

We would like to thank all the participants who took part in our survey, for giving us positive feedback, we greatly appreciate you for taking the time to complete the questionnaire. This motivates us to continue organising this networking event.

You can register for the event by visiting the PMI-CH website/event calendar page:

The upcoming event in Zurich

This is something that we are planning to organise every third Thursday of the month. Our next event is on March 17th, 2022. It will also be held at the Bohemia restaurant in Zurich. It has now been published on the PMI-CH website/event calendar:

Networking does not only take place in Zurich

We also have similar networking events for those that live in Geneva, Lausanne and Basel. 

Please check out our event web-page to find your nearest networking event from PMI Switzerland:

We will like you to join us for our next networking event. We are excited and looking forward to seeing you and getting to know each other.


Congrès du Management de Projet – 21.04.2022 HEC

Author: Société suisse de Management de Projet


Congrès du Management de Projet – 21 avril 2022 HEC Lausanne (UNIL)


Project Management, a profession in transformation

Organized by the "Société suisse de Management de Projet" (SMP) in collaboration with HEC Lausanne, the Project Management Congress is the preferred event in French-speaking Switzerland to enrich one's knowledge of project management and meet professionals in the field. Only one edition will be held in 2022. It includes two plenary conferences and 9 parallel training sessions. It is the ideal day to learn and network!
Early Bird rate until March 25, 2022, register today!

This event is almost exclusively in French (with 1 session that is FR/ENG/DE).

Program and registration:


Event about narratives in innovation

Author: Florian Puschmann, PMP

Florian PuschmannJPG

Innovation Narratives

The Basel PMI chapter met in an interactive session on innovation facilitated by Giovanni Nisato, from Innovation Horizons GmbH.

The first question the "protagonists" of the session tackled was the definition of innovation. Thanks to interactive word clouds where everyone could provide input, it was quickly apparent that the concept is fuzzy. Innovation has different meanings to different people in different contexts.

However, as Giovanni put forward, no matter how exactly we define it, there tend to be two types of innovation, namely:

  1. Incremental – minor improvements to an existing solution
  2. Transformative – an entirely different approach.

What the session was about though, is how we as humans make sense of the innovation development and process. This question is essential whether we look at the past – retrospective – or into the future – prospective.

Regardless, leaning on the Cynefin framework developed by Dave Snowden, innovation tends to happen in complex or even chaotic environments and therefore is messy by nature.

Humans deal with such complexity by reducing it to stories or so-called narratives. Narratives are created for development or innovation, including in retrospect. This typically works by cherry-picking the events to make sense of "the innovator's hero journey" and to present a concise innovation narrative.

The hero journey archetype has been found in different cultures worldwide for as long as human stories are documented and is often the basis of narratives in Greek mythology, literature, or movies. It consists of a call to adventure that leads to the Hero's triumphant return after going through a supreme ordeal in the middle.

Innovation narratives are also critical in prospective new and uncertain undertakings. Forward-looking Innovation narratives, such as start-up pitches, visions, etc., have the power to mobilize funding, resources, and people to make it happen.

Hero journey


We enjoyed immersing ourselves in two groups on such a journey in an exercise. The exercise consisted of an exploration of an imaginary world. Along the path, we faced difficult decisions that prompted vivid discussions. Especially since the choices met had to be taken with consensus. This produced anxiety at times, given the high stakes of our mission combined with the uncertainty and limited information for each decision. At the end of the exercise, we reflected on the journey's narrative with both groups, which offered insightful perspective and discussion.

My main take-home point of the exercise was the importance of narratives in communication, whether in an email, a meeting or a report. Besides the technicalities of innovating, a crucial part of the process is how innovation narratives or visions are communicated and framed to obtain stakeholder buy-in as well as funding and hands-on support.

Once again, project managers take a crucial role in creating narratives to drive innovation by clear and deliberate communication that drives energized positive change.

After immersing ourselves in innovation narratives, the "Hero's" of the Basel chapter journey got to enjoy the nice apéro to connect with members of the chapter on this and related narratives.