Following the success of my Agile 20XX Recaps, I’m recapping my experience attending the Project Management Institute’s Global Conference, which is held in Chicago from October 28 through 30. I haven’t attended a global PMI event before, and it’s helpful to have it in my backyard so that I don’t need to travel. Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect.

So far, things are off to a great start. There are over 2,000 participants, 1,000 volunteers from 60+ countries here for the three days. There are also events before this Global Conference and afterward, so some can attend those as well.

Brand New, Brand You: Creating and Promoting Your Personal Brand

The first session I attended this morning was by Kirsten Lora, PMP. She gave a great presentation and led the group through an exercise on how to create your personal brand, whether it be for work or outside of work. Nice way to kick off the conference where I’ll be introducing myself to a number of new people.

She explained by branding is important and what the characteristics of a brand are – consistency, values, and that a brand pitch helps people understand what they’re dealing with and how the relationship will work. She explained the importance of a personal brand – how are we selling ourselves? How is the brand presented? Is it subtle or overt? Are we acting in the brand that is consistent with the brand, which gives credibility?

The rest of the section focused on participants with those seated next to us to hone our brand pitch. Great session to kick off the day. Below are the slides and the steps we followed to create a personal brand.







Before the keynote, I wandered up to the bookstore and looked at what they had. I was pleased to see that the Agile Practice Guide was on sale.

Keynote – Sir Tim Berners-Lee on “A Look Ahead to the Future of Tech.”

Before Sir Tim Berners-Lee took the stage, the Chair of the Board of Directors, Mark Dickson, took the stage to welcome everyone to the event and give a brief overview of PMI.

PMI focuses on serving over three million project management professional since 1969 and provides support through Career Advancement, Ongoing Education, Standards, and creating a community for those working in the profession to obtain support and guidance. PMI is also a strong advocate for the project management profession, which is especially important given the evolving role of the project manager in today’s industry and market. Project Managers are expected to have a forward-thinking mindset and display agility. We’re being asked to “think differently.”

Sir Tim Berners-Lee then took the stage. He is a passionate speaker and shared the story of how the World Wide Web was born. He did a fair job tying in a project management connection throughout the speech. He shared that while the WWW might have started as a project, it ended as “a movement”

He stressed the importance of creating that creative space and having the freedom without a bureaucracy to create the spirit of freedom.

He shared a touching story about the memo that he first sent for the launch of the WWW, one that was sent to Steve Jobs. When Jobs’ widow was cleaning out his home office, it’s said that she found the memo and written in pencil by Jobs was “vague, but exciting.” The other anecdote that I liked was when he said, “Tim, the specs for the web are on a disk in your office.” Berners-Lee stressed the importance of getting groups together to “mix ideas” to produce better products.

He then explained that monopolies have always existed – there were the browser wars, there was the time with AT&T sold all telephones, when AOL was the only way to connect to the internet. His POV was that “they can’t compete with the crazy,” those that have new ideas that can disrupt that industry and the monopoly. We’re not over those histories with the current walled gardens, nor will we not have a place where there are monopolies that are disrupted.

The next disrupter will be payments. The W3C is currently working on a payment project to standard web payments.

Only recently are we up to 49.9% of people around the globe on the internet. Sometime next year, we’ll have the majority online, which brings him to his third factor – consequences, expected, unexpected, good, bad. He explained that Twitter and Facebook are also human created, like climate change. That a person is more likely to tweet about negative things than positive things, and the negative things are more likely to be retweeted. That creates an unintended consequence of the content that’s being consumed by those online. He stresses that we can choose what we click on, what we read.

When asked about predictions, he said that he doesn’t make predictions. He does see a trend where pixels will continue to eat cheaper and eventually, they’ll be on everything.

He hopes that we’ll continue to have an open web, that net neutrality will continue to exist and hopefully create a place with things are self-governing.

Which, brought him to Artifical Intelligence. As these things are happening, AI will continue to come along. It’ll take over the menial tasks, like driving cars. Then, what about jobs that require human judgment like newspaper editors, judges, etc. He cited the example that for GRE tests, the essay portion is now scored by both a computer and a human, and the score is averaged. Will that help with less discrimination, what if AI doesn’t have human biases? When someone is applying for a mortgage, will we see any differences?

Then you move into the question of “when will AI take over the planet?” (Paperclip game anyone?) We tend to make the assumption that intelligence is humanoid. In the FinTech industry, “robots” (aka computers) have been making investment decisions for some time.

It was a great presentation in that it was Sir Tim Berners-Lee speaking for 90 minutes; no slides, no distractions, just sharing his story and thoughts with the audience.

After a wrap-up, I was off to lunch and then joined the next session on Risk Management in Agile Projects.

Proven Techniques to Successfully Integrate Risk Management into Agile Projects

Really enjoyed Laszlo Retfalvi‘s session because he spoke of how the traditional and agile worlds are converging more and more, and as practitioners, we’re starting to forget the basics, like managing risk.

There is also a misconception that using an agile methodology “fixes risk.” All projects have uncertainty – it’s about having a “risk-smart attitude.” In his session, he covered 1) how to develop proper risk statements and 2) how to apply proven risk management techniques.

The challenge as he sees it:

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Why is Risk Management overlooked?

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Even the words that are used “Mitigate Risk” helps reinforce the assumption that risk is always negative. Risk can either be a threat or an opportunity. Below is a nice little refresher on Risks vs. Issues and the importance of focusing on impact first vs. probability.

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Then there’s the current view of Risk Management in the PMBOK and his perspective on an alternative view.

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Exploring the link between Agile and Risk Management:

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He then described how to incorporate Risk Management into hybrid approaches:

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I really enjoyed his critical success factors and steps for that incorporation:

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His template for how to write a risk statement is really clear and easy. It helps communicate the cause, what the risk is what the possible result would be.

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He stressed the importance of having a risk register, and ensure that everyone can contribute and has visibility into it. For probabilities, don’t make it too complex – three levels is fine: Low – role of the dice, Medium – 50/50 and High – Most likley going to happen.

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The environment plays a large part in how risks are identified and managed, and he calls to project managers to action to be a leader on the importance of better risk identification and management. Break the assumption that risks are bad news, by asking your team to come up with one opportunity for every three risks that they identify.

He then brings up psychological safety and its importance. It’s okay to talk about risk, to learn and grow as a team and as an organization.

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However, there still needs to be accountability – I found this grid very helpful and how strong the organization can be with high accountability and high psychological safety.

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The final thoughts were:

  • Risks should be written so that if an auditor picked up the risk register, he/she could understand what the risks are.
  • Once we know of something, the better we can manage it.
  • Most want to get the work done – there’s just variability in the why and the expectations.
  • Don’t forget about the effects of opportunities, e.g. because we implemented automate testing, we were able to deliver higher quality ahead of schedule.
  • Traditional vs. agile – has to do with the artifacts that are created and the timeboxes, culture, and environment. It’s not just a different workflow.
  • Try to incorporate risk identification and management into agile ceremonies.

Use Project Anxieties to Build Emotional Intelligence Like Washington, Lincoln, and Churchill

Next up was a session that was highly entertaining. Joseph R. Luttrell dressed in character throughout the session as Washington, Lincoln, and Churchill.

He shared how, as humans, our amygdala is responsible for a number of loaded reactions vs. our frontal cortex that provides higher order thinking. He connected this to Maxwell’s the Law of the Lid.

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He shared stories of his characters and how their personal experiences had shaped their reactions and how they were able to impose that higher order thinking to create accountable responses.

Below is an example from Lincoln and how he was able to focus on a higher object vs. the thoughts of his amygdala.

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He shared the following steps to move from an amygdala response to a more accountable response. Anxiety is created when there’s a breakdown in the communication between the amygdala and the frontal cortex – we don’t listen to other things, we need to take account of those loaded emotional reactions and shift our thinking. Possibly by changing what our defintion of what success and failure mean.

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He took a somewhat dry topic and made it fun with the characters, and there were little history lessons in there as well!

PMI Annual Meeting

Decided to attend the PMI Annual Meeting to see what it was like. Pretty straightforward with the Board Announcements. I participated by moving the motion to approve the minutes of the previous meeting (they were on a board outside the room).

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Because I was freezing, I decided to skip the reception/happy hour and head home. It was a great day!

Also check out the blog posts from Day 2 and Day 3!

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2 comments on “PMI Global Conference – Day 1 Recap

  1. Pingback: PMI Global Conference – Day 2 Recap – Joanna Vahlsing, PMP

  2. Pingback: PMI Global Conference – Day 3 Recap – Joanna Vahlsing, PMP

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