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Thoughts on APM Conference 2015

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This year, I was lucky to attend the sold-out APM Conference as a Programme Management SIG volunteer. This short blog piece gives my impressions, plus some of my insights from the day. You can read my full report of the conference on the APM news here.

The APM Conference 2015 focused on busting myths in project, programme and portfolio management, specifically myths around people, delivery and big projects.

When I arrived at the conference venue, the only way was down! A very long escalator took me deep into the basement of Kings Place, where the conference exhibition was in full swing. There is always a buzz when project managers and relevant bookstalls and vendors are put together and this day was no different. The exhibition extended over two floors, as did the refreshment stations. Soon I spotted people I knew from the ProgM SIG, from my time in Women in Project Management SIG or from the Midlands branch and many conversations started with new people, including other volunteers.  This promised to be a fun day as well as one full of new insights.

You can find all the details of the sessions I attended in my full report but here are my overall impressions. From the conference, it appears that our profession is in good health. There were people who were willing to challenge orthodox ways of doing things and to try new things. Others had learned from their many years of experience and both groups had achieved great success. Still more speakers gave their perspectives from outside the profession, on topics such as leadership, talent versus the power of mindset, using data to make good decisions and being more agile within organisations.

The themes I heard over and over again include the following:

  • Think carefully about what will work in your situation and learn as you go;
  • Leadership does not need a perfect individual; we can do it together as a well-rounded team;
  • People deliver projects – engage them with emotionally and socially as well as rationally;
  • People make decisions based on their personal perspective;
  • Practice makes perfect, so make sure you learn as you go;
  • Resilience is a key component of leadership (and thus project leadership of course)
  • Change is constant!

Overall, I am reassured about our profession. From those I spoke to at the conference, it seems that many of us are more self-aware than we used to be. We no longer expect that turning a handle on a process will result in successful delivery of benefits. We know that people can’t be treated as rational machines, but as individual human beings to be engaged at many levels. We know we don’t have to be perfect, and don’t expect others to be perfect, but we do need to bring together the diverse talents of the people around us as only together can we provide everything we need for our projects. 

I wonder if this rings true for you? Let’s have a conversation to bring the thoughts from the conference in the basement to a wider discussion. I look forward to hearing your thoughts and seeing them in the comments below.

Penny Pullan

Posted by Penny Pullan on 5th May 2015

About the Author

Dr Penny Pullan’s latest book is ‘Virtual Leadership: Getting the best out of virtual teams and virtual work’. She’s currently the Secretary of the Programme Management SIG and a former Women in Project Management SIG co-chair. You can connect with her on Twitter @pennypullan or via her company www.makingprojectswork.co.uk

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