Teams Beyond the Comfort Zone

By Felix Ludosan - Senior Program Manager | BASF 

As project professionals, we’re used to thinking about the plans, deadlines, deliverables.

We lead or be a team player as the situation requires. We experience and manage projects in the context of both our professional and personal lives.

But what happens when project thinking seeps into unfamiliar territory, to situations that extend beyond our normal comfort zone?

Beyond comfort means learning new skills and adapting quickly

As a former professional basketball player, I enjoy physical sports and a challenge every now and then. Sailing, a sport I have always wanted to try, was not exactly in my comfort zone.

When I was offered the chance to join a team sailing experience along the scenic Croatian coast, I jumped into the challenge. The prospect of learning new skills, and most of all, joining an exciting team, made me say yes. I’m about to set sail to Croatia’s largest marina in Sukošan, which some call a paradise for boaters!

Project professionals know this situation well: you get two or more opportunities to join new projects and something inside you says, “Stay in the comfort zone”. Other voices warn you to stay away of troubled waters, with a high probability to fail. But if you always listen to these voices, you will certainly miss important experiences in your life.

We flew to Zadar in Croatia and joined the sailing team in the country’s largest marina in Sukošan. The plan was to enter the sea the next morning, which meant there wasn’t really much time for team building.

We first went for dinner at the marina restaurant, surpassing Tuckman’s Five Stages of Group Development very quickly towards the Performing stage. Then we went back to the boat and clarified the roles and responsibilities for the next seven days.

Everyone was aware of the individual sailing skills of the others, making it easier to assign duties among the team members. Awareness about individual capabilities and the recognition that everyone can contribute in some way to the team’s goals are both key for team success.

My job was to help pull the sheets and lines at sea and to pick up the mooring line when docking in the marina, because that was the best I could do on the ship. To be successful in a project, it is important that specific tasks are carried out by the most skilled person, wherever possible. This is crucial, when sailing.

After being clear about our roles, we planned together the next sailing day, just as you would do in a projects, particulary some hybrid projects. On one hand, the final goal was clear—bring back the boat to Sukošan after one week; on the other hand, we kept the daily itinerary flexible, based on latest weather forecasts, personal mood, and physical condition of the team members.

Being a self-organizing team on a sailing trip, leadership is an important factor to success. Like in every relationship, consensus about decisions is not a given, but in crucial situations like on day four of our trip, there were no doubts. The dangerous Bora winds falling from the Dinaric Alps suddenly hit our ship as we were passing a strait between two islands. Our team member Mark immediately took the lead, and everyone followed his instructions without any discussion or blaming.

That reminded me of project situations—when quick decisions and actions are required, a strict hierarchy is very useful. After a two-hour-struggle with the sails and the waves, we managed to reach a calm bay. Afterwards, we tried to fix the damage to the ship. We cooked and ate together, while reviewing the situation and optimizing our approach for the future. We also exchanged our personal feelings and moods after this dramatic emergency. It reminded me again how beneficial it is for projects to have a team collocated to enhance information coordination and maximize resources.

The last days on the ship were smooth and, as we were handing over the boat to the charterer, we realized how fast a team can grow in just seven days, and how much we can accomplish together.

Because … we were on the same boat.

If you want to know what I learned about the power of teams during my basketball career, join my presentation at IIL’s International Project Management Day, which opens on November 4, 2021, and is available On-Demand until February 6, 2022.

Register here and get a $10 discount by using the code LUDOSAN.

IPM Day Speaker Felix Ludosan - Out of His Comfort ZoneAbout The Author

Felix Ludosan played basketball on a professional level before he joined IBM Germany as a Computer Science graduate in 1995. When ‘Big Blue’ established their Project Management Center of Excellence in 1997, Felix decided to pursue a project management career. He discovered early that his sports experience was extremely beneficial for the project management profession, which became his passion for life. Felix has worked in numerous industries including Automotive, Financial Services, Insurance, Government, and Manufacturing. The 6.5 ft. PMP® certified project manager is currently one of the Project Management thought leaders at BASF in Germany, a leading multinational chemical company. As a certified Sports Mental Coach and Athlete Manager, Felix also coaches young athletes, including his son, an international soccer goalkeeper playing in the U.S., and his daughter who plays basketball in Germany.


Key Themes at IPM Day 2019

By J. LeRoy Ward, IIL Executive VP of Enterprise Solutions and Sander Boeije, Program Manager – IIL Online Conferences 

On November 7, 2019, IIL will celebrate the 16th anniversary of International Project Management Day, also known as IPM Day. Initially conceived by Frank P. Saladis, and made possible by IIL, this important day recognizes the incredible and valuable work that project managers do every day. IIL’s IPM Day event is one of the project management industry’s largest and most popular online conferences. It brings together the best minds in the business to speak on today’s most relevant and pressing topics. This year is no different.

In this article, we outline the key themes that emerge at IIL’s IPM Day 2019. So, let’s dive right in.

Benefits and Value

As project managers, we need to “Focus on What Matters.” There is a reason that this statement is the theme of IPM Day 2019. Today, projects take up an incredibly important role within a business and, as discussed by Sunil Prashara, President and CEO of Project Management Institute (PMI), this will only increase as we further evolve into the Project Economy. Therefore, project managers not only need to deliver the project, but they also need to ensure that the project achieves its intended business benefits. The need for project managers to focus on Benefits and Value is an overriding theme at IPM Day 2019.

This will be discussed in the keynote sessions by Dr. Harold Kerzner, Kasia Grzybowska and J. LeRoy Ward. It is also a recurring topic in many other presentations as well.

Agile Project Management

In the past decade, Agile has finally established is rightful place in Project Management. One example of this is PMI’s acquisition of Disciplined Agile and FLEX. Yet, there are still many questions to be answered regarding its application on various projects. For example, how do you manage risk on an agile project? How could an Agile PMO function and does that even make sense in the first place? And what about leadership in an agile organization, how does that work exactly?

Experts including Roy Schilling, Rubin Jen, and Mayo Clinic’s Wale Elegbede, as well as our other speakers, provide you with the answers to these questions and more.

Digitalization

As Industry 4.0 continues to take shape and impact many organizations, we see an exponential increase in complexity, data, digital solutions, and more. How can we make sense of all the information and technology that is available to us, make the right decisions, and successfully manage our projects?

Thought leaders such as Microsoft’s Melissa Bader, Laila Faridoon, Leon Herszon, Carla Fair-Wright, and many others will help you navigate the digital world.

Change Leadership

Today’s business landscape changes fast. At the same time that companies are going through a number of major transformations (think Agile and Digitalization), mergers and acquisitions, and other game-changing scenarios, it seems the world uncovers one disruptive innovation after another. Businesses need strong leadership to stay relevant and prosperous moving into the future. This requires companies to be adaptive and always in a position to redefine their course.

Watch the sessions by Ben Chodor, Heidi Helfand, Jennifer Hurst, and Jimmy Godard to learn about how you can prepare yourself, your team, and your organization for unavoidable and constant disruptive change.

Soft Skills become Power Skills

Soft skills, as important as they are, will become even more so. In fact, some experts have redefined the concept of soft skills, preferring to label them “Power Skills.” Although we’re not sure who deserves the credit for coining this term, it is becoming more and more obvious that it is soft skills that make project managers successful. Accordingly, organizations need to focus on developing competencies in such areas as empathy, influencing others and grit.

Don’t miss the sessions with PMI’s Sunil Prashara, Diane Hamilton, Sean Hearne, and Ulli Munroe who all discuss key Power Skills for the Project Manager.

Still need to register for IPM Day? Sign up here.


J. LeRoy Ward (PMP, PgMP, PfMP, CSM, CSPO) is IIL’s Executive Vice President of Enterprise Solutions and a recognized thought leader, consultant and adviser in project, program and portfolio management. With more than 39 years of experience in the field, his insights, perspectives and advice have been sought by hundreds of companies and government agencies around the world.