Friday, July 12, 2013

PMI Portugal Chapter Congress

Last Saturday I presented "Irrational Project Management" at the PMI Portugal Chapter Congress. The number of mishaps was frightening, and some huge too. But it ended just like fairy tale: someone asked the Chapter to set up a workshop to further discuss the topic and there was this guy from a pharmaceutical company that asked me if I could present it at his company. So, yes, it did end like a fairy tale, way beyond my best expectations.
To get a taste of what happened and what Irrationality is (in the context of Project Management) please keep on reading. You'll also find a link to the presentation itself and a video of the initial 20 minutes of the presentation.

My mishaps

Well, it all started Friday when I got to the Congress and took a look at the agenda to find I had a 30 min slot instead of the regular 60 min. But I didn't panic: all I had to do was let go of some of the topics I included for the presentation. I had an absolutely, first time covered, topic associated to Project Management, I was good.
Then, one of the presentations covered a bit of one of the topics I included in my presentation: illusions on decision making. But that wasn't all that bad, I thought, I had to let go of some of the topics, so that would be one of the chosen ones, right? Besides, it saved me the problem of bringing irrationality into discussion. But then this presentation started and... it used the video I had right at the beginning of mine to show how everyone is irrational. Now that was a blow!
But it didn't end here, no sir! I wanted really bad to have one of the guys participating at the Congress to assist to my presentation: but he skipped the Congress Saturday afternoon, when my presentation was scheduled. So, yes, I nearly panicked there...

Irrational Project Management

You can watch the Prezi presentation right here:

It's not much fun, and it's not all that useful because you have to get the links between the pictures, the slides and the text. Those missing links is what I offered on Saturday at the Congress... Nevertheless, you have the presentation here and you can take a peek, maybe you find it useful after all. At least you can use the references at the end if you want to further explore the topic.
And you also have the video of the first 20 minutes of the presentation. Unfortunately it ends on the precise point in time where it starts to get interesting... The sound is real bad - but I included subtitles both in Portuguese and English. Oh right, and the presentation was done in Portuguese, so probably you do want to use the subtitles...

So, what's this Irrational Project Management thing?

In a nutshell, it's just taking pieces and bits from behavioral economics into Project Management - and in particular into Stakeholder Management, which was the theme to this year's Congress. Just as an example, and to conclude what was left unfinished on the video, do you have any idea what causes the huge differences in organ donation rates? Can you take a guess why Germany has a 12% rate and Austria 99,98%?
If you are German and you happen to die, no one can get your organs. If you are Austrian and you happen to die, your organs will end up inside someone (if they can use them). In Germany, if you do want to donate your organs, you have to take action. In Austria, if you don't want to donate your organs, you have to take action. But to take action takes time and effort, right? Only 12% of the Germans decided to go through the process as 0,02% of the Austrians. The fact is, people take the default option and then justify (to themselves and to others) why they choose so. So having a form with a default can account for these huge differences.
And we do that in Project Management. We need to get a project approved before we start to work on it, right? And whoever approves it has to take the time to support his/her decision, right? What about not starting a project? Does someone has to do something to not start a project? If the differences on rates on organ donation are any similar to starting a project... this is, at the very least, scary!

How to turn mishaps into something great?

I have no idea, sorry. But I'm glad it happened to me last Saturday! And one of the people I have to thank to is a new found friend that last Saturday, at lunch, was worried about PMI's Code of Conduct. Some of it translates the way things work in the US - but not the rest of the world. One thing in particular bothered my new found friend: around here (Portugal) if you catch someone doing something really wrong you don't report it. What you do is take him/her on the side and ask "What was that?". It can be the case that it was an accident, or that he/she is in real trouble and needs a helping hand more than anything else - or not. But without talking to the person in question you'll never know. So this is why we do it this way.
Anyway, while we were discussing this, it just struck me how to introduce this irrationality thing. If you watch the video, the first thing I do is ask the audience: is ethic something logical and rational?
I don't real care about the answer in this context, but it does make people look at irrationality in a different perspective: at least people won't mistake irrationality with stupidity or emotions, right? But if you want to explore this topic a bit more check this previous article: "Irrational Behavior is not stupid behavior".

Getting even better

Last year's Congress was significantly better than it was 2 years ago. And again, this year's Congress was better than last year's. This Congress has a small audience (my guess, around 140 people attended this year) but it's pretty good and this year we had Steve Wake and Alfonso Bucero there - both are awesome!
This year's topic was around Stakeholder Management and we discussed the topic mainly through presentations but also with a debate where I participated along with Alfonso Bucero and others.
There is still space for improvement, though. Financing such small events is difficult, but the current model should be improved. Having a software presentation in a such a Congress where someone takes the time to explain and show how to work with the software... that's a no no.
But I do have to congratulate those responsible for setting up the Congress, they're making it better year after year. Thank you for that!

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