The Rise of Project Management

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff.
This article is about the second half of my recent Asia trip, which in this case features China.

Hong Kong Stopover

I used Hong Kong as my pivot point for multiple flights and connections; it had the best routing for my multiple flights. And, I had not been to Hong Kong since the late 1980s, so it was interesting to see the changes. Internet connections can be difficult in Hong Kong. And a tip: the best that I had in my time there was on airport bus A21, which offers free wireless internet connections!

Everything is far more expensive in Hong Kong than when I last visited. But it still has the same vibe, the same crush of people, and the same unlimited options for meals. As a wine enthusiast, I think I have found the world’s most expensive place to purchase wines–but the selection is grand.

Super Xi’an

I flew to Xi’an to keynote and participate in a conference celebrating 20 years of PMRC, IPMA-China. PMRC is the abbreviated name for Project Management Research Committee. The event was also the 10 year celebration of China’s use of IPMA’s advanced, Four Level PM Certification system. The Conference theme was The Rise of Project Management. IPMA was well-represented by Chair Brigitte Schaden, who spoke on PM Standards, and yours truly. I discussed the differences between organizations where PM rises slowly and those where it rises quickly. Brane Semolic, Research Management Board Chair, and Les Squires, our RMB social/business networking guru, were also at the Xi’an Conference. They organized and held a Festival of Knowledge event (mentioned below).

The conference format included initial statements, keynotes, special presentations, and then break-out sessions in separate rooms. The majority of the presentations were in Chinese; our own keynotes had sequential translation from English to Chinese. The translation time allowed more flexibility than I usually have during a presentation to gain eye contact with participants. This event engaged 600-700 attendees. I chose to stand center stage, as opposed to standing behind the speaker’s podium at stage left. In case they were recording, this time I used the microphone.

Many Friends And Associates

I have known Xue Yan, the long-serving China representative to IPMA, and now IPMA VP of Certification, for years. In all that time, I did not know what a great interpreter she is. I have worked with several different China interpreters (and many others in other languages), and she was great for all of us. I also really enjoyed seeing Professor Qian Fupei again, and especially, to meet his delightful wife, Gui Yeying. Fupei is the legendary leader of PMRC. And, we met, dined with, and enjoyed talking to the members of PMRC’s leadership team.

Among the highlights of the Conference was a Festival of Knowledge, hosted by Brane Semolic and Les Squires. The unique format of this event combines a bit of presentation with more interaction and discussion. It is more like an honors college forum than a conference presentation. I finally got the chance to see just how great Les Squires is in front of an audience. Among the topics were a discussion of the impacts of China’s move from a planned economy to a market economy. I heard deep insights from the participants.

Much of the time we spent in China revolved around food. I observed that the point is not just to eat, but to use the food as the backdrop for discussions and relationship-building. Because of the celebratory nature of the event, there were many toasts. And, due to the multiple anniversaries this Conference, The Rise of Project Management celebrated, they were all very appropriate.

Hospitality

The hospitality in Xi’an was absolutely great! We had the opportunity to see the famed Terra Cotta Warriors; I think this showpiece deserves an honorary IPMA Award! We did a bit of shopping in the downtown area, and my student volunteer guide, Wan, was terrific. Her strategies for finding a taxi in rush hour Xi’an were superb! Thank you again Wan!

And Chunjing Ji (Natalie) demonstrated why her name badge says 0001. She is number one in everyone’s mind! From our initial emails, to managing visas, to translations, to managing volunteer guides (they adore Ms. Ji), she is exceptional! Thank you!

China Closure

One memorable aspect of our visit to China was meeting Mr. Gu Shiyang. He was Executive Sponsor of the project for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the 2010 Asia Games. An engaging and creative person to talk to, he shared a DVD of the events with the PMRC leaders, and with us visitors. Some parts of the DVD were shown in fast-forward mode, which evokes the pace at which much of China seems to operate. These opening and closing events projects had challenges: They had a stellar Beijing Olympics to follow, for example. And yet, he and his team innovated in ways that will re-set the bar for similar events. I would not want to be the Korea Project Manager who follows his teams’ achievements with the next Asia Games.

The Asia Games Ceremonies project has already been honored by China’s Awards program. Those of us who attend the IPMA World Congress will likely encounter them in the Brisbane Awards Gala Ceremony. I would recommend the DVD of the ceremonies to anyone who is interested in the state of the art in Events management. Mastering Land, Water and Ether, to me, this is the pinnacle of performance management. Of course, the IPMA Awards Judges are more disciplined than I am.

Summary

As I said in my keynote, China is rising, and some organizations, rise much faster than others, based on the choices they make. These choices involve their PM foundations, the way they develop their talent, the priorities and staffing decisions they make. They also depend on the support they receive from managers and executives. Of course, those are key differentiators in IPMA’s range of services. China’s great practitioners in project management that I encountered contribute to this nations’ efforts, to further accelerate its pace.

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