Project Management Echoes the Spirit of Giving Back

In recent years, members of the project management community have worked tirelessly to advance the field by demonstrating the impact of PMOs across sectors ranging from construction to government to nonprofit management.

Put simply, their efforts have paid off.

After all, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers, 97 percent of organizations believe project management is critical to business performance and organizational success. But, this milestone achievement does not eliminate the need to communicate the role of project managers to the wider world.

Each year, nearly 300 project management professionals from across the country and from areas around the world join forces to tackle challenges impacting the field at large. These experts – of all career-levels and backgrounds – come together for the University of Maryland’s Project Management Symposium, where speakers from government, industry, and academe share experiences and lessons learned in efforts to advance the field and further demonstrate that project managers play a critical role in all areas of the workforce, from small businesses to federal programs that span the nation.

Just like the field of project management itself, the annual two-day symposium serves as a melting pot of sorts, through which participants gain new perspectives in the field as they connect with government workers, engineers, academics, consultants, and business owners.

"One of the reasons our symposium is able to cover such a wide range of topics in project management year after year is because so many leading minds in the field come out for this event, willing and eager to share experiences and lessons learned with others in the industry," said John H. Cable, Director of the University of Maryland’s Project Management Center for Excellence.

The 2016 symposium – which drew more than 260 participants – was comprised of aerospace engineers, government consultants, health care representatives, construction engineers and engineering consultants, web development experts, academics, legislative personnel, and a variety of project management consultants. Roughly one-fifth of participants held a military or government affiliation, and 12 percent of attendees self-identified as PMI members, according to a registration survey conducted by the University of Maryland.

This sample size offers a small glimpse into the diverse makeup of project management. Additionally, many in the field attribute project management’s growing success to the openness with which experts of varied backgrounds share insights and ideas across all areas and levels of project management.

Even more, this practice of idea-sharing extends beyond the office.

During the 2016 symposium, Kendall Lott, CEO and President of M Powered Strategies, Inc., spoke about the importance of project management engagement in a unique venue: volunteerism. Along with Uma Hiremagalur, Vice President of Programs at the Washington, D.C. chapter of the Project Management Institute (PMI Washington), Lott talked about how volunteerism offers project managers an opportunity to be agents of change.

“The value is enormous – from the altruism of helping others, to problem-solving where others couldn’t, to helping some desperate need be met,” Lott said.

"It's about really giving back how much you can give back and keeping your focus on what you want to get out of being a volunteer," Hiremagalur elaborated. "The work you do can be similar to your daily work, but volunteerism offers a unique opportunity to gain special experience and have fun. Volunteering is the perfect way to get comfortable working with people you don’t know to achieve something awesome. Working toward a common goal with others will help you appreciate diversity, develop mutual respect, and gain the cooperation needed to succeed."

And, in volunteering as "doers" and project leaders, project managers help further demonstrate the importance of the field at large, the duo noted.

Building on this concept, Laura Barnard , CEO and Founder of PMO Strategies, offered a riveting presentation on "helping those that help themselves” and creating effective and sustainable change for organizations.

"The project office exists to have an impact," she said, recognizing that there is a class of business leaders today who are hesitant to call their project support office a “project management office.” “They say, 'Whatever you do, don’t call it management.' This is an interesting trend, so I am trying to figure out why so many business leaders will call it anything but a 'PMO.'"

Barnard added that the best way to combat naysayers who claim that the concept of adopting a PMO is outdated is to demonstrate value by example.

"I say that if we have a positive impact, if we can show value, we will return the name 'PMO' or whatever you want others to call it to a place with which organizations and people want to operate," she said. "Why do we create PMOs in the first place? To get results, to align with strategy, to maximize business impact… It’s about identifying your priorities and, then, managing stakeholders. After that, we must perform relentlessly – it’s about getting results. We have to be okay and agile enough to shift when the needs of the organization shift. And then, we must communicate, communicate, communicate – but, with a purpose. Then, and only then, can we transform our own mindset and others’."

Recognizing the value of uniting project managers under one roof, the University of Maryland Project Management Center for Excellence will host its fourth annual Project Management Symposium, May 4-5, 2017, at the University of Maryland campus in College Park, Md. Early-bird registration is now available, and more information about the program – including the full slate of keynote speakers – is available online .

For those looking to maintain a PMI credential, the Project Management Symposium offers an opportunity to earn up to 13 professional development units (PDUs) in the PMI Talent Triangle. Each speaker will specify which of the three talent triangle skills his or her presentation will address.

For more information, or to register, visit the UMD Project Management Symposium website.

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