5 Things I Learned at the 2018 PMI Global Conference

Sometimes being a project manager can be a lonely job, and so it’s nice to get together with other practitioners and just geek out for a few days as I did at the 2018 PMI Global Conference in L.A. last weekend where I was invited to speak on People Change Management. (You can download my presentation here).

I also learned from other project managers from all over the world and wanted to share 5 great insights and fun tips I walked away with. Please check out these amazing speakers who are all giving back to the PM community!

1. There are a lot of time-management systems out there that provide a one-size-fits-all approach. Don’t struggle with a system that does not work for you. Find your personal learning style and then tailor a system that works for you. For example if you are a visual learner color-coding your to-do list so you can see categories at a glance will be more useful than setting an auditory alarm as a reminder. For someone who is a tactile or kinetic learner a putting a whiteboard in your workspace where you can move stickies around can be more helpful than using an electronic calendar on your computer.

Find out about your personal learning style at www.vark-learn.com

To pick up more time-management tips check out Kim Wasson at www.ivybay.com

2. As project managers we all need to give regular feedback to our teams, our customers, our vendors and other stakeholders. Typically our feedback will be for three reasons: to appreciate someone and thank them, to evaluate someone as part of performance management, or to coach someone, because they need to change their behavior. Kate Megaw, who presented on “Fantastic Feedback” made me aware of a trap I’ve fallen in many time when giving coaching feedback: I didn’t act as a coach, I acted more like a mentor.

When you coach you ask the person you are giving feedback to open-ended questions so they can figure out themselves what they could do differently. When you mentor you give the person advice and share your experience, which really means that you tell them what you think they should do. Nobody likes that kind of advice unless you are in a student-teacher relationship.

If you want to know more about giving feedback that makes people excited rather than resentful check out Kate and her amazing team at www.braintrustgroup.com

3. Here is a great way to avoid falling into the trap of accepting every feature and function in a project scope as gospel truth and break your team’s back trying to deliver them all, regardless of whether they are really needed or not: start thinking like a Business Analyst. There is nothing wrong with asking stakeholders about the business problem the product is supposed to solve and the business objectives they want to achieve in deploying it. Ultimately features should tie back to tangible objectives that can in turn be connected to business problems.

If that is a an objective chain you cannot establish start questioning the usefulness of the scope you’ve been given. If there are features and functions that do not support the objectives or support the objectives to a lesser degree than others then they should be held back or de-scoped.

A big thank you to Betsy Stockdale for taking my Change Control to a whole new level of fierce! Check out www.seilevel.com/blog for more information

4. On projects we have to make decisions all the time, from coming to agreement on estimates to figuring out how we are going to respond to a risk scenario or solve a problem. But how good are we really at making rational and well informed decisions, especially when the stakes are high?

We’ve all come across research and articles that talk about bias and the fact that our decisions can be skewed by our experiences, by what we think we know or by our willingness to engage in group-think. Patrice Blanchard’s presentation really drove home the message that when it matters our brains may be our biggest saboteurs. The exercises he took us through showed how we want to see patterns where there are none or how we may self-censor when confronted with majority opinions.

I will definitely pay more attention to personal biases in the future and learn more about good practices in decision-making, such as having several teams “compete” in advocating different decisions before the group picks the best one rather than just going with the first solution that seems to present itself.

To learn more check out www.decisionninja.be

5. Love to listen to other project managers share their knowledge and experiences? Want to earn more PDUs? I found a great resource for both at www.project-management-podcast.com.

The website owner and author Cornelius Fichtner interviewed several conference speakers, including myself, for podcasts in L.A., which was a ton of fun! Since then I’ve subscribed to the website and look forward to learning more from other practitioners.

After all, it’s like being able to attend a conference every day!