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PM-Forum 2010 Berlin – Fast Rewind

I’m just sitting on the train back home, looking back at the ‘27th International German Project Management Forum’ which I had the pleasure to attend in the past two days. (I know, what on earth is an international German conference?? Well, in the German mind, it’s a conference with 95% German speakers and a touch of foreigners, like a Munich-based conductor born in Wien or an actual living, breathing American)! Enough of the teasing, here we go…

There were a lot of interesting presentations and talks with tons of stuff in it. For now, I’ll provide a ‘fresh’ fast rewind – my highlights from the past two days.

On Tuesday, the conference started with two great keynote speakers. First, Matthias Horx, a well-known trend and future researcher, reflected on the crisis, stressing that a) it was far less apocalyptic than feared by many Germans (surprise!) and more importantly b) possibly an indicator for an upcoming larger change, providing many more opportunities. He also stressed the importance of diversity in teams, showing the USS Enterprise 1701-D crew around Jean-Luc Picard as a role model 🙂 Unfortunately I didn’t make a lot of notes there, hope to find a few more things in Andreas Heilwagen’s or others’ blogs 😉

Next was Friedrich Fuehr, one of the founders of DESERTEC. He has a clear vision and opinion and stated it very clearly and convincingly. If you haven’t heard about his project, check it out! They also need more supporters. DESERTEC’s work is about the fact that the sun energy hitting a relatively small desert area (300km*300km) would be enough to provide energy for the whole planet. Plus, actually taking this knowledge one step further and actually ‘reaping’ this energy in relatively short time, aiming to limit global warming (which has far more apocalyptic potential than the 2009 financial crisis but is still largely being ignored).

At 11:15, I joined the PMO stream’s preso on the results of the 2010 PMO Maturity study. Clearly, 45min are not enough to cover such a comprehensive study in detail. Some of the results seemed somewhat superficial. The authors stated that they will dig deeper there in next years’ studies. My biggest take-aways: There is a lot of need and potential for further developments in the next few years. Europe (with the German-speaking countries ahead of the pack) seems to be a bit behind the US here. Based on the study, PMO introduction top-down is generally more successful than bottom-up (though there were some presentations later showing that bottom-up can work as well, at least as an initial starter).

Which was exactly the topic of the next session at 1:30pm after the lunch break: Two members of GPM’s PMO Work Group (Mrs Kuhlmey and Mr von Schneyder) showed an example where a PMO was introduced largely bottom-up. Focus here was on which services would provide the most benefits to certain stakeholders. In a continuous loop, service offers were developed, introduced, reviewed, gradually building up the PMO’s portfolio. This approach was largely based upon building a trust base and acting as coach, not policemen.

The next presentation by two VZnet employees was a bit disappointing. The title sounded really interesting: Managing agile. Agile and strategically (stable) with Scrum and Project Management. No real take-away here except seeing another instance of the question ‘What the heck do we do with all the Project Managers once we adopt an agile approach?’. Not sure the PM’s are happy with the place they’re in now in that company.

After a pleasant afternoon break, I went to another PMO-related presentation (you already noticed that this was a recurring topic 😉 Again, two members of the GMP PMO work group presented a 9-piece model of how PMO functions could be modularized and thus configured to meet different companies’ needs. Different areas were described using SIPOCs (yes these things from Sigma!) and can be defined by different organizations as ‘core’, ‘extended’, or ‘not (to be) addressed at all’. You can have a look at the model online I believe, link to follow. Though the approach is not very scientific it looks helpful in structuring PMO functions. I’ll definitely follow up on that later.

At 4:15pm, I joined Torsten Koerting’s presentation about the model he developed as a means to assess the level of complexity of a project and thus the risk involved. There are 5 axes on the project polygon: Experience, Change, Orientation, Implementation approach, Time. Each axis has levels 0-5. Filling it out produces a nice visual spider web. So far, so good. But even better (and I believe this distinguishes it from a lot of other analyzes), based on the level in each area, guidance is provided where to make trade-offs and how to balance competing requirements. Again, more on that later.

The Tuesday ended like a thunderbolt with a great keynote by Christian Gansch, well-known conductor and producer of classical music. He gave insights into how an orchestra is led, and how NOT. Unfortunately again, not enough notes (and of course reading this instead of seeing him on stage is a very different experience). The level of passion and knowledge he showed was outstanding. A few snipplets of his recordings were played which gave me goose bumps. Ovations for him at the end!

In the evening, there was a nice ‘Grow Together’ with nice food, wine, live music and lots of interesting chats and new acquaintances.

Wednesday morning started with another great keynote speaker which made everyone show up on time: Tom DeMarco, famous American author about SW development and Project Management. After a little lecture about systems (including a definition of a definition which I will remember), he discussed cognitive matters: How much information can a men’s brain process and keep? After a hopeful start, we ended with the sobering conclusion that we have less memory than the cheapest oldest iPod you could probably find – less than a Gigabyte! Hmmpf. There was a lot more, see later posts.

I skipped the next session in order to buy one of Tom DeMarco’s books (‘Adrenaline Junkies…’) and get it hand-signed 🙂

Before lunch, Olaf Kleidon from ARITHNEA presented how his company which is fully project-based manages their human resources. It clearly looked like one of the more desirable places to work! Let’s hope more companies follow their model.

After lunch, Volker Doekel from Lufthansa AG shared experiences from the A380 service introduction project (i.e. being prepared to operate these new, huge, highly efficient aircraft from day 1). It was really refreshing to see that their way to success was not based on formal processes enforced, but on direct, open communication between all involved parties (which were a lot) and giving the different teams room for individual tools etc. which they needed to excel.

Next, two Hamburg-based consultants (Dr. Stefan Fleck and Olaf Hinz) from the Projektlotsen shared their theses on ‘Heroes in the magical triangle’ which was both entertaining (in their hanseatic kind) and insightful, leading to a lively discussion. I very much agree with their stance that organisations should not depend on individuals, who save the day with investing all their passion, time and often health, to compensate for shortcomings in the organisation. Another hot candidate for a follow-up later.

Last, I listened to Marc Widmann’s presentation on auditing projects in 10 steps. Clearly, his definition of an audit is different to my understanding. Nonetheless, he offered a practical approach and shared implementation experiences which will probably be helpful for organizations trying to achieve similar things.

My train is approaching Hamburg now. To wrap things up, I very much enjoyed this conference: The location was great (in the heart of Berlin), nicely set up and organized, great people, presentations and speeches and a lot to take away. See you next time?!

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