PM Commentary by Stacy Goff, ProjectExperts CEO.
Two weeks in Asia changes one’s perspective about many things. And when it is as eventful and enlightening as my last two weeks, it can be soaring and exhausting, at the same time. This article is about the first half of my trip, which was in a literally soaring country, Nepal.
The occasion was the Project Management Association of Nepal conference, where the IPMA Executive Board (ExBo) members held one of our meetings, and spoke at the conference. In part, we did this to support our Nepal Member Association, and to honor our IPMA Young Project Manager, Shailesh Nepal. Shailesh won this award at the 2010 IPMA World Congress, and it was a tough competition: All the three finalists were great! As an aside, the 2011 Young Project Manager award applications are due June 15. Have you submitted yours?
Each ExBo member who presented has a unique style. It is not difficult to tell us apart. I chose not to use the microphone, and Bill Young, then President of AIPM, the Australia IPMA Member Association, was in the front row. As I started up with my “Stacy voice,” he was blown into the 4th row. Taking a hint, I turned down the volume a bit. No one fell asleep during my presentation.
The PMAN leadership team did a great job, pulling together this, their first major conference, in less than 6 months. Congratulations to Saroj, Suraj and Tika, of PMAN, Project Management Association of Nepal!
One of our IPMA-USA members, Meg, lives in Nepal with her husband; she is involved with the IPMA Awards program, and will be helping start it in Nepal and in the USA, as well as managing the production of some IPMA promotional materials for awards. It was a pleasure to meet Meg, after several months of emails, and a special pleasure to hear her speak at the conference. She did a great job of proclaiming the strengths of project management in non-technical terms. Her subject was a recent project, assisting Masters Candidates in planning, researching, reviewing and on-time completion of their Masters Theses. Meg is a treasure for Nepal!
I had been having trouble coming up with an appropriate transition in one part of my presentation, which jumped from the unique features of IPMA’s advanced PM certifications to IPMA Delta, an organization assessment. In an inspiration in the middle of the night (a benefit of jet lag, I guess), it came to me. The day of the presentation I vetted the allegory with a local member, and enlisted Shailesh in finding the appropriate prop, a water bucket.
In the presentation, I covered the Advanced certification topic, then, paused, and drank from a glass of water. The audience watched quietly. Then I held up the glass: “Pure, fresh water!” I pointed to the water in the bucket, proclaiming that it was from a pond in the forest, and was polluted, perhaps deadly. Then I asked: “If I pour this pure water into the polluted bucket, will it cleanse the polluted water, or will the polluted water overcome the pure drinking water?”
The audience response was immediate: “The pure water will be polluted!” Then I poured the water into the bucket, watched it a bit, and looked back at the audience with a sad face.
Next, I pointed at the Certification slide, which still showed on the screen, and I said: “Similarly, if we have a pure, competent and performing project manager, and we place him or her in a polluted organization, what will happen? I received the same response: “The organization will overcome the project manager.”
The transition: Switching to the next slide, where we introduce IPMA Delta, I said, “This is why we offer IPMA Delta, to help improve the effectiveness of the entire organization, and maximize, not minimize, the benefits of competent project managers.”
In a part of the world where the ground- or streamwater can harbor viruses, deadly bacteria and protozoa, this was an incredibly powerful analogy. The audience impact was huge. They “got it.”
In my equal-opportunity way, I took note of the fact that there were quite a few professional women in the audience. In my presentation, I mentioned PMAN, the name of the organization, and then mentioned “and of course, we have PWOMEN, too.” A too-cute play on words, this one mention spawned dozens of repetitions over the next six hours and long into the night. I fear I may have started something!
One conference participant, Madhur, is a good example of the type of young person who is helping transform developing and developed worlds. He asked if I would speak to his group while I was in Nepal. I noted that he was from a not-for-profit organization, so said yes, I had a bit of time on Monday afternoon. He called Monday morning to verify that I was still available and willing to speak. He picked me up, and we drove for over an hour to the other side of Kathmandu. Traffic was difficult, but no worse than Delhi, Boston or Rome.
He wanted me to share my perspective of what project management is, and its benefits for the people of Nepal. The audience was 35 people sitting in a U-shape in a small room. They ranged from young students to an Architect, a Civil Engineer, and a Government Official. We went around the room introducing ourselves; then I asked a few questions, and talked a little about project management. I gave out small rewards for those who had answers to the questions.
In summarizing, I asked them to explain to me, “what is project management?” One young lady (Madhur has provided her name; she is Pramila Shakya) proclaimed: “Changing things from the way they are… to the way they ought to be.” That pretty much boils it down, doesn’t it! Such insight! I did talk a little about who chooses the “ought;” sometimes the owner, boss or manager is involved with that part. And this bright young lady, Pramila Shakya, thanks to her insight, is hereby perpetually proclaimed to be a Change Agent.