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The Case for the Project Status Report

Claudia Rassalski 100x100 NEW

The status report is crucial to the successful governance of any project. Done right, the status report is written with the purpose of engaging the audience. It not only describes progress, it supports informed decision making and urges action. More importantly, this is an opportunity to control the narrative around the project, ensuring the status report is the “go-to”/central source for key project information.

At a basic level, it seems easy to jot down the facts, variances, analysis and next steps. Then again, in the midst of busy meticulous day to day project work, it can be difficult to pause, take a broader view, and articulate a meaningful status. Sometimes it helps to remember why the status report is important. Read on for a few of my chosen reasons.

Often, it is the only record summarizing the ongoing work of the team

When a project begins, stakeholders and team members are introduced, roles and responsibilities are assigned, the purpose, objectives and approach to work are agreed upon. Work begins, setbacks are overcome and challenges are creatively worked through as progress is made. As the weeks draw on, it becomes more difficult to recount the precise detail of the effort to achieve the hard-won results delivered at each milestone. So why not record the challenges encountered and celebrate the wins of the team throughout the project?​​ As a bonus, by project closure there will exist a neat historical record of the life of the project with invaluable information to contribute to “Lessons Learned” and trend analysis.

Serves to keep stakeholders focused on the “end game”

Project distractions abound. It is the job of the project manager to sift through the “noise” and identify the facts that do - or might - impact project objectives, and clearly communicate these to the team and stakeholders. The status report brings attention to tangible progress made, as well as risks and issues that could derail progress. Remembering the agreed purpose of the project is central to giving due consideration to the probability and impact of perceived risks, along with assessing the severity of issues.

Proactive and pragmatic communication with stakeholders

Stakeholder engagement is imperative to project success. The status report is just one tool that can be used consistently to communicate with stakeholders. However, the information must be relevant, complete and current. If not, the report is meaningless. To that end, align the purpose of the status report with the audience and their respective roles and responsibilities to the project. There should be no ambiguity about progress, issues, risks, their impact, and respective mitigation strategies in place. Further, each respective action required must have accountability assigned. It should be clear which actions and/or decisions are required, why, by whom and by when. Further, it may be tempting to omit seemingly minor concerns from the status report. Yet, how many times have you worked on a project when a seemingly small concern, identified quite early on, unexpectedly manifests itself at the most inconvenient time? This usually results in “fire-drills”, overtime for the team and far too many uncomfortable, unpleasant discussions with stakeholders. A well-considered status report will go a long way to avoid such scenarios.

The above and many other reasons for status reporting have been extensively written about, including contributing to internal project portfolio and risk management. 

Conclusion

To communicate the crucial and most relevant facts about a project, without diluting the message with superfluous information or worse, omitting or underplaying real concerns or overstating success, is a fine art. However, the potential rewards of doing so consistently throughout a project far outweigh the inconvenience of preparation. Ensuring that the project team and stakeholders remain focused on the purpose, the key message and immediate priorities, is paramount to spurring action, when required, to help overcome challenges and achieve overall project success.  I trust the reasons described inspire us to persevere towards reaching a higher standard in the quality of project reporting. 

Claudia Rassalski, CA, PMP, PMO-CP

Retrospective of the Basel event Agility: What's really behind the buzzword?

Florian PuschmannPNG

After attending virtual events for more than a year, I was very excited when I saw the invitation to the in-person event held 31 August in Basel.

Agile - and how to make it work in different company environments, certainly relates to many project management professionals. One pain point was addressed straight at the beginning with a fitting Dilbert comic; Agile has become a hip business buzzword, but typically, not everyone involved is aware of its philosophy and methodology.

Presenters Anna Nestorova, PhD, PMP and Steffen Keller, PMP have hands-on experience at LIVEsciences AG, which focuses on helping organizations define if - and where, agile methodology implementation makes sense, followed by aiding its implementation in a tailored fashion.

Everyone very much enjoyed the interaction that followed:

  • Where does Agile make sense on the Cynefin framework background that segments the work environment in clear, complicated, complex, chaotic, and confused areas?
  • What does it take to build an environment that enables people to work at the intersection of autonomy, mastery, and purpose to tackle the "impossible" through intrinsically driven teams?
  • What's the difference between "doing" (method) and "being" (mindset) agile?

The challenges of such self-organizing organizations were then further put in perspective with two case studies:

  • Semco Partners – where a self-organized company was built in Brazil under the "leadership" of Ricardo Semler even long before the Agile Manifesto was born
  • Burtzoorg – A low-cost, high profitability home nurse service that is organized through fully independent self-organized teams of nurses

Overall, I deeply enjoyed the content of this event and the vivid discussion and human connection that I was craving after the prolonged period of virtual events only. 

The best part was still to come though: A very enjoyable late summer apero with all participants! The apero was so much fun that I missed two train connections until I finally made it back to Zurich rather late. The only regret I had was not having stayed even longer.

Florian Puschmann, PhD, PMP

BS in person event 31 08 21

The Switzerland Chapter’s “best kept secret” – the Swiss Corporate Networking Group

 Martin Härri 100x100 NEW

The main target audience of PMI and the PMI Switzerland Chapter has always been project practitioners. There are also activities for academia, schools and social good organizations, but companies have never been a main target audience of our activities, apart from the Organizational Project Management Maturity Model (OPM3), which died a quiet death some years ago.

On a global level, PMI maintains the Global Executive Council (GEC), which is composed of about 90 elite organizations, and advises PMI on its strategy. The GEC was also the inspiration for creating the PMI Swiss Corporate Networking Group (SCNG) in 2009. Here, the members are not project practitioners, but managers in charge of project management in their organizations, i.e. head of PMO, head of portfolio management, head of project community, etc. The kickoff was in January 2010 at the prestigious Swiss Re Centre for Global Dialogue near Zurich, with about a dozen participants, and since then the group has grown to 20 companies plus one university and has held more than 30 meetings all over Switzerland.

These meetings take a full day and are hosted in turn by one of the members. The topics are very different from those of a Chapter event: they focus much more on organization than on practitioner level. So, the presentations and discussions are about governance, benefits management, portfolio management, etc. Even during Covid times, the meetings continued online with the same level of engagement and participation.

Synergies between the Chapter and the SCNG however have been rather limited over the years; organizations and practitioners really seemed to be living in “separate worlds”. But finally, for the organization of the PMI Switzerland Conference, this network proved to be a huge benefit: half of the speakers are from SCNG members.

Very few other chapters have something like the SCNG. In fact, the PMI Germany Chapter is very interested in setting up a similar structure, and the model has been shared with several other European Chapters.

For more information about the PMI SCNG, please check out this new page on the Chapter website.

Martin Härri, PMP, PMI-SP, PMI-ACP, DASSM

Anecdotes of the early PMI Switzerland years

Karolina Letkowska NEW 100x100

Karolina Letowska, PMP

I can only imagine that the first days and the launch of the Chapter weren’t very easy. But every time Andrea Behrends (founder and first president of the Chapter) talks about it, I see a big smile on her face, and I believe it was worth the effort.

Anecdotes from Dr. Andrea Behrends:

I have the impression that in the last 20 years many things were planted and stayed that way. For example, there was always an affinity for technology. Furthermore, the tone was always collegial and friendly and at the same time we were always professional as well.

During the first years, our motto was to work efficiently so that we had some free time left, e.g. BBQ and swimming pool. That spirit made it rewarding to travel distances just for a chapter meeting. 

One of the challenges was the idea to split the chapter, i.e. one for Romandie and one for the German part of Switzerland. I supported those who wanted to remain one chapter for all Switzerland. I think this is beneficial until today. It increases the offerings for all members and supports the exchange of ideas and networks between the different areas in Switzerland.

Believe it or not, the community of PMI Switzerland is so strong we still have Volunteers supporting PMI since day one. One of our chapter volunteers is Martin Härri (past president of the Chapter) who has given enormous support throughout the years. He is without a doubt, the best person to talk about the changes, the past and the future of the Chapter.

Anecdotes from Martin Härri:

I was not a member of the first board, but I heard that their meetings were held in the house of the first president (Andrea Behrends), and after the meetings they had a barbecue and jumped into the house’s swimming pool. 

The first AMMs (Annual Members Meetings) were held in person, and as per bylaws, a certain percentage of the members had to be present in order to make the votes valid. However, in about the third or fourth year there was a snowstorm, and many members were not able to reach the location where the AMM was planned. So our webmaster back then (James Greene) programmed a web-based voting solution almost overnight, which continued to be used for many years, until it was replaced by a solution provided by PMI Global.

I have received many more stories which we will share in future newsletters this year. I hope the Chapter has still many years to go and many stories to build.

All the best,

Karolina Letowska

Building new memories at the 20th Anniversary event

Benoite Grisouard Photo 100x100

Benoîte Grisouard, PhD, PMP

We, members and volunteers, were all invited to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the PMI Switzerland Chapter. In two decades, this community, created with passion and motivation, has been able to participate in the development of the discipline and be an efficient support to Project Managers, experienced or not. This in-person event was an opportunity to directly approach many colleagues I encountered on virtual meeting platforms: We dis-connected to re-connect :)

The afternoon of Sunday 5 September 2021 - with its warm and welcoming atmosphere, had a family reunion vibe to it. We gathered with handwritten name tags and shared friendly cuisine. The "first generation" of PMs dispensed their stories and anecdotes to new members and volunteers; regulars talked over the external influences on their day-to-day activities. A detail stated by a PM in banking was commented on by a PM in the pharmaceutical industry and then taken up by a PM in IT. These friendly discussions gave to this sympathetic community a subtle G20 flair.

The Anniversary team chose for this summer celebration an urban garden that looks like a confidential rooftop near Bern. We enjoyed refreshing cocktails, homemade sausages grilled on meters long BBQ, just like the first PMI Board meetings 20 years ago at Dr. Andrea Behrends’ place. The first board of directors was a distributed team, and it was rare for them to see one another face-to-face. Dr. Andrea Behrends, founder and first chapter president and Martin Härri, former chapter president, joined Karolina Letowska, current president of PMI Switzerland to welcome guests and celebrate 20 years of achievements, collaboration, and determination. They shared anecdotes about the first fundraising in Zurich, a wine testing, or tombolas.

We all had fun together and discussed ideas on how we could strengthen our Chapter. 

It was nice catching up with you. Happy Anniversary PMI Switzerland Chapter!

Benoîte Grisouard, PhD, PMP