Recap: International Project Management Day 2018

By Henk-Jan van der Klis (@hjvanderklis)
Capgemini Engagement Manager, Financial Services and Project Management Consultant

On 1 November 2018, thousands of people gathered online for International Project Management Day 2018: Project, Program, and Portfolio Management in an Age of Digital Disruption, an online learning and knowledge sharing event organized by IIL. The virtual conference gives attendees the opportunity to watch live content, interact in Q&A sessions right after keynote speakers finish their talks, and select some prerecorded presentations in between the keynotes, even in the weeks after the actual event on 1 November 2018.

(Registration is still open for those who would like to attend on demand. REGISTER HERE.)

I will highlight takeaways from some of the presentations I have attended so far. There’s way more content available, ranging from Microsoft® Project going Agile, cracking social media, building machine learning models to transparency being key to project success.

KEYNOTE: Innovation Project Management

Dr. Harold Kerzner (Senior Executive Director, IIL) first introduces his audience to innovation. Be aware that cost reduction measures are a short-term solution, whereas innovation aims at future profits. The outputs of innovation are products and services, new business models. Peter Drucker stated that only marketing and innovation drive growth.

Kerzner explains the difference between incremental and disruptive innovation. Project management approaches should differ between the two. Project management is what delivers business value. Innovation management, in its purest form, is a combination of the management of innovation processes and change management. While incremental innovation may not bring significant changes, disruptive innovation will demand changes.

Three ways the project management and innovation combination is criticized:

  • Traditional project management is a one-size-fits-all approach
  • There’s no controlled environment for contemporary projects
  • The devil’s triangle for project success (time, cost, scope) cannot be used for innovation

Note that the Sixth Edition of A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) addresses value and benefits management. Just like Agile and Scrum are frameworks and require project management to accommodate, innovation also requires project management to evolve and be less rigid. Managers need to recognize the type of project at the start, resist institutional pressure to adapt traditional ‘rational’ approaches to all projects, and apply an appropriate approach – one tailored for the type of project.

Must-haves in innovation project management in order to deliver value:

  • Feel comfortable with ambiguity and uncertainty
  • See the big picture
  • Know and relate to the team and the firm’s growth objectives
  • Know the firm’s tangible and intangible assets (capabilities and resources)
  • Get close enough to the customers to know what they will buy

KEYNOTE: Reaching New Heights in Project Management

Alan Mallory (Speaker / Author / Performance Coach) shares his two-month quest to climb Mount Everest with his parents and siblings.

His keynote highlights the importance of project management strategies and techniques such as procurement, scope, time management, planning, work breakdown structure, communications, risk, and stakeholder management, and so on.

In hindsight, a hybrid approach with elements from a waterfall and an Agile approach could be derived from the expedition.

KEYNOTE: Design Sinking: How to Fail at Design Thinking – And How to Do It Better

Lukas Bosch (consultant, moderator, trainer, lecturer) teases his audience that he may be talking about Design Sinking. Design thinking could mean thinking about (re)design. Design Thinking can also be understood as a design of a thinking process. Combining the two leads us to think like designers, even if you’re not trained as a designer, and to design thoroughly. A holistic view of innovation combines feasibility, viability, and desirability. Design Thinking starts at desirability.

Design Thinking focuses radically on the users, their behavior, and needs, instead of asking what they want. Ideas, innovation, and culture are three dimensions to apply and fail at Design Thinking.

Bosch shows examples of:

  • Putting ideas of a perfect solution by using our experience and imagination as a guiding principle and risk designing for our users rather than ourselves.
  • Claiming to know your customers. First-hand customer insights are critical for Design Thinking’s success. We often build on assumptions.
  • Falling in love with an idea. Are your ideas solutions to users’ problems? Can you kill your darlings? Fall in love with your users.
  • Not implementing the ideas by lack of ownership and execution power.
  • Judging the new by old standards.
  • Being chained in the system (organization, network). Not only sparks innovation but gives space for solutions to be implemented and improved.

In conclusion, Bosch’s presentation teaches us to start, be prepared to fail at some points, avoid pitfalls, and take Design Thinking as an open-ended journey to the future.

Shared Knowledge is Power – Building an Agile Project Management Community

Paul Jones (EMEA Project & Prog. Mgmt. Community Lead, Fujitsu) presents how the project management community at Fujitsu is empowered and stimulated to share knowledge and experience among each other. Use projects to enable change by taking a more Agile approach instead of managing by command and control, require different skill sets, and thrive when lessons learned are passed onto next projects.

The myriad of approaches and practices nowadays is overwhelming, shows the Deloitte blog and tube map Navigating the Agile Landscape. How to meet the challenge?

  • Empower your people to drive the direction of your project management capability
  • Utilize the combined knowledge and experience of your people
  • Put in place a supportive environment to foster knowledge transfer
  • Make knowledge sharing part of the culture

Company size doesn’t matter. Learn from failures, embrace what works. Everyone has the opportunity to shape the community. How do you engage with your people? How do you foster knowledge?

Are You Another Project Manager or Mission-Critical?

Mario Arit (Vice President, Project Management, ABB) stresses the importance of critical thinking, way beyond the technical project management skills. Why? The project environment requires certain awareness, if not competencies of the field of expertise, e.g. Financial Services, Construction management, health, and safety. Project managers and teams should be problem solvers and critical thinkers, proactive managers, out-of-the-box thinkers, and fire preventers, rather than firefighters.

Technical skills are not sufficient (think of the factors such as communications and risk management that were failing at the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986). The National Education Association lists four C’s:

  • Critical thinking and problem-solving. Be aware that bias leads to poor decisions.
  • Communication
  • Collaboration
  • Creativity and innovation

Where do you learn these skills? Arit doesn’t give an answer but states that adding creative and critical thinking skills is a rewarding opportunity and can make the difference between being just another PM or a truly strategic asset.

I’d recommend you study books like Thinking, Fast and Slow and Heuristics and Biases: The Psychology of Intuitive Judgment by Nobel prize winner Daniel Kahneman.

KEYNOTE: Collective Genius: The Art and Practice of Leading Innovation

What does it take to build an organization that can innovate in today’s global economy and embrace new technologies? What kind of leadership is needed? How can you select and develop the kind of leadership talent needed?

These are questions that organization anthropologist Dr. Linda Hill (Harvard Business School Professor) has been researching along with, among others, the former SVP of Technology for Pixar.

She shares examples of leaders from her book, Collective Genius: The Art and Practice of Leading Innovation, who have learned how to cultivate “collective genius” and provide a framework for creating organizations in which people are willing and able to innovate.

KEYNOTE: How to Get in Front of Conflict Before It Gets in Front of You

In this presentation on workplace conflict management, Christa Kirby (VP, Global Learning Innovation, IIL) first distinguishes between functional and dysfunctional conflicts. What makes conflicts so hard to deal with?

Can’t conflicts be solved in a collaborative and productive way? There’s a strong business case for it because the costs of dysfunctional conflicts are embedded in time spent on dealing with the conflict, resulting in increased absence levels, legal procedures, and disengagement, and loss of productivity and motivation.

Feedback from managers directly impacts employee engagement. Perceptions often are only assumptions, but with real emotions coming in. Human nature (fight, flight, freeze), culture (the way we do things here), and our own personalities (e.g. using the DISC model) kick in.

Are biological survival mechanisms, cultural elements, and our own personality traits effective in a specific situation?

Kirby refers to Thomas Crum’s The Magic of Conflict. Conflict is just an interference pattern of energy. Although many ‘tricks’ don’t have a lasting effect, you can try to transform the patterns, channel energy in a more effective direction. What pops up as an issue, may have many underlying problems like personalities, emotions, interests, self-perceptions, hidden expectations, and unresolved issues from the past. Feelings are important and cannot be neglected.

It’s easier to dehumanize other people than to accept them as complex human beings. Kirby explains the lifecycle of conflict. Challenges on the personal, cultural, and biological level can make conflict management difficult. Solutions can be found in taking a ‘whole brain’ approach.

Six steps to a conflict resolution conversation:

  1. Identify your goals for the conversation
  2. Create a safe space for the discussion to take place
  3. Seek out the other party’s perspective
  4. Listen to understand instead of reply
  5. Share your observations and perspective
  6. Engage in collaborative problem solving


The IIL International Project Management Day virtual event is a great learning opportunity, with personal experiences, insights from project management trainers, and research-based findings to help you face tomorrow’s challenges as project manager.

About the Author
Henk-Jan van der Klis is a Capgemini engagement manager, financial services & project management consultant, project management trainer for the Capgemini Academy, seasoned editor, and daily blogger. He lives in Balkbrug, the Netherlands with his wife and three children. Check out or connect through

Cracking Social Media for Professionals

By Yelena Ganshof, BrandBoosting Founder

Do you know that now there are over 3 billion people using social networks across the globe?  Let’s name the most popular platforms: LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube.

I have been extremely active on social media in order to grow my own personal brand, and my clients’ as well: to get their brands noticed, help them build strategic partnerships and relationships, and connect with people to show the human side of their brands.

Let’s face it: in today’s highly competitive business world, it has become extremely difficult to stand out and get your message across to key decision makers.

The old traditional methods of branding and marketing a business project are not as effective as they used to be.

Why? Because we’ve learned that people are not doing business with projects or robots. People are doing business with people they like and trust, and whose business solutions they believe in.

Social media is providing the tools to personally connect to those people and build these professional relationships.

What are the benefits of using social media for professionals?

Let me outline the main benefits of using social media:

Brand Awareness

Any business adviser worth their weight in gold will tell you how crucial it is to have media exposure for brand positioning and awareness, and how much effort and investment some brands put into advertisement over traditional media. You might have the best product or service in the world, but if nobody knows about your brand and how to find you, then what’s the point? Hiring a PR agency might be very costly and is not always effective.

According to recent media surveys, over 90% of journalists and editors are on LinkedIn and most of them say it is their preferred professional networking tool! Then why not take advantage of this social media tool (which is free for anyone) to build a credible, attractive profile and get noticed by journalists?

I personally have built a number of new relationships over LinkedIn, with people who have reached out about my training sessions, workshops, and speaking engagements. No other platform has given me this particular opportunity.

Authenticity: Showing the human side of your brand

According to some marketing surveys, more than half of adults do not trust a brand until they see “real proof” of a human team who is keeping its promises. Connecting with your customers and clients over human values – this is extremely powerful.  Again, people do business with people they like and trust.

Social media is an opportunity to humanize your brand by introducing people to your company team through pictures and videos, and showcasing how existing customers are benefiting from your product through video testimonials.

Instagram Stories and Facebook Stories are great for showing the “behind the scenes” human team, the pre-launch campaign of your products and services, and a human introduction to your project or program.

Imagine yourself like a musician: once your audience likes you, they will come back to your concerts, to buy your new tracks and new albums. So, you want to be that musician to conduct your own concert!

Relations and Partnerships

If you study the corporate strategy of some of the biggest global brands, you will notice one thing in common: they set up joint venture partnerships with key industry players.

So, rather than getting your message across to only one client in a meeting, why not use this strategy to broadcast your message across hundreds, and possibly thousands, of targeted contacts you are connected to?

Connecting to professionals in your expert field, to potential customers, to strategic partners and influencers, is crucial. With the right partner or influencer, you can refer clients to each other, leverage the power of offering some complementary products, and help grow each others’ businesses.

What is important here is providing your audience with great value in what you post rather than being too promotional. Sharing great content from your website or a blog to your social channels (you can copy your blog across different platforms) is a great way to get readers as soon as you publish a new post. Make sure the website address for your business or project is included in all your social media profiles for people to connect with you and your brand.

Finding Clients and Generating Leads

Social media, and LinkedIn in particular, is a powerful tool for brands to find clients and for clients to discover and find brands. Regardless of industry, size, or location, we are all here in the business of marketing and branding ourselves to carry out our message in front of decision-makers.

With Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn advertising tools we can precisely target our audience by geographic location, professional field, interests, age, and gender. It has never been easier to build a sales funnel of targeted leads to market as before.

Photo © John Cassidy The Headshot Guy®

About the Author
Yelena, the Founder of BrandBoosting, helps executives and business owners create an irresistible image for their business book cover: to make their customers open their book and become part of their business story. She pays special attention to the art of speaking, storytelling over social media and media branding. Yelena’s international career covers an impressive range of experience from the worlds of finance and diplomacy to retail and fashion. Siberian by origin, she has over 20 years’ experience living and working in the USA, Russia, Singapore, and Switzerland. Yelena has a degree in International Economic Relations from Russia and a Master’s degree in Economics from the US.