This year our Power of Projects conference was a significant one. We celebrated our 50th anniversary and brought the project management community back together, face to face at Park Plaza London Riverbank on Thursday 9 June. The flagship conference was buzzing with new and experienced project professionals and featured a range of engaging sessions from expert speakers on leadership, sustainability and diversity. Here are a few key highlights:
An insight into leading one of the most influential projects of our time
We were delighted to welcome Professor Catherine Green OBE, Associate Professor in Chromosome Dynamics at the University of Oxford to the stage as our opening keynote speaker where she discussed the challenges her and her team faced when leading the manufacture and development of the Oxford AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. Professor Green also explained how they had to transition into ‘mission mode’ they urgently compressed an eight year project into eight months and ensured they “told the truth about deadlines and tried to plan for the best scenario.”
In regard, to her eye-opening talk, she states: “It’s a great privilege to be able to talk about this project. The idea of ‘telling a story’ is something that we’ve learned we need to do as scientists. To recognise the difficulties that came with this project is very important.”
Effective leaders are driven by purpose and ask for help
As the project profession experiences unprecedented change and challenges, project leadership skills have become essential. Ellie Orton OBE, CEO of NHS Charities Together delivered this moving and relatable session as she shared the lessons and learnings of leading the charitable project which raised £150 million for those impacted by COVID-19 - thus becoming the biggest UK fundraiser of all time.
Orton shared her ‘reflections on leading through a storm’; three key tips for project managers to excel in successfully leading a team through difficult situations:
- Purpose first.
- Be led by your values.
- Ask for help!
The power of the human brain in managing stress, self-awareness and decision-making
Carole Osterweil’s Transformation Troubleshooter, Author and Coach session was especially engaging as it took an interesting look at the human brain and its impact on decision-making and projects. As the author of our latest book, Neuroscience for project success, Osterweil explored the importance of being self-aware; taking a moment to understand how we are thinking and feeling; and what our energy levels are like throughout the day. She also took listeners through the ‘stress cycle':
“There’s a real issue for all in the project world. The quest for high performance can turn toxic. I think there’s a real danger in organisations when we talk about stress in that we talk about it only as an individual issue…Stress isn’t necessarily a bad thing. We need a little stress to perform well. The issue is when we have too much stress. That’s when performance can start to drop off. Even before the pandemic, 40% of people were saying they’d suffered from prolonged stress.”
50 projects for a better future
To mark our golden year, an exciting list of 50 inspiring projects were revealed which includes Svalbard Seed Vault, GPS, Wikipedia and many more. These projects illustrate the public value that can be drawn from successful project delivery.
Although it was a challenge to pick the list of 50 projects for a better future, Darren Dalcher, Professor at Lancaster University Management School, explained how important it was to narrow it down by asking, ‘what if this project hadn't happened? Would it have made a difference?’ Our expert panel explored our perceptions of project success and how we measure the return on investment in terms of societal benefits.
Karen Elson, Knowledge Director at Co.Cre8 discussed the 2012 London Olympics, “the really inspiring thing for me about this project was how the project was delivered…There was a genuine desire for the project to succeed.”
Professor Dalcher's first choice was The Eden Project: “It was my first pick because it's a place that means a lot to people. It's a new concept and it shows what we can achieve through projects. We can turn something that was finished into a beautiful new attraction.”
We’re delighted by delivering another incredible conference and want to take the opportunity to thank all those who came along to learn, network and impart knowledge on the project profession.
In the words of our CEO, Prof. Adam Boddison: “Project practitioners have proved time and again that they have the drive and adaptability to deliver the changes society will need in the coming years, no matter what challenges they’re tasked with overcoming. Today’s conference is about helping you fulfil your leading roles in that ongoing journey.”
Don’t miss our upcoming Women in Project Management conference which also features our Think Differently summit.