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Myth Busting - APM Conference 2015

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Posted by APM on 25th Mar 2015

20 20 business insight sponsor apm conference 2015Conference chairman Mary McKinlay opened the sold-out 2015 APM Project Management Conference sponsored by 20|20 Business Insight by unpicking the theme of the event to a full house at London’s Kings Place.

‘Myth busting’ is all about challenging the assumptions that have built up over time, she explained: “APM is now more than forty years old and once you get over 40 you may start to get set in your ways. 

“Today is an opportunity for us to start breaking down the barriers, to debunk the myths.”

After outlining the three streams the day’s talks were divided into – People Myths, Delivery Myths and Big Project Myths – McKinlay stressed the award-winning conference’s importance as a forum for like-minded professionals to meet, share ideas and network.

McKinlay also mentioned a brand new paper by APM, Conditions for Project Success observing, “there’s a gap between knowing what we have to do and actually doing it.” 

The research, which is based on the views of 850 project professionals, identifies the core factors that contribute to a project’s success.

Next up on stage was the award-winning author, broadcaster and scientist Dr Ben Goldacre, who gave an energetic speech on the importance of randomised trials in improving performance in the healthcare sector. 

Drawing on the dubious claims made by the western media, Goldacre stressed the importance of questioning bad habits and doing away with dodgy data.

While many of the examples Goldacre singled out were from the world of medicine, he was keen to stress the importance of randomised trials in every field and discipline. “It’s not an easy ride and medicine certainly isn’t alone, or hugely advanced, when it comes to randomized trials. These are simple, easy tools anyone can use.” 

Attendees described Goldacre’s speech as ‘engaging’, ‘lively’ and ‘stimulating,’ with plenty of food for thought to take away.

The rest of the day was divided up into a number of interesting talks from industry experts. This included Laing O’Rourke’s Caroline Blackman  who spoke about organisational collaboration and drew particular attention to the UK’s increasing skills shortage. 

Manon Bradley, from the Major Projects Association, also picked up the idea of a skills shortage in her talk on diversity. Bradley posited greater diversity – including the hiring of more female project managers across the industry – as the best way to plug the gap. 

“We’re facing a talent crisis. Unless we do something to address the skills shortage soon, we won’t be able to meet the demands of the national infrastructure pipeline,” said Bradley.

Elsewhere, Dr David Pendleton from the Edgecumbe Group gave an insightful speech that tackled the myth of the ‘complete leader’. Pendleton said the world moves too fast for any one person to have a monopoly on wisdom and we need a new approach: “It’s not about how to lead teams, but how the team leads.”

Throughout the day, delegates were challenged to question the received wisdom, to find new and innovative ways of combating old problems and to share their ideas with their colleagues and other delegates.

The conference ended with a compelling speech by former table tennis champion Matthew Syed which challenged the myths surrounding our idea of success, with particular reference to sporting achievements. 

Interrogating the nature of high level, world class performance and success, Syed stated that natural talent as a concept is “vastly over-rated,” and that we too readily buy into myths like that of the child prodigy. 

Syed argued that success is the result of growth – and the ability to learn from failure – rather than an innate gift that arrives fully formed. He also highlighted the dangers of viewing talent and success as a gift: “How we conceptualise success has radical implications for how we behave as individuals and institutions,” Syed argued.

He also said that “a willingness to fail” is a crucial factor in the success of any individual, business, project or programme. Syed made a powerful case for changing the language we use to talk about success – particularly when addressing those who are still growing – favouring an approach that praises effort and hard-work, not in-built intelligence. Finally, Syed stated that importance of “resilience and grit” when it comes to success, a message for all to take away. 

Bringing the day’s proceedings to a close, Mary McKinlay returned to the lectern to advise delegates to use the lessons they’d learned in the course of the conference to question their own practices. McKinlay asked: “Which myths have been busted for you and how will this change the way you work?” 

Workfront sponsor APM conference 2015Once the talks were over delegates were treated to a drinks reception courtesy of sponsor Workfront , which provided them with a chance to mull over the lessons they’d learned in the course of the day.

A full round up of the 2015 APM conference will feature in the June issue of Project.

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