PM Commentary by Stacy Goff.
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 is in a literally soaring country, Nepal.
The occasion was the Project Management Association of Nepal (PMAN) conference, an IPMA member association. The IPMA Executive Board (ExBo) members participated, and spoke at the conference. As we often do, we attend to support and publicize our Member Associations. In this case, we also honored our 2010 Global 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. This is often the case with organizations that cover the globe. I chose not to use the microphone, and Bill Young, then President of IPMA-Australia, was in the front row. As I started up with my “Stacy voice,” Bill was blown into the 4th row. Taking the 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 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. Meg is also managing the production of new IPMA promotional materials for awards. I enjoyed meeting Meg, after 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 with their Masters Theses, She guides candidates in planning, researching, reviewing and on-time completion. Meg is a treasure for Nepal!
I had been having trouble coming up with an appropriate transition in one part of my presentation. It seemed to jump 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), the missing component came to me. The day of the presentation I enlisted Shailesh in finding an appropriate prop, a filled 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!” Next, I pointed to the water in the bucket. I proclaimed 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 that water, or will the polluted water overcome the pure 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, The Analogy Completed
I pointed at the Certification slide, which still showed on the screen, and I said: “Similarly, if we have a competent, performing project manager, and we place 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! It helps improve the effectiveness of the entire organization, and maximizes, not minimizes, the benefits of competent project managers.”
This is 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. Next, I mentioned “and of course, we have PWomen, too.” A too-cute play on words, this mention spawned dozens of repetitions over the next six hours and into the night. I fear I may have started something!
One conference participant, Madhur, is a good example of today’s young persons who is helping transform developing and developed worlds. He asked if I could 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 IPMA-related rewards for those who had answers to the questions.
In summarizing, I asked participants to explain to me, “what is project management?” One young lady (Madhur provided her name; she is Pramila Shakya) had a great answer. “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 asked, who chooses the “ought?” Sometimes it is the owner, boss or manager, who is most-involved. Sometimes it is other key stakeholders, internal and external. Thanks to her insight, I hereby proclaim this bright young lady, Pramila Shakya, to be a Change Agent.