Thursday, November 09, 2017

PMI Conference observations

The PMI Conference was held this past weekend in Chicago. They've changed the format a bit and even changed the name to reflect the changes. When I first started attending almost 20 years ago, it was the PMI Symposium, then Global Congress and now the PMI Conference.

They had 3 different keynote speakers (though I only saw 2 of them), one each day. On Saturday, the speaker was Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the person that developed the technology that made the world wide web possible, specifically hypertext transfer protocol (HTTP). He talked about how a goal was to make the web a "permission-less place" where anyone could put up a site.

The web developed first through creativity, then collaboration as the world wide web consortium evolved. He did highlight a point of complex systems, that the behavior at the macroscopic level is different than on the microscopic level. While I thought the talk was interesting, some of my non-IT colleagues had trouble following it.

Sunday's keynote was very interesting. The speaker was Nicholas Epley, author of Mindwise and professor at University of Chicago. His presentation was on communications, along the lines of this article he wrote for Huffington Post. He ended with 4 take-away's:

1) Be wary of any gimmicks when it comes to trying to understand others. Always ask for evidence.
2) Cut down your confidence in how well you think you understand what someone else is thinking, you understand them less than you think.
3) Learn to ask questions well, it's the best way to gain an understanding of what someone else is thinking.
4) To communicate well, be painfully clear. Don't assume the other person will easily understand your message.

The best session I sat in on was delivered by Ahmed Sidky. He talked about how the leadership structure of agile teams evolved at Riot Games. Rather than assigning roles such as scrum master or product owner to individuals, they identified 4 key leadership roles;

Team Captain - responsible for overall delivery
Product Lead - responsible for the direction of the product
Delivery Lead - responsible for development
Craft Lead - responsible for the engineering

Each team would associate key responsibilities with the four "hats" as they call them. A team member can wear more than 1 hat but the team decides all of this.This approach takes self-organizing teams to a new level.

I also took part in an interactive session on the new Agile Practice guide that came out with the latest PMBoK. It was led by Jesse Fewell and Mike Griffiths, both long-time agile names in the PMI community.The session was a good way to start understanding what is in the guide.

PMI tried to improve he quality of the sessions. As a speaker, I had to go through a few additional hurdles including creating a story board that was reviewed by an SME and practicing my presentation on the phone with a experienced speaker. I don't know if PMI got the results they wanted. There were regular speakers that did not speak because they didn't want to go through the additional steps. At the same time, I still had 2 sessions I walked out on because they didn't meet my expectations.