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Congress and the Chinese Meal

Chinese Proverb: Pearls lie not on the seashore. If thou desirest one thou must dive for it.

Yesterday two significant things happened, Firstly I registered for the PMI Global Congress in Washington in October, and secondly I had a very nice Chinese meal at my local restaurant to celebrate my birthday (celebrating the event you understand rather than the increasing number of years).

Now my local Chinese restaurant has, in case you were at all interested, 192 menu options and 14 set menus on offer. I strongly suspect that your own local Chinese restaurant will have a similar number of good things to eat on their menu.
PMI Congress has, again if you were at all interested, 160 sessions that I could attend if I a) wished and b) could time travel in order to be in parallel sessions and c) could survive.

It is a fact that, despite the 192 menu options that I could select, I tend to fairly regularly go for the same options each time I dine `Chinese`style. Actually all of my family does the same thing. We arrive in the restaurant, take our seats, order drinks and then peruse the menu for 5 or 10 minutes, politely asking each other what we are thinking of choosing and commenting that something `sounds nice` or ask`is that new on the menu’ (it never is). But after that, when the drinks are served and it is decision time, we gravitate towards our favourites.

Mine is (in case you were still interested)

  • Prawn Crackers
  • Sesame Prawn on Toast
  • Crispy Aromatic Duck with Pancakes
  • Szechaun Beef
  • Rice

I won`t list the whole family choice but it is safe to say that I can place the final order without reference to the menu at all.
I am not even sure when these favourites became favourites (probably something to do with the increasing number of years I have experienced) but favourites they are.

For Congress you can select the sessions that you wish by

  • Styles
  • Presenter
  • Subject

And of course date and time. But how do you go about choosing from such a huge selection and ensuring that you both attend the best sessions and learn from the experiences.

When it comes to the Chinese meal I often ask myself am I missing out or just playing it safe? It is not every day that we eat out and so it is a good thing to de-risk the process and order something that you know you like. On the other hand there are the 187 other menu items that I know I would definitely enjoy some of if only I strayed from my regular choices. Tricky.

For the Congress I have printed out the schedule, with all the details of speaker and subject abstract and immediately I can identify a handful of speakers who I know are great speakers. So if I select these sessions I will for sure be entertained. On the other hand there are some pretty intriguing session titles that either fit in with my current PMO interest or just seem a new slant on project management. These could be good but the speakers are unknown to me.

So I could go with the tried and tested and potentially miss out on something and someone new and exciting or I could risk it and go with the unknown and risk enjoying a less than interesting time.

It is a tough business event speaking and I well remember my first`gig` at PMI EMEA Congress in Amsterdam 2009. I was the unknown and I truly thank the 100 plus people who selected my session from the rest of the options and attended. It can`t have been too bad as I was invited to deliver an`encore` session at the event and another 100 turned up for that as well.

This dilemma I am sure is not PMI specific but at every conference or congress where there are parallel tracks and therefore choices to be made. The IPMA World Congress in Turkey later this year being one example.

I reflected that when I was a young man and starting work I used to regularly go out straight after work and buy 1 or 2 music albums on a Friday. This resulted in some purchases that I knew the singer or band and a number where I liked the album cover or someone said it was good or it was in the charts or I just randomly selected it. Over the weekend they were listened to and come Sunday evening I could pretty much know if the album was a`keeper` or something that I would happily swap with a friend. But through this process I did expand my musical tastes and likes a great deal and some of these albums are still in my collection (although now in iTunes rather than on my shelf in what now seems an incredibly large vinyl format).

So taking a chance is worth it as long as you accept the fact that there will be some disappointments along the way.
For this Congress I am doing three things. Going with 4 speakers I know and enjoy, asking through various social media for recommendations of speakers that I have yet to enjoy myself, and for the rest just diving in.

If you are attending Washington here`s a tip.

If you want to avoid having to listen to me then don`t go to session PRJ42:

The Lazy Project Manager: The Art of Productive Laziness.

Tuesday, 12 October
4:15 PM-5:30 PM

Understand how to adopt a more focused approach to project management and to both prioritize and remain positive when facing challenges in your projects.

Welcome to the world of "productive laziness." By advocating being a "lazy" project manager it is not intended that we should all do absolutely nothing. It really means that we should all adopt a more focused approach to project management and to exercise our efforts where it really matters.

In this session we will consider the essence of prioritizing and remaining positive when facing problems in projects. Learn how to avoid being reactive and still maintain control of issues when those difficult times inevitably arrive and gain an understanding of the potential impact of low performance that might result from a reactive state. Discover how to utilize your project team to the best effect to keep afloat when the flood of troubles threatens to drown you. In summary, we will learn how to "breathe normally."

Don`t say I didn`t warn you.

Oh and if you do then you might want to avoid any local Chinese restaurant as you may come across some English guy sampling the whole menu; daring to be different.


I know one thing for sure though. When I board the plane out of Dulles airport and head back to the UK, no matter what sessions I finally selected (and hopefully enjoyed) I will very quickly be hungry again for the next project management conference or webinar or article.
Rather like after a Chinese meal really...

Peter Taylor (c) 2010

About the Author:

peter_150Despite his title of 'The Lazy Project Manager', Peter Taylor is in fact a dynamic and commercially astute professional who has achieved notable success in project management, program management and the professional development of project managers: currently as Director of a PMO at Siemens PLM Software, a global supplier of product lifecycle management solutions.

He is an accomplished communicator and leader; always adopting a proactive and business-focused approach and he is a professional speaker.
He is also the author of 'The Lazy Project Manager' book (Infinite Ideas 2009)- for more information - www.thelazyprojectmanager.com - you can also subscribe to a series of free podcasts on iTunes (The Lazy Project Manager)- and experience his eLearning course at www.thelazyprojectmanager.net