Authors: Valerie Pierre, PMP & Adi Muslic, PMP
Interview on Challenges and Perspectives
Adi Muslic and Valerie Pierre, project managers and organization leads of the 11th PMI Switzerland Conference, exchanged their views on the challenges and perspectives for project managers in 2022.
● Valerie: Adi, this year’s conference theme is “Innovation in Project Management - Shaping the Future of Projects”, could you explain how it was chosen and why?
The theme is the result of a collective thinking by the conference core team and the Board of Directors. The first part of the theme “Innovation in Project Management”, we inherited it from the last two editions and kept it unchanged to symbolize that we are constantly looking at new innovations in our profession.
The second part “Shaping the Future of Projects” was inspired by new PMI initiatives (Citizen Developer, Wicked Problem Solving, Organizational Transformation) and the Global Megatrends 2022 report. In the last three years we have experienced two big disruptive changes that have changed the way of working for many organizations. This is especially visible in Europe where significant geo-political and economical changes are taking place.
There is also a shift in the ways we run the projects and programs across entire organizations where agile in different forms is becoming a new standard.
As project management professionals and changemakers, we are playing a key role in shaping the future of projects. The conference is a great opportunity to skill up and exchange experiences.
● Adi: Valerie, since we are talking about shaping the future of projects, how do you see the role of project managers evolving?
As I see it, project managers are essential to the future of work in general.
First, one thing I’ve noticed is that post-pandemic, many organizations are retaining flexible home working policies. Which means that project teams which were fully co-located before need to adapt and adjust the way they collaborate. Project managers need to be up to speed with these new working dynamics. In the midst of even more uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity, they need those “power skills” to lead their team to achieve the project objectives — collaborative leadership, innovation mindset, system-thinking, empathy, to name a few. And I think that project managers are instrumental in creating a psychologically safe environment for their team and I can’t wait to hear Deepak Bansal and Dr. Stefan Bodenstab’s breakout session which will cover that topic.
Then, while it’s not new that project managers need to understand the business case and their sphere of influence, they must take on a more strategic role. As digital technology (don’t miss Marc Lahmann’s opening keynote) frees them from routine tasks, they will be able to drive innovation and organizational change, and more importantly unleash their team’s creativity.
● Adi: What are some of the challenges you’re seeing for project managers?
The last decade has been amazing in terms of technological changes. Think for a second, when did you start buying your ticket on the SBB mobile app or registering for an ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) at the airport from your mobile phones? Long-established businesses have had to adapt and fast. They need to be more customer centric, revamp monolithic backend systems (e.g. fintech), rethink internal processes, regain agility, modularize etc. Companies are currently at different levels of organization transformation maturity, which means that there is no “one size fits all” approach to project management, which in turn needs a lot of tailoring. I would definitely encourage you to attend the keynote and breakout sessions about organizational transformation, as well as Frank Tassone’s talk on Disciplined Agile (DA) to learn more about the Hybrid Process Toolkit and the benefits for your teams and organizations.
Then I personally think that to face today’s challenges in terms of uncertainty and all, one of the key skills for project managers in the field is creative problem solving. We talked earlier about the importance of collaboration. Well, on top of that, project managers need to become facilitators who solve problems collaboratively. You’ve probably used or heard of Miro or Mural, those digital white-boarding tools that help teams collaborate online to analyze a problem and generate creative solutions.
● Valerie: What are some of the challenges you’re seeing while organizing this conference?
This year we had a late start. Fortunately, the chapter’s Gold sponsor, PwC Switzerland, was there to support us and eventually we could confirm the venue quite quickly. However, the next step, confirming the event date, proved to be quite challenging. We could confirm the final date only in early May. Another challenge was finding volunteers ready to commit their time to such a large project as a conference organization. Volunteers typically can dedicate 1 or 2 hours a month. As we needed to progress very quickly, we needed volunteers who could dedicate at least 1 or 2 hours a week. We started with the core team in May. In June, we had Speakers, Participants and Marketing teams formed, in total 25 volunteers. Having a previous conference project manager in the team and good knowledge of the chapter organization and volunteers in different roles was critical to plan and start project execution in such a short time. The website was live at the beginning of July and we opened registrations.
Promoting and planning an event during summer holidays is also a challenge, though we managed it successfully and did not slow down.
The next challenge is the conference day. All teams will merge into one big onsite team to cover various activities, starting with welcome and check in, through sessions facilitation and technical support, to the event closure. We are working on all small details and I am confident all participants will enjoy this special day.
● Adi: Why would you recommend your colleagues to come to the conference?
Attending an in-person conference is a unique experience. You get to be in one place with like-minded professionals. This allows you to reconnect with your peers, meet new people, exchange ideas and share your own knowledge. After a conference, I personally feel energized and motivated to apply practices and methodologies I learned about.
This year, our keynote speakers are coming from PwC AdEx Partners and Microsoft. They will talk about the use of AI in project management, Organizational Transformation and low-code/no-code business applications. We introduced longer break-out sessions that are in fact 90 minutes long workshops. I believe this will allow participants to learn more about a specific topic and get practical experience. In addition, there will be “Ask me anything” sessions to allow information sharing around agile, citizen developer, organizational transformation or more general PMI topics. This means plenty of opportunities to learn and be informed.
The day will start with a welcome breakfast, followed by a 30 minutes coffee break, lunch-network-learn break, another coffee break and close with the networking dinner. Over 6 hours to network and exchange experiences with other participants!
On top of all the networking and learning, we’ve prepared several exciting surprises. Let me just say that we will be drawing vouchers for following trainings:
- 5 vouchers for PMI’s Wicked Problem Solving (WPS) (value $649)
- 5 vouchers for IIL’s Innovation Project Management (value $650)
- 5 vouchers for PMI’s Organizational Transformation Foundation
- 5 vouchers for PMI’s Citizen Developer (CD)
Even if you are not lucky enough to win one of these exciting prizes, all participants will receive 20% discount vouchers for WPS and CD training.
You can only agree with me that there are many reasons to recommend attending the conference.
● Valerie: What perspectives are you looking at in the short term for the PMI Switzerland chapter and the next conference?
PMI Switzerland is one of the most active chapters in Europe. Although much smaller than chapters in neighboring countries, in terms of member numbers, we are equally strong in terms of volunteers and activities we offer to our members. We are constantly adapting our strategy to member needs. We keep organizing virtual events along with in-person events. The Agile Community of Practice (CoP) will be soon joined by an Organizational Transformation CoP. These focused communities allow interested members to discuss and exchange on specific topics. We are also looking to extend our collaboration with universities, other organizations and corporations.
I am very happy to share that we have already identified the venue for the next year's conference. We have a great team and can therefore start planning the next edition right after we close the conference project at the end of September.
Please come and join us at the 11th PMI Switzerland Conference on September 21st!
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