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Wildlife project case study, Portishead toadsThree years ago, Helen Mason stood outside her home and looked at the road. Every day there were more frogs and toads that hadn’t made it to the other side. The increasing numbers of dead amphibians made her feel that the local population of frogs and toads needed a helping hand to cross the road. So she set up a project to do something about it.

The frog-saving team

The frogs cross a busy road in Portishead to get to their breeding ponds. The toads can’t get up the curbs. Both species sometimes fall down the drains and get stuck. Helen roped in a few more volunteers with buckets and torches to patrol the streets around the ponds between 6pm and 10pm at night: the busy time for cars and dusk for the migrating amphibians.

Together they saved 900 frogs and toads from traffic in 2013 but as with any project it was clear she needed more resources if they were going to achieve more.

Volunteers are onboarded to the project team with a guided walk around the areas, then allocated an experienced mentor and an area to patrol as part of a team. The team wear plastic gloves under their woolly ones – frogs naturally find the puddles to sit in so it’s easy to get wet and cold very quickly. Sound like how you bring people on to your projects? OK, maybe not the plastic gloves bit. [click to continue…]


My Life Is A PMP® Ethics Question!

Photo of Jeff Furman

Jeff Furman (credit: Michelle Wild)

This is an article by Jeff Furman, PMP®, whom I met at a PMI Congress one year, and we’ve stayed in touch since. Jeff has been a firm supporter of Social Media for Project Managers and I’m delighted to showcase some of his work here.

Q.  The sales rep for a software vendor and his lead engineer fly in to your city to demo their new product for you at your office, hoping to persuade you to buy it for your company. They know you are also evaluating a competing product, and they ask you to show them their competitor’s tool, which you currently have installed in trial mode on your desktop. They tell you that seeing the other tool would help them better tailor their software product for you. What is the best way to handle their request?

A. Show them the product, but say: “Remember, it’s confidential information.”  

B. Diplomatically tell them you can’t accommodate their request.

C. Say no, and inform your management of this incident ASAP.

D. Say no, and Tweet about the incident to the Twitterverse.

Which answer would you choose if this were an “ethics question” on a test, like the PMP® Exam? Which answer would you choose in real life? And would it be the same answer?

Let’s look at the 4 choices:

A – Is unethical, but also would be illegal if the project manager had signed a non-disclosure agreement, which they probably would have prior to the evaluation. (The best way to see why it’s unethical is to put yourself in the shoes of the competing vendor, who trusted you to trial their product).

D –  May sound silly, but many people actually do vent about vendors on the Internet nowadays, sometimes at their own legal peril.

So the choice comes down to B or C”. “B” is Just say no, where… “C” is Say no + Disclosure.

As you might have guessed, I was the project manager in this incident years ago. At the time, I had no doubt that “No” was the right answer, and in acting on “B” I thought I was doing the correct, though difficult thing, in refusing to grant the request of this vendor. And my decision was made more difficult by the fact that I had known this vendor for several years.

I was thinking at the time that others in my position might say yes, in the hope of getting a better deal from the vendor (or even just a Homer Simpson-style free lunch).

Why didn’t I inform management at the time? I thought I had handled it but years later our company wound up being burned by this sales rep.

But maybe you chose “C,” which would have been the best choice. And if I could have a “do-over” (like my hero, Bill Murray in Groundhog Day!) I would definitely have informed my senior management about the incident.

If you did choose “C”, you would have been in agreement with PMI’s*  Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct, especially two clauses:

  • Clause 2.2.5 (Responsibility, Aspirational Standards): “We protect proprietary or confidential information that has been entrusted to us.”


  • Clause 2.3.2 (Responsibility, Mandatory Standards) : “We report unethical or illegal conduct to appropriate management and, if necessary, to those affected by the conduct.”

Why didn’t I inform my management at the time? Well, I thought I had handled it and it was a done deal (“Problem solved!”) and there was no need to make trouble. Also, I thought my busy manager might not appreciate my throwing a hot mess onto his desk.

But years later, whatta ya know, our company wound up being burned in a different way by this very same sales rep.  We would have avoided this, had I disclosed the issue at the time, and given my manager and the company’s senior leadership the chance to take action on it.

Have you ever experienced a similar ethical choice on a project? Did the issue give you any lessons learned you might like to share? If so… Please Comment (below).

* Project Management Institute. Project Management Institute Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct. 2006. http://www.pmi.org/en/About-Us/ Ethics/~/media/PDF/Ethics/ap_pmicodeofethics.ashx

About the author: Jeff Furman, PMP®  is a Project Management Instructor based in NYC. He currently teaches various levels of project management courses for NYU SCPS, IIUSA, and NetCom Learning.  He currently is developing a course in “Ethics In PM” for NYU SCPS, based on the two recent presentations he gave on Ethics In PM for PMINAC 2012 in Vancouver and PMI NYC’s Annual Symposium 2012. He is also the author of The Project Management Answer Book.


Improving project management standards at Airbus

Kevin Baker

Kevin Baker, Head of Project & Programme Management Operations at Airbus

Change is hard, and project managers aren’t particularly good at doing it to themselves – in my experience we prefer to implement change for others. Kevin Baker, Head of Project & Programme Management Operations at Airbus, took on the challenge of changing the way they manage projects. I spoke to him about how he implemented cultural change at the company.

Kevin, why did you decide to enhance the project management culture at Airbus?

We simply knew that we needed to improve. There are many studies on project and programmes in the aerospace and defence sectors, and they all tell a similar story – it is an unfortunate fact that many A&D projects have a history of being late and over budget. This may have been acceptable many years ago when the industry was based on large government funded ’prestige’ projects. The Concord programme is old, but is a good example of this. And there are many other more recent examples. But we know that we have to improve. Our customers expect more, and our shareholders expect more.

So how did you go about it?

We set up an organisation with a specific mission to improve the project management culture – it is called the Centre of Competence for Project & Programme Management, CoC P&PM. Over the last 3 years, this organisation has developed the various improvement levers – we have developed a specific career path for project managers, we have introduced an internal certification process for our project managers so that the junior project managers can see how to progress, we have introduced a larger suite of project management training with emphasis of soft skills, and we have introduced a standardised set of project management methods and tools covering all the project management activities – cost management, schedule management, earned value management, risk management, and so on.

‘Good’ is when all the key players in Airbus think and act in a project management way, so that it is just a normal part of how we work.

Wow, that sounds comprehensive. I especially like the idea of career paths. Tell me more about the certification process and the training.

Each project management actor can apply for and be certified at a certain level. We have 5 levels ranging from an entry level called ‘Iron’ thorough to the most senior at ‘platinum’ level. To reach each level the person needs to have a mix of experience across a spectrum of areas – we believe that breadth of experience is essential for good project managers – and to have undertaken a mix of different trainings. This is now in regular use in Airbus and is a major tool for the development of the skilled project managers we need at all levels in our company. It acts as a powerful roadmap for each person’s personal development as a project manager.

That sounds very thorough – project managers will get a good grounding in a lot of skills through your scheme. But the whole thing has involved implementing a lot of standardised process. I’m interested to know how you will know when you’ve achieved what you set out to achieve. How did you define what good looks like?

We have thought long and hard about this, as it is not easy to precisely define it, and even harder to measure it. But in general terms ‘good’ is when all the key players in Airbus think and act in a project management way, so that it is just a normal part of how we work.

That’s a great definition, but it must have been a difficult journey. What was the hardest part of creating a culture change?

I think the most difficult part is to keep up the momentum. You can introduce new methods, processes, tools and so on, but to change the culture you need to change the people. I do not mean to replace them, but rather to change the way they think and act. We need to get a project management way-of-working accepted as part of the daily life, so that it is used almost without thinking about it. This is the only way to change the culture, but this takes a high and sustained energy. If you relax the pressure, then the change can slow down and even go into reverse.

We have made some good progress in the last years, but we know that we need to continue to improve. Projects become more challenging, timescales become shorter, budgets become tighter, our customers expect more, and the competition does not stand still. Our journey will continue.

Thanks, Kevin!


About my interviewee: Kevin Baker is Head of Project & Programme Management Operations at Airbus. He is speaking today at Project Zone Congress in Frankfurt about this programme of work to enhance project management culture at the company.


Project management in schools: two case studies

Last week I wrote about what the PMI Educational Foundation does. One of the missions of PMIEF is to build project management skills in young people and teachers, better equipping students for the future. How exactly does it do that? At PMI’s EMEA Leadership Institute Meeting in Dublin last month two volunteers spoke about their involvement in their local schools.

The Polish Experience

Poland Chapter's project management workshops

Photos from the Project Management Workshops

Ma?gorzata Kusyk, PMIEF Liaison for PMI’s Poland Chapter based at the Gdansk branch spoke about their ‘Project Management At Schools’ project. The Chapter has run three pilots, using the project management Toolkit for Youth.

First, they had to translate the Toolkit into Polish. Then they used it as the basis for a 12-hour project management course: six lessons, each of two hours. The course included mentoring, materials, templates and group exercises. A ‘real life’ project manager was invited along to at least one of the sessions, so the students could see how the skills they were learning translated to the world of work.

One of the pilots was run as part of a summer camp for girls from an orphanage. Eight girls took the course, aged from 14 to 19. Their project was to organise four hours of activities for the 40 younger girls participating in the summer camp.

The girls produced a work breakdown structure, a project charter, a schedule and a budget. Their stakeholder register included the teachers, other children and the camp organisers. They produced a communication plan which included a daily briefing to everyone at the camp about how the plans were going. The outcome was a quiz and some sports activities. You can see photos from the camp on the initiative’s Facebook page.

The point of doing all this was:

  • To build awareness of project management in Poland, as this is currently low
  • To encourage students to use project management techniques on a daily basis
  • To encourage students to work effectively at school and outside school
  • To gain publicity for the Chapter
  • To help the volunteers learn how to teach project management.

The pilot schemes were successful so the Gdansk branch is moving ahead with doing it again this year. The plan now is to train more teachers and run more workshops in schools, using a ‘train the trainer’ model, so that the materials can be used by a much wider group. There are also plans to develop a shorter course for 10-13 year olds.

Schools in Jordan

Dr Hazem Zeitoun, President of PMI Jordan Chapter, spoke about what his Chapter was doing to promote project management in schools.

Jordan’s population is 6 million, with 1000 PMPs and 200 paid-up PMI members. A third of Jordan’s income comes from people working outside the country and sending it back home, so there is not a lot of money spare for advanced educational facilities.

He told us about the Madrasati initiative, led by Queen Rania. This initiative aims to close the gap between the community and school, helping the government transform schools into community hubs. It aims to improve the overall learning experience in 500 public schools. In order to do this they need quality learning tools, and the project management skills to implement the initiative locally.

Madrasati project

Madrasati Project Summary

Jordan Chapter has decided to partner with an existing initiative because Madrasati has links with the education sector already, plus experience in dealing with the bureaucracy. PMI, and project management, is not widely known in Jordan, so partnering with Madrasati will help build credibility and also open some doors to individual schools to pilot the project management learning sessions.

The Chapter is still a way off from fully participating – there are lots of administrative hurdles to jump through. They have made a presentation to the Ministry of Education and are currently awaiting the outcome. Ministry support is essential in order to be able to access teachers and use the same ‘train the trainer’ model that Poland is using.

Both the Jordan and Poland initiatives are run by volunteers who truly believe that project management skills can help their communities be more effective. Good luck to them both!

See all the slides from this presentation online here.

Image credit: YGLvoices on Flickr


PMI Global Congress EMEA [Video Diary, Day 1]

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