Project Management Institute

Puget Sound has SRO meeting

master project manager speaks of cultural diversity

Concerns of Project Managers

This & That

Members of the Puget Sound PMI Chapter took a chance on a vision. They accepted a challenge and made it work. No, the chance was not on the speaker. The chance was on providing an appropriate audience for an outstanding speaker. They took a risk and managed it. This is an excellent example of a PMI Chapter implementing a “project” that made key members of their community aware of PMI. Other PMI Chapters can do it too. Do not take more risk than you can afford, but take a risk and manage it well. Let your community know that PMI exists and what Modern Project Management (MPM) can do for that community Invite them to Associate With Winners.

William Derrick PMI Vice President-Public Relations

P.S. Thanks to a Winner, PMI member Jack Lemley, for his presentation, and congratulations on a very successful effort in managing the English Channel Tunnel Project.

PMs

Wednesday, January 13, 1993, the Puget Sound Chapter of the Project Management Institute hosted their biggest event ever which Jack Lemley, the builder and CEO of the English Channel Tunnel Project*, was the speaker. Fresh from completing the new underground tunnel system that will link Britain with France and the rest of Europe, Mr. Lem-Iey came to speak about the importance of honoring and promoting cultural diversity in the work environment. After a slide show of this incredibly complex mega-project, over 300 guests asked questions about Jack's management style, system design and future plans—he has completed his job at Transmache-Link.

THE REST OF THE STORY

Perhaps about the best news of the evening was the incredible success of the event. At the time of the meeting, the Puget Sound Chapter had 195 members, 40 of which on average turn up at the monthly dinner meetings. When Dan Shellhammer, VP-Programs for PMI Puget Sound, contacted Mr. Lemley last September to see if he would agree to come out from England, Shellhammer knew that this was going to have to be a very well-run event. You could not invite the “master of project management” to come all that way and have 40 people show up!

When the Fax came in late September from England saying that Mr. Lemley would agree to speak at our meeting, Shellhammer turned to the local PMI board for help. Walt Derlacki, the PMI Puget Sound Chapter president, elected Shellhammer project manager and the board pondered the idea of hiring a marketing consultant to help formulate a strategy. Frank Walker, past president of the Puget Sound PMI Chapter came to the rescue and managed to persuade me, Lorraine Rieger of Spirit West Management, not only to undertake the job on a pro bono basis but also to run for VP-Marketing for 1993.

Not knowing what I had let myself in for, I naturally knew our first step was to set an objective for the project by deciding how many people we really wanted to attend the meeting. A simple task, you would think; however, we kept changing the measuring criteria. One view stated that our current hotel capacity of 250 should be the deciding parameter. The opposing view believed this should be labeled a “big event” and we should find a new location and get as many people to attend as possible. A stalemate ensued.

As the days ticked by, the decision was made by default since we knew of no other venue available on that date. Our goal of 250 was set. The marketing team went into action, starting with identifying target markets, listing benefits, building data bases and talking to other related associations about inviting their members.

While Mr. Lemley was the main attraction, with probably enough interest in his project alone to draw a crowd, the board's goal was to increase the awareness of PMI within the industry. Apparently we are one of the better kept secrets around town. Therefore, it was important that this event be an image- and prestige-builder for the chapter.

Given that the Puget Sound Region is targeted for a $9 billion, 97-mile regional transit system (RTP), we knew we could 33 expand interest in the event by tying the two projects together. Although it still remains a contested issue locally, requiring public vote to support it, the business opportunities to work on the RTP were already appearing. The marketing committee very carefully took full advantage of this information and billed the event as the networking opportunity of the year. We targeted all transportation, construction, engineering, planning and architectural firms and public officials.

We mailed 950 invitations to CEOs, project managers and engineers, 35 notices to other associations’ newsletter editors, followed by the board building a phone tree to call all members. We set a deadline of January 6, 1993, for buying tickets and hoped this would at least get us a decent turnout.

THE BAD NEWS

Then suddenly, at our December dinner meeting, the hotel catering manager casually came over to me with a concerned look on his face. He said, “We're sorry, but we're moving your January event to the hotel across the boulevard. We double-booked that night and won't be able to accommodate you.” I was appalled that we would receive this kind of treatment from the hotel that we had supported for the last two years.

My jaw dropped, ostensibly to reply, but my mind was already reviewing the options for damage control. I had visions of our board falling flat on its face in front of the entire world, not able to pull off a simple dinner for 250. I could see the headlines now, “PMI Shows Puget Sound What Project Management is All About as 250 Guests Arrive at Wrong Venue!”

Strangely (as all projects seem to play out no matter what the team does!), this turn of events was a blessing in disguise. The other hotel would be able to hold 300 people. Upon visiting it, we realized it was much more elegant, very efficiently run, and would actually meet our needs far better than our old stand-by.

THE GOOD NEWS

The blessing came when I received an early morning call from Frank Walker, congratulating me on selling out the entire event one week early! I was shocked, because the day before we had not even reached the 200 mark. I called our reservations agent and she told me we had indeed sold 300 tickets at $30.00 each. Over 60 people called on the last day.

All of a sudden, the ramifications of our success became apparent and Tom Fawthrop, Puget Sound Chapter VP-Finance, who was in charge of facility arrangements, got flooded with phone calls. How was he going to handle the overload, the walk-ins? What about fitting in more tables? Wisely, his voice mail absorbed the onslaught of anxious callers, and coolly he revised his plan, all this on top of opening two new buildings that same week in his “regular line of work.”

The energy, anticipation and anxiety at the last board meeting before our big day was barely contained as concerns, strategies, and decisions were flying around the room. We were in awe of the fact that a PMI dinner was suddenly a hot ticket item. Being popular had never before been an issue.

Walt Derlacki managed to get us all under control and we left with responsibilities and authority clearly assigned, ready to deal with anything. The marketing team raised over $3,500 from corporate sponsors (the goal was $2,000) and we honored U.S. WEST Communications, Shannon & Wilson, Sverdrup Corp., Weyerhaeuser, ABKJ Engineers, and TRA with awards and table cards.

On Wednesday, January 13, we all convened early at the hotel. Betsy Braun, managing the host committee, had done her preparations well. With people redirecting guests at the old hotel and the registration team ready to handout computerized name tags, receipts and PMI membership application forms, all teams were fully functioning. Mr. Lemley arrived safely, so our emergency Plan B strategy to provide a replacement speaker was dropped.

By 6:30 PM, the lobby was packed, the waiting list had 20 names on it and we were negotiating with the staff to cram 12 chairs at tables for 10, which they did quickly. We accommodated all who showed up at the door, and as the salads were being served, the host table, co-sponsored by ABKJ Engineers, was being seated.

After comments from Walt Derlacki, Tom Kane, chairman of ABKJ Engineers, reviewed his firm's participation in many Puget Sound landmarks. Phil Larson, representing the Association of Cost Engineers and co-sponsoring the event, gave us a brief overview of the importance of merging cost engineering and project management concerns.

THE FEATURE

Then the guest of honor was introduced by Dan Shellhammer. Shellhammer reminded the packed audience that Mr. Lemley, a native of the Northwest, was chosen from a worldwide search to be the CEO to head a British and French consortium often companies that had just recently completed what has been heralded as the Projector the Century—linking Great Britain with France and the rest of Europe through two rail-lined super tunnels.

As the cream of Puget Sound's construction, transportation, engineering and planning industries listened raptly, it was obvious everyone was in awe of Mr. Lemley's fantastic project management achievement. His chief focus for the evening was the importance of setting up teams, or webs, of workers right down to the front line, all capable of making decisions. Mr. Lemley's company, Transmanche-Link (TML), honored all cultural differences, from allowing concrete forms to be made one way by the British and another by the French to letting the French smoke their cigarette on the job while the British refrained!

THE AFTERGLOW

Walt Derlacki said that this was the largest and most successful event that the Puget Sound PMI Chapter had ever turned out. Derlacki likened the spirit of cooperation and team approach used to make this event work, to the type of attitude Mr. Lemley believes will be essential for business people to quickly adopt in order to stay competitive as we move into the 21st Century.

As the crowd rose at the end of the hour-long presentation to give Jack Lemley a standing ovation, a vice president of a large construction company whispered to me: “We should all have the ability to bring so many people together to get things working again-Clinton is talking a lot about that isn't he? I guess we've still got a lot to learn here about how to do it right.” I nodded in agreement and looked around at the appreciative crowd. Well, at least one small project worked out. It was definitely that team spirit that pulled us all together.

As the evening wound down and satisfied faces turned towards the door, I thought about this project, and the many more this chapter of PMI would take on in the coming months, and I thought of Eleanor Roosevelt's thoughts on courage:

We gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face. We must do the things we think we cannot do.

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Lorraine Rieger is a principle and owner of Spirit West Management. She specializes in training and consulting in the soft skills of project management, strategic thinking and planning. Having raised from concept to market launch her own software development company, Lorraine has been a director of two public companies, managed development projects for the ski industry, and launched her own line of corporate incentive sportswear Lorraine coaches people to develop the tools of self responsibility. Currently, she is vice president of marketing and membership for the Puget Sound PMI Chapter. Her first book entitled After the End and Before the Beginning: Tales from the Light at the End of the Tunnel about how to manage transition, change and take responsibility for rebuilding a life or a business, is in process.

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Call For Papers Special Topics Issues For 1994

You are invited to submit an ABSTRACT for consideration for either of the two special topics issues of the PMNETwork in 1994.

March 1994 PMNETwork– Women in Project Management

Special Topics Editor - Jenny Strbiak

Abstracts Due - September 15, 1993

Notice of Acceptance - October 1, 1993

Final Articles Due - December 1, 1993

August 1994 PMNETwork– PM in Local Government

Special Topics Editor – Mike Katagiri

Abstracts Due – December 15, 1993

Notice of Acceptance – February 15, 1994

Final Articles Due – April 15, 1994

Length of Articles:

1700 words maximum

Send Abstracts to:

PMI Communications

P.O. Box 189

Webster, NC, 28788

For information call (704) 293-9711 or FAX (704) 293-9801

 

* See PMNETwork, 1992, vol. IV, no. 5 (July).

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.

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