A history of PMI in Canada
Concerns of Project Managers
Matthew H. Parry, PMI Fellow, PMP
PMI conducted its first public meeting in Atlanta, Georgia, on October 9-10, 1969. Bob Curry (formerly VP-Region I) attended as an engineer with Perini Ltd.
In 1970, I attended the PMI Symposium in St. Louis at the Chase Hotel. McDonnell Douglas Automation was a main sponsor of that event, where 86 people paid $90 to attend. There were some six exhibitors who were given free space in a room about the size of my recreation room. I can't recall whether there were other Canadians at that meeting or not.
At that time I was a member of the CPM Division of the Society for the Advancement of Management (SAM). Jim O'Brien was instrumental in developing that fledgling group at the same time as PMI was coming on the scene, SAM had an interesting beginning and we had an extremely effective meeting at the Hotel Lexington in New York around the same time as the St. Louis meeting of PMI.
I soon became the vice-president (Head) of that CPM Division and, as such, was beginning to develop membership liaison working with Jim and a CPM expert from Manitowoc Shipbuilding of Manitowoc, Wisconsin.
With the advent of PMI and its concept I made the recommendation that we close down the CPM Division, return all finds to SAM and advise the membership to cast its lot with PMI. Our experience at the time was that this was a very acceptable move and a significant boost for PMI.
Editor's Note: Matt Parry established some PMI firsts. He was the first Canadian and international individual to become president and chairman of PMI. He was the first person, not just Canadian, to receive an Honorary Life Membership Award. He was the first Canadian to be awarded a PMI Fellowship. His PMI member number is 26 and his PMP number is 23, making him one of the first five Canadians to achieve the PMP designation. He was awarded an Honorary Life Membership in the Southern Ontario PMI Chapter. With regard to the latter he states, “lt is interesting to look up on my wall to catch a glimpse of the international Life Membership. It was designed by Alf Tilbe's office and therefore carries the Canadian spelling of the word, “Honourary.” He indeed led the way in creating the Canadian involvement in PMI.
My partner at the time, Nick Santink, and I attended a PMI local meeting at Nassau Inn, Princeton, New Jersey, where we heard a first-hand presentation by Dr. Mauchley about development of the first ENIAC computer.
THE FIRST MEETING
From that point I felt that PMI had a proper approach to the problems of the day in Canada so I received permission to conduct a PMI-sponsored meeting in Toronto. I funded the meeting personally through my company, Time/Audit Ltd., and invited 25 construction friends to a dinner affair in the Library Room of the Royal York Hotel. Word got around. Sixty people showed up to hear a panel made up of Ed Davis of Boston University, Walter Baker of Treasury Board or Public Works Canada, and Ed Jonergin of Battelle Research in Columbus, Ohio. We were stunned by the attendance, but the Royal York performed without a whimper and we made a good profit. This became the first treasury for the Toronto group that has never been in the red since. I knew we had a market.
As a result of that shocking effort I was invited to sit in on the PMI Board of Directors meeting in Houston, Texas, in 1971, where I had the pleasure of proposing that they consider establishing chapters. Toronto wanted to become the first PMI Chapter. Chapter guidelines were put into motion. I believe that meeting made me the first Canadian to sit in a PMI Board meeting, and the Royal York meeting to be the first Canadian PMI meeting and the first PMI-authorized meeting outside the United States,
It was also at that meeting that I proposed that the 1972 Seminar/Symposium be held in Toronto. Unfortunately it seemed, I ran into a well-organized competition from Jim Snyder who proposed that he would back Toronto for 1973 and get me homecoming tickets to a Temple University, my Alma Mater, football game if I were to back Philadelphia for 1972. We compromised beautifully.
THE FIRST SEMINAR/SYMPOSIUM
As a result, I was able to get a Toronto Symposium group together made up of Barry Smythe, Bob Curry, Bruce Corey, Art Perrin, Bill Robinson, Vim Kochhar, Jack Way, Alf Tilbe, Brian Mowry, Ruth Parry, John Armour, Cy Simonson, Alan Chapple and Vir Handa, I believe two persons are missing from that list for the committee for the first PMI Symposium outside of the United States. Nothing gave me more pleasure than being the chairman of that 1973 Symposium. My wife, Ruth, was head of the spouses program. Our team produced a staggering $14,000 profit, double the amount to date. Countries from all over the world were represented, new subjects came out, and we had the pleasure of the most unique display ever seen at PMI—the collection of the models of eight major projects on display in the same room. When this was over I knew that PMI was on a roll and so was my company. What more could we ask?
After the Toronto symposium I was quite out of steam and went to Bruce Corey to ask that he take on the steering committee for the Toronto PMI Chapter. He organized the kick-off meeting at the Stelco Research Laboratory in Burlington and I was successful in getting Hal MacDonald of McDonnell Douglas Automation, PMI membership chairman, to come up to Toronto for that meeting. From then Bruce, Brian Fletcher, Bill Robinson and the group never looked back. My business became such that I traveled a lot and was so heavily involved on the International Board that I had to forego chapter activity. Unfortunately, what started out to be the first PMI chapter became the third— San Francisco and Houston were first and second.
PMI's ROLE IN MY PROFESSIONAL CAREER
One of the smart management moves a subcontractor would make in the 1950s was to appoint a site inspector. His duties were to apply his knowledge of the steps leading up to his company's contract and report back on his assessment of when the job would be ready for his crew to move in. This was particularly true of the sub who had to appear near the end of a project to perform their work.
One can imagine the frustrations that would build up. The inspector's assessment may have been padded on the late side, thinking he was doing his firm a service by recommending a wait position until the last minute. The contractor would start the phone calls, the telegrams, the threats, etc., to try to get the sub into action.
That's just one gross example of built-in habits of the construction field that affected end costs, overruns, hard feelings and law suits. I had the opportunity to make a study on how to apply a new technique called “Critical Path Method.” Through this I zeroed-in on the writings of Jim O'Brien and Rocky Martino and had the good fortune to run into Nick Santink, a young Dutch engineer who was trying it out on a major project. Applying his lead to the principles discussed by the written word, I found that they worked in combination. But the systems analysts of that day left their project before the software was ready to use and therefore the tools that were being sold were not very appropriate, nor did they work well for many except the people who lived with computers. Our clients had a job to run.
Nick and I joined up and told the clients how we would do it. Because the construction business was such a battleground, I setup the Time/Audit technique, which was essentially working on behalf of the owner, designing a project progression model, staying out of the scheduling arena and reporting to everyone regarding project progresses, without prejudice.
There were some times when we were challenged in this approach, but several key results proved the point over the period of the first 10 years.
A. Whenever one of our clients was taken to court, (8 times) results always worked toward a favorable conclusion for the client because of reliability of data and information achieved on an independent basis.
B. The computer systems of the day were modified to our own designs, which later appeared as standards throughout the project systems field.
C. Control was as important as technical expertise to a satisfactory total outcome.
D. Good data allowed for practical prediction of outcome, thereby avoiding costly wrong decisions.
It was my introduction to PMI that made me realize that we were on a good track. By the time PMI was formed and “work breakdown structure” became a by-word, our “area breakdown” was almost 10 years old. Probability estimates of time were solved through systematic application. We found it practical to obtain reasonable single-time estimates on a good breakdown, which reduced the number of activities.
But how does one assess how right you maybe except by satisfied performance, or by comparison. PMI provided that comparison for me. I was now able to bounce ideas off other professionals, hear their arguments and resistance, hear their own philosophies of technique, and learn how to expand the scope of our services to clients. We progressed to major, highly complex industrial projects and some full-measure project management.
I can still remember a highly successful systems man of the day, sitting on a table at St. Louis in 1971, practically calling me an idiot for what I was doing. This idiot proceeded to apply those techniques on major engineering and construction projects—running into the billions of dollars—with successful performances.
In the end, there are few projects in which I was involved that I did not feel confident that my client received the best service that could be rendered. I was usually happy with the results even though some clients had a difference of opinion. PMI was the sounding board that established the confidence that was sometimes shaken by the events of the projects.
h was the confidence built through the exchange of information on an unknown topic through PMI that meant a lot to me, particularly when the scope of the project reached scary proportions. That exchange may have taken the form of conducting a lecture or giving a paper, but the interchange and the questions were as important to this speaker as they may have been to the audience.
I soon came to know that I was in step with progress and that some of the experts I met on projects had a lot to learn. This made me willing to devote significant time to a subject I loved and to help others to learn more about it. I chose to do it through PMI, which I felt had the right concept for the future. That faith in PMI has never been shaken.
THE FIRST OFFICER
From this chairmanship of PMI ‘73, I was then elected vice-president-functional operations, then president and moved on up to chairman of PMI. Accepting an invitation to the Board of PMI was an easy decision for me because I was completely biased as to the appropriateness of the PMI trust. The activity that ensued was absolutely earth-shaking to me, the Pittsburgh kid moved North. There was the restructuring of the PMI Board, the dedication of each key member, the development of the Quarterly (to become the Journal), the increases in membership, the growth in net worth, and another restructuring of the Board.
THE ORIGINS OF THE PMBOK
Of all the events of PMI in which I participated I am most pleased with two significant programs that have been highly successful.
- 1. Changing the organization structure that moved PMI away from the typical all-volunteer standing-committee structure—that stood by forever— into a structure that accomplishes its goals through defined projects. The first list of projects was approved, funded and published, with responsibility built into the game. From that point activity started to blossom from all comers.
- 2. One of the first projects was the ESA project for ethics, standards and accreditation, which had suffered too long through dead-end conversations. The Southern Ontario PMI Chapter was quick to jump in to sponsor a team to front-up the topics that we agonized over so much. We took a new swing at old ambitions to devise standards that never seemed to fly. ESA flew, and grew, and eventually Max Wideman did a marvelous job of turning it into the PMBOK that exists today.
There is no need to say how much satisfaction I have had through the years over the success of the ESA project. Every time I see something that references PMBOK, I think back to what that ESA team started and how well PMI grabbed it; just the way we hoped. Our challenge was accepted and the results are history.
When the project for certification got underway, I was against it mostly on the grounds that it was premature and presumptuous. But when I was out-voted I accepted the concept and talked hard for having the basis of certification start high and work down. I felt that a professional definition would be hard to achieve if PMI grandfathered at the bottom and tried to work its way up. I'm very happy that the principle is still intact. I now have the satisfaction of knowing that the person who earns their PMP now is better than me, not worse.
A SOLID FOUNDATION
I don't believe today that there is any doubt about the future of PMI. It may have taken some time for many to recognize how professional the group has become, and I see the legal recognition off in the future. Although that may not be necessary because the improvement and acceptance of the ideas injected into the membership is the key to professionalism. No apologies need be made to any client for having used PMI philosophies as the basis of success for project management.
I'm very pleased to be able to sit back and watch PMI grow. I hope no one chastises me for writing what I consider a correct portion of Canadian PMI history. I do hope that any of the above is properly challenged if necessary, filled in and corrected, just to keep the record straight.
Nothing in life is more rewarding than working with a dedicated group of people and being able to say that I know them all. It's so great to see all the faces again when I have the opportunity, because they all have success written on them. In my final expression of my hope for PMI I look back to the 1977 Seminar/Symposium in Chicago. I had a captive audience for the only performance of a song I wrote in a moment of nostalgia. Its about the advent of PMI. It was written in the heyday of mainframe computer programs and was called “The Abend Blues.” In it was a chorus line which chanted “Our computer was balking, but we kept on talking. We had those A-A-A-A-Abend Blues.” Keep talking PMI! ❏
Matthew H. Parry is now retired after serving as founder and president of Time Audit Ltd., now known as Target Consultants. He has performed both in-depth analysis and monitored progress on major construction projects that in total have a value of over $4 billion.
He nude a very significant contribution to PMI as project manager of the Ethics, Standards and Accreditatiom project, which set the stage for the current PMBOK, PMP Certification Program, and certification for university degree programs in project management.
Mutt earned a B.S. in commerce from Temple University and took additional courses in mechanical engineering and in production, finance and economics. In addition to his honors in PMI, he holds a life membership in the Delta Sigma International business fraternity.
PMNETwork • February 1994
PMI research shows project teams that draw from an array of perspectives and skillsets deliver powerful outcomes.