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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. 

Resources

Challenges in building up a campaign for a crowdfunding platform during COVID times

Author: Ethel Mendocilla Sato, PMP

Ethel Mendocilla Sato

Thanks to research on Human Microbiome, we know that our “microbial self” has a profound influence in human physiology, immunity, and metabolism. For example, extensive study of the gut microbiome has shown its most significant importance on our short- and long-term overall health. However, other parts of the human body are largely unexplored, including the vagina. Although the vagina is the second place most populated by microorganisms, which have a critical role in women’s health, it is under-researched. Surprisingly, the vaginal microbiome field only represents 3% of scientific publications related to the Human Microbiome field. This knowledge gap prevents the development of effective and practical clinical therapeutics that could protect and improve women’s health and well-being.

 

However, since the start of the pandemic, it has become harder to get funding for continuing research in topics unrelated to SARS-CoV-2 virus. Furthermore, the COVID pandemic has revealed how challenging it is to communicate science effectively and timely to the public. What we have learned and still learning from this pandemic is that now it is more important than ever to pay attention to our other self – that is, the trillions of microorganisms that populate our bodies, our microbiome. For this reason, our*goal is to implement the Marie project in Switzerland, a citizen science study with scientific and societal objectives. First, we want to raise public awareness about the importance of vaginal microbes in women’s sexual and reproductive health. Second, we want to engage citizens and work together to increase our understanding of the vaginal microbiome and its role in health and disease. 

 

In addition, we believe that the promotion of vaginal health knowledge within the women’s community in Switzerland is a crucial strategy for entrusting women to participate in self-care, and ultimately, enjoy healthier and happier lives. With that in mind, we decided to launch the Marie project in the well-known crowdfunding platform, Wemakeit. For this scientific campaign, we organised the project into four phases: 1) Planning, 2) Pre-launch, 3) Launch, 4) Follow-up of the campaign in Wemakeit. 

 

When we started the adventure of moving forward with the campaign for Wemakeit, we had never imagined facing various challenges that we had to overcome. We provide below a few of them:

 

1. Obtaining the support from key collaborators in the project

Making an alliance with Prof. Sarah Lebeer and her team based at the University of Antwerp (Belgium) was the most important milestone we could have achieved. Prof. Lebeer led the citizen science project called Isala and had the objective to study the vaginal microbiome of almost 6'000 participants from Flanders. Even though we managed to get their support, we had to find a host lab and local collaborators to support us with expertise in Public Health, Citizen Science, cutting-edge technology for the microbial DNA analysis, etc. We were fortunate enough to raise the interest of PD Dr. Sonja Merten, project leader and head of the Society, Gender and Health Unit at the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (our host lab) in Basel, the Citizen Science Center and the Functional Genomics Center, both located in Zürich.

 

2. Understanding our stakeholder’s engagement needs

In July 2021, due to nationwide COVID measures from the Swiss government such as: quarantine rules and work-from-home order, most of our interactions with eventual collaborators happened via virtual meetings. What we learned is that from the very beginning, we ushould take time to understand each stakeholders’ motivation, concerns, preferred communication, and engagement frequency to determine the best way to work together. If the stakeholder analysis is done later in time, then it will be much more difficult to build their trust and future engagement.

 

3. Maintaining virtual team members engagement

A daunting challenge since the start of the project until now was to coordinate recurrent video meetings with our stakeholders, build effective and clear agenda with objectives and discussion points. Since most of our stakeholders are geographically distributed, we could not meet face-to-face and therefore, had to rely on various forms of technology and videoconferencing tools for communication and information sharing needs. By maintaining effective, meaningful and timely communication, we reinforced mutual commitments and achievements.

 

4. Searching for ambassadors and sponsors

It was surprising and discouraging to not receive any replies from the thirty small, medium and large companies we contacted. This showed once more how disregarded is the topic of vaginal health. On the contrary, we were lucky enough to find enthusiastic and supportive ambassadors, such as: Petra Volpe (movie director), Dagmar Bocakova (visual artist) and Fanny Georgi (science communicator).

 

The scientific campaign was launched on February 23rd and will run until April 8th, 2022. As of today, we have managed to raise 7% of our first financial goal of 70'000 CHF. 

 

If you support our mission of engaging citizens in vaginal microbiome research to advance discovery in this field and break taboos and misconceptions about vaginal health in Switzerland, please, help us with your donations on the following website: https://wemakeit.com/projects/unveil-vagina-s-microworld

 

Also, we would be very grateful if you could share the project link with your family, friends and networks.

 

- And…let’s work together today to make the future of women’s health look brighter! -

 

*Initiators of the scientific campaign called “Unveil vagina’s microworld”: PD Dr. Sonja Merten, Monica Ticlla Ccenhua and Ethel Mendocilla Sato.

Narratives related to innovation

Author: Gessami Sanchez Olle, PMP

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Before closing 2021, we had the opportunity to learn about innovation in the second face-to-face (F2F) event in Basel, after the start of the pandemic. 

Thanks to Giovanni Nisato, one of our Basel Events team members, we could explore the role that narratives can play in innovation processes. We create some stories to make innovation happen and some also to make sense of it, after it occurs.
 
He introduced us to the innovation processes and then we were split into two groups. Each group had access to a game called "the Mills" with a tablet.
We had to navigate through the game (leaving from a small town with limited resources) and in the end we had to explain (create a narrative) how we were going to improve (innovate) our home town after making some decisions during the game.
 
He used this metaphor of innovation to put in practice the first theoretical part of the workshop.
 
Despite the different backgrounds of the participants, we all learned about innovation and enjoyed working together with a common goal.
 
Here is a glimpse of the event, on video:
 event
 
Want to know more about the event?
 
 

PM Master Class: Become your own chairperson and set boundaries

Author: Daniel von Niederhaeusern, PMP

 Daniel von Niederhaeusern 100x100

Date: Saturday, 26 March 2022
Location: Zurich
Trainer: Monika Keller, PMP

Dear members and friends of the PMI Switzerland Chapter,

Even though we don’t know how the covid situation will be in March, we again invite you for a 1-day classroom training. We really hope that we are allowed to execute the training after we had to cancel this event last autumn. 

Our trainer Monika Keller is an experienced coach and trainer, Lecturer, Federal Professional Adult Educator, PMP, and collected a lot of experience as a project manager for international companies for many years.
Monika runs her coaching and training company 3C Keller which focuses on leadership and topics related to work-life balance and the reconciliation of work and family life.
You will find more information about Monika and her blogs in her profile on LinkedIn.

The learning goals are:

  • Reflect and improve your communication- and time management skills
  • Strengthen your self-confidence and take responsibility for yourself
  • Influence your own situation in a positive way
  • Practice your presentation and argumentation skills

Training content:

  • How to improve your self-management skills to achieve a better work-life balance
  • Learn a method to better reflect yourself, communicate your needs, and set boundaries
  • Learn from your peers by discussing real PM challenges in small groups

What is your benefit /added value?

  • You will learn how to deal with stress to prevent a burnout
  • Learn, how to improve and influence your time management  
  • Reflect your priorities for a healthy work-life balance
  • Discuss your experience with your PM peers
  • Finally earn 7 PDU’s

If you are interested to learn: How to become your own chairperson and set boundaries - don’t hesitate and register yourself to secure your seat. You will find more information and registration form on PMI Webpage.

Hope to see you there.

“Project in an extraordinary situation” - In-person event retrospective

Author: Valérie Pierre, PMP

Valérie Pierre

When was the last time you attended a professional event in which you enjoyed every single bit of it? On 25 November 2021, Rodrigue R.R. Brugger, Head Global HR Case Management and Core Member Task Force Corona SIX, alias “Senior project manager” of the Taskforce, captivated the full attention of his audience in Six’s convention center while telling his report from 1 ½ years of Six’s Taskforce Corona. 

PMI Taskforce Corona Six

First, let’s review what was the starting position: in January 2020, an infectious disease outbreak evolved into an epidemic in China and the World Health Organization (WHO) proposed the name COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) for it. It is interesting to note that Six, as Switzerland’s systemically important financial market infrastructure responsible for the uninterrupted access to mission-critical financial systems, had the first consultation of SIX Pandemic Advisory Group as early as the end of January 2020, to discuss the current situation and immediate measures for COVID-19. 

The taskforce which was constituted faced several challenges. None of the members knew what was approaching and what tasks they’d have to do. However they all expected the volume would be demanding and were committed to the mission. There was no end in sight for the planning and the project work.

What’s probably one of the most important pieces of the strategy was the organizational chart of the taskforce, who’s responsible for what, who’s the back-up person, etc. Here are a few elements of that diagram that stuck in my mind. An intelligence/situation cell was created to extract from the news what was relevant to Six. A contingency planning group was in charge of thinking about the future. The role of logistics was of course so essential, creating new building security measures, delivering masks, etc. Information and communication was also key, just to name a few of the teams. And none of this would have worked without the support of the CFO. 

The method and tools were clarified beforehand, so that in case of a crisis quick action can be taken as well as a lot can be worked off. REDCON levels and risk heat maps were used. REDCON is short for Readiness Condition and is used to refer to a unit's readiness to respond to and engage in combat operations. The level was continuously assessed and re-evaluated as the situation changed. The level 5 was reached during 2 periods, and as of November 25th 2021, level is back at REDCON 3.

2

 

While this approach corresponds to a waterfall type of project management, Agile methods were also used, and above all “Agile thinking”. In the times of a pandemic, you can’t plan, nor be really prepared. Tthe key competence is the ability to react to changes at any time and to adapt your approach in a flexible manner.

It was very interesting to review the “Golden leadership rules in challenging times”. Most of those are probably applied in other companies, but possibly without being formalized. If there’s one that naturally stands out and that probably resonates for each one of us:  “Accept the new situation. You cannot change it.” To read more on those, check out Rodrigue’s slides.

3

Overall, we learned from this insightful retrospective overview not only how the Taskforce operated, but also how much almost two years of intense collaboration strengthened the bonds between the Taskforce members. 

The power of human connection is what you could feel when joining the #Apero after the presentation. On this #Thanksgiving2021 day, stories were buzzing around. My thanks go to the PMI organizing team, Prasanth Nair, Ethel Mendocilla Sato, Christopher Ziemba, Six team, Rodrigue R.R. Brugger, Martin Härri and everyone else who was there or helped make this in-person event happen.