Enhancing the project management body of knowledge through an internal project management symposium


Project management continues to grow and develop as a formal discipline. This growth can be seen in a variety of different ways. For example, membership in the Project Management Institute (PMI®) continues to grow; more degrees are being awarded at the bachelors, masters, and Ph.D. levels each year in this discipline; and the project management track at the annual Drug Information Association (DIA) meeting also continues to expand over time. Growth in the project management discipline is evident both within the pharmaceutical industry as well as within Eli Lilly's own project management organization. One indicator of growth at the industry level is the discussion about project management certification for project managers in the industry that has been ongoing between the PMI and DIA. Within our organization, that growth has been evidenced by the expanding size of the group, our involvement in the PMI and DIA, and the increasing number of people in our groups who are PMI certified.

A number of different project management groups exist within our organization, each group having a somewhat different focus in terms of the projects that they manage. For example, there are project management groups that focus solely on clinical development, new product development, or toxicology projects. Despite the fact they all have a different focus, they have all matured in the discipline of project management and want to continue to mature. Given the dynamics that exist with a number of geographically dispersed project management groups, we believed that there would be value in bringing these groups together to discuss project management so that they could continue to grow in their practice of the discipline. The goal of this assemblage was to share lessons learned, best practices, and project management tools and techniques. It was hoped that the project managers from these various groups who participated would be able to return to their home functions with enhanced project management skills and would subsequently be better able to manage their respective projects in the area of new drug development, clinical trial management, and facilities delivery, to name a few.

Year One—Methods

A formal proposal for the Lilly project management symposium was developed and presented to the management of the various project management functions. This proposal covered the business need, format, proposed content, internal audience, needed resources, facilities, and timing of the project management symposium. The appropriate management groups rapidly endorsed this proposal. Shortly thereafter, a cross-functional organizing committee was established in order to plan this internal project management symposium. The following project management functions were represented on this organizing committee: pharmaceutical projects management, clinical projects management, development projects management, toxicology project management, animal health project management, construction project management, and information technology project management. As this group began to form, it elected to manage this project management symposium as a project. Toward that end, the group developed a detailed project plan that incorporated all of the fundamentals of a good project plan including a schedule, a list of key milestones, and a budget.

One of the most important parts of the plan for the project management symposium was the communication strategy. This was of particular significance in the first year of the symposium. The reason for the importance of the communication plan was twofold. One, we wanted people to know that a project management symposium was being organized as we wanted to make sure that project managers would allocate time in their busy calendar to attend. Second, we wanted people to start thinking about playing a more active role in the symposium by preparing an oral or poster presentation for the session.

Once the initial message was sent out indicating that a project management symposium would be held, a call for papers rapidly followed. The call for papers included a timeline and instructions for abstract submission. These communications were made through a variety of media: email and a website on the Lilly intranet, as well as wall posters in selected areas. In addition to the call for papers, members of the organizing committee were very active in soliciting poster presentations from colleagues in their respective functional areas through direct personal contact.

Exhibit 1. Schedule of Events

Schedule of Events

Exhibit 2. Participants’ Comments From the First Project Management Symposium on the Keynote Session

Participants’ Comments From the First Project Management Symposium on the Keynote Session

As the date for the event approached, the frequency of communication was increased to help ensure good attendance. In the weeks just prior to the start of the symposium, the agenda for the event was sent to all members of the global project management discipline.

The organizing committee built an agenda for the symposium that started the opening session with a keynote speaker. The agenda for the first symposium is shown in Exhibit 1. In this first year, the keynote session was held in a large corporate auditorium. A well-known external speaker in the discipline of projects management was brought in to provide the keynote address during the opening session. Joan Knutson, president of Project Mentors, came to Lilly and addressed the group on the topic of “Leadership in Project Management: Managers Surrender to Context…Leaders Master It.” Following the kick-off session and keynote address, there was a short break for refreshments and networking. Following this break, the poster sessions were then opened. More than 50 poster presentations were given during the first symposium. The posters were set up in large conference rooms as well as in the hallways connecting these conference rooms. This allowed people to move from poster to poster and view the work of their project management colleagues. The organizing committee asked that the posters be manned by one of the authors during a core set of hours during the day. This allowed participants to talk and interact with the poster presenters. Many of the poster presenters provided handouts to participants summarizing their work. In addition, all poster abstracts and many of the presentations were archived on the symposium intranet website.

Exhibit 3. Participants’ Comments From the First Project Management Symposium on the Poster Sessions

Participants’ Comments From the First Project Management Symposium on the Poster Sessions

Running concurrently with the poster session was a career fair. Each one of the project management groups set up a display for their organization. At each of these display booths, the various project management organizations had representatives talk about the roles and responsibilities of their groups, as well as about job opportunities within their functions. These booths were placed in high-traffic areas that were accessible to the participants of the project management symposium as well as the general employee population.

Year One—Results

At the conclusion of the first symposium, the organizing committee held a review session to capture key learning points. The symposium was deemed to be a success based upon explicit feedback from the project managers who attended. These project managers indicated that they received great value from attending the symposium and gained significant information from their peers on best practices, tools, and techniques that they could directly apply in their own organizations. A list of comments from participants on the keynote session is shown in Exhibit 2. Comments on the poster sessions and career fair are shown in Exhibits 3 and 4, respectively. Given these results, it became rapidly apparent that the project management symposium should become an annual event.

Year Two—Methods

Based upon the positive responses that the symposium received, it was agreed to hold a second project management symposium approximately one year after the first. An organizing committee was again established several months prior to the event to coordinate planning and implementation. A proposal for this second project management symposium was developed and taken to management for their approval. Just as in the first year, the organizing committee used the tools and techniques of project management to plan this event. A timeline and budget were developed by the organizing committee.

A similar communication plan was put into place to let people know that the symposium was being held again, as well as to provide specifics such as the date, time, place, etc. Similarly, a call for papers and poster sessions was sent out to the project management community to seek their direct participation and involvement in the symposium. Abstracts for the symposium were submitted by their authors to the organizing committee via the intranet website. These abstracts allowed the committee to organize the poster sessions into logical groupings. Additionally, a book of abstracts was prepared for the participants.

The agenda for the second annual project management symposium was similar in many aspects to that of the first year; that is, there were poster sessions and career information on each of the various internal project management groups. Given the feedback from the first symposium, additional time was allocated to the posters and career fair. There were also several enhancements that were put into place by the cross-functional organizing committee to further enrich the content of the program.

One of the more significant enhancements introduced by the organizing committee was an expansion of the initial kickoff session to include several external keynote speakers. The kick-off session was organized in partnership with the PMI Central Indiana Chapter and the PMI Pharmaceutical Specific Interest Group. The membership of each one of these project management professional groups along with the Lilly project management community was invited to attend the kickoff session. This session was held in one of Eli Lilly's corporate auditoriums to accommodate the large number of anticipated participants. The external speakers and the subjects of their presentations are shown in Exhibit 5. In addition to the presentations, an afternoon break was held to allow the project managers to network with the speakers and their peers. At the end of the formal presentations, a roundtable discussion was held that included the speakers and senior members of the Lilly project management organization.

Another major change introduced by the organizing committee into the second project management symposium was the addition of breakout sessions. Three sessions were organized on the following topics: (1) the implementation of SAP‘s project management module, (2) the application of risk management, and (3) enhancing third-party relationships. The breakout sessions provided a forum for deeper review and discussion of particular practices, tools, and techniques in specific areas.

Year Two—Results

The feedback from the participants was very positive. The keynote session with the three external speakers was well received by all parties, both Lilly employees and PMI members. The fact that the time for both the poster sessions and career fair was extended was also well received. The inclusion of the breakout discussion groups on key topics was judged by the participants to be a valuable addition to the symposium.

There were several areas singled out for improvement in future symposia. One of the most significant was the importance of communication via multiple media. To be most effective, information about the event should be disseminated via a combination of the intranet website, posters, email, and voicemail messages to ensure reaching the broadest possible audience.

Exhibit 4. Participants’ Comments From the First Project Management Symposium on the Career Fair

Participants’ Comments From the First Project Management Symposium on the Career Fair

Exhibit 5. Keynote Speakers and Title of Presentations from the Second Project Management Symposium Sponsored by Eli Lilly and Company and the Local PMI Pharmaceutical SIG

Keynote Speakers and Title of Presentations from the Second Project Management Symposium Sponsored by Eli Lilly and Company and the Local PMI Pharmaceutical SIG


The use of an internal project management symposium is viewed as a viable way to enhance the discipline of project management in a large global pharmaceutical organization. The Lilly symposium was effective in creating key linkages between the various internal project management groups. Relationships among the various project management groups were built as a direct result of the symposium as well as helping to foster the sharing of best project management practices. Additionally, it proved to be a useful venue to exchange project management tools and techniques between the various internal project management groups. Given the value of the first two internal project management symposia, we plan to continue to hold internal symposia on project management within our organization. The appropriate frequency for these symposia is still being determined. We would encourage other large companies with large project management communities to initiate a similar type event.

This material has been reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited. For permission to reproduce this material, please contact PMI or any listed author.

Proceedings of the Project Management Institute Annual Seminars & Symposium
November 1–10, 2001 • Nashville, Tenn., USA



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