Project Management Challenge 2017

A few weeks ago we invited Project Managers to participate in our first Project Management Challenge in collaboration with EditX. From early May to end of June, participants could fill in an on-line test and finalists were invited to compete for the ‘Benelux Project Manager Champion 2017’ title on July 4th in the offices of Threon in Ghent. We are happy to announce that David Machiels holds the title of ‘Benelux Project Manager Champion 2017’ title. Erwin Verheyen became second and Sebastiaan Eshuis conquered the third place.

 

We took the opportunity to have a chat with the participants, jury members and colleagues in order to gather some thoughts, insights and opinions about (Agile) Project Management. Read on to discover their thoughts:

STEREOTYPE 1: PROJECT MANAGERS ARE RIGID AND INFLEXIBLE 

For many years, Project Managers have been held accountable for managing the costs and schedules of projects; and we all know that in order to meet cost and schedule goals, you have to control the scope of the project. That, in turn, requires a disciplined approach to managing change where change becomes the exception rather than the norm. Do you agree?

I do not agree with this statement at all. Project Managers are the opposite of rigid. They need to be very flexible, both in cooperation with the sponsors and the employees. Yet it is important that they stand up tall in order to prevent that one would take advantage of its goodwill. Summarized, flexibility is one of the most important values of a Project Manager.

Thomas Verdyck - Product Manager Mobility @ MCS Real Estate and Facility Management

On the one hand, Project Managers must be sort of rigid because of the structures they need to apply. But, on the other hand, they also need to be very flexible because of the many external influences. One must be able to control the structure and have a great adaptability at the same time. This duality requires a combination of strictness and flexibility.

Fauve Delcour - Project Management Consultant @ Threon

If this would be the case, many projects would surely fail. A good project manager must indeed have a rigid element to ensure that nothing gets forgotten. But projects behave often exactly as people in real life: one cannot predict the future, so you must be flexible to adapt the team and yourselves for any new situation that may popup. So the combination of rigidity and flexibility to listen and to act will be a recipe for success.

Sebastiaan Eshuis - Project Manager @ Alpha Credit

STEREOTYPE 2: PROJECT MANAGERS CANNOT ADAPT TO AN AGILE ENVIRONMENT 

Many Project Managers have been heavily trained in a waterfall-style methodology. They are often measured on achieving cost and schedule goals. And thus, because of these characteristics Project Managers cannot adapt to agile. What are your thoughts on this one?

Flexibility is a critical asset as PM. For the older generation it is more difficult to go from waterfall towards agile but the change is inevitable. From my experience in ICT, agile isn’t a trend. The methodology was founded here and we will continue to use it in combination with the waterfall methodology.

David Machiels - Freelancer @ KBC

I do agree that people in this environment need to work differently, but Project Managers are capable of adapting to this. Project Managers today are recognizing this change and slowly adapting their way of working as it is a logical change.”
David Machiels: “Flexibility is a critical asset as a Project Manager. For the older generation it is more difficult to go from waterfall towards agile but the change is inevitable. From my experience in ICT, agile isn’t a trend. The methodology was founded here and we will continue to use it in combination with the waterfall methodology.

Bavo Callens - Software Engineer @ Colruyt Group

A Project Manager is needed in order to create an agile environment. I believe that waterfall and agile methodologies will always be mixed, one will never replace the other completely. The right mix is key.

Erwin Verheyen - Consultant @ DXC Technology

I believe it’s a hot topic, but I don’t use agile principles. I believe it can be of good use in IT developments, where it originally started. However, the PMI and Prince2 methodologies also enable you to be agile, you can tailor your project environment and framework into different stages or phases which will allow actually to be agile.

Yves Schmit - Team Lead of Project Management and Technical Coördination @ Post Technologies

QUESTION 1: ACCORDING TO YOU, WHAT ARE THE KEY CHARACTERISTICS OF A GOOD PROJECT MANAGER? 

They say that good Project Managers are hard enough to find, and great Project Managers are rarer still. But what qualities does he/she need to ensure effectiveness?

Communication and flexibility are the main characteristics of a good project Manager. Besides that, you need to keep control of the scope and know how to motivate every person involved. At the very moment he succeeds, the Project Manager is satisfied.

Thomas Verdyck - Product Manager Mobility @ MCS Real Estate and Facility Management

The requirements and qualities of a good Project Manager depend on the size of the project. Anyway, Project Managers must know how to communicate and motivate everyone involved.

Bavo Callens - Software Engineer @ Colruyt Group

Good project management consists of having the right balance and combination of administrative responsibilities and people management.

David Machiels - Freelancer @ KBC

The set-up of a good decision structure. A good Project Manager knows how to define a clear context where the projects can be delivered.

Erwin Verheyen - Consultant @ DXC Technology

First of all I think that soft skills such as leadership and emotional intelligence are one of the main characteristics. Besides those and within our multi-cultural environment, a good Project Manager needs to have knowledge of different languages to facilitate communication. Today’s Project Managers need to have a good overall average knowledge of the business they are in and also understand the technical parts. They must be able to think transversally and to “simply connect the dots".

Yves Schmit - Team Lead of Project Management and Technical Coördination @ Post Technologies

Summarizing their answers I conclude that the ability to communicate properly is seen as an important skill in order to be a good Project Manager. Project Managers spend a lot of time communicating with individuals and groups. It's been estimated that a Project Manager spends 90% of his/her time on communication related activities. From assigning tasks to team members to providing status updates, a Project Manager is constantly communicating.
Being able to articulate your vision and strategies clearly enables you to motivate your team and establishes you as a strong leader and capable Manager within the organization. Communication is so vital to an organization’s decision-making process that all Project Managers must have the skills to initiate and respond to all forms of communication. The successful Manager builds collaborative relationships through active listening. He or she can dramatically increase productivity by running efficient meetings and business discussions.

QUESTION 2: HOW DO YOU KEEP YOUR PROJECT MANAGEMENT KNOWLEDGE UP-TO-DATE? 

Many of us work in fast-changing environments that require us to be experts in our field. Keeping up to date with industry news and trends will help you gain experience, identify opportunities for growth and give you a competitive edge. How do you stay on top?

Initially, I learned everything through reading books. Nowadays, I keep my knowledge up-to-date through experience, Linked-In articles and several blogs on the internet.

Thomas Verdyck - Product Manager Mobility @ MCS Real Estate and Facility Management

Most of my knowledge nowadays comes from experience. In addition, I often read articles I receive from colleagues.

Bavo Callens - Software Engineer @ Colruyt Group

I learn a lot through exchanging information, feedback and knowledge with other project Managers. We learn from each other by experience.

Erwin Verheyen - Consultant @ DXC Technology

I learn the most through a good combination of theory and practice. I continually challenge theories and maintain my PM experience.

David Machiels - Freelancer @ KBC

As mentioned also by my fellow candidates, day-to-day practice puts you with 2 feet on the ground every day, and push you to understand new techniques, and to learn from your colleagues, stakeholders and sponsors. And, I try to regularly train myself in new techniques by keeping an eye on professional sources related to Program and Project Management, and to follow trainings. And with the price I won this week at Threon, it will be even a greater incentive to do so.

Sebastiaan Eshuis - Project Manager @ Alpha Credit

Thank you to all the other participants, jury members and EditX. We are already looking forward to our next challenge that will be held next year! In the meantime, feel free to contact us if you wish to exchange a few words with us or share your tips and tricks on how to keep your project management knowledge up-to-date!

A big thank you to Serafien Ysebaert for collecting all the input!

 

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