Saturday, May 25, 2013

Review of the PMI-NJ Sunday Seminar and Monday Symposium

Every year, the PMI-New Jersey Chapter ( holds its annual Sunday Seminar and Monday Symposium. This year’s theme for both events was: Sell your skills: Advance your career. This year, I would like to provide my review of both events. So, I will offer my own rating system as follows: 1=Bad, 2=Needs improvement, 3=Neutral, 4=Good, and 5=Exceptional.

Allow me to begin with the location and logistics of the Seminar and Symposium. This year, as many years before, it was held at the Pines Manor in Edison, NJ (  I believe the leadership of PMINJ deserves a pat on the back, mainly because I don’t believe there is a more central NJ site that can accommodate almost 600 individuals at such a reasonable cost. Yes, the Pines Manor is mostly in business for weddings, proms, and other similar social gatherings. However, not all companies (including mine) reimburse the cost to attend the Seminar and Symposium. The only reason I will not give a rating of 5 is because this is not one of the exceptional meeting locations of NJ. Then again, for the cost, it is a good location.
Rating = 4.
Sunday Seminar
The PMINJ leadership offers a Sunday Seminar for those who cannot attend the Monday Symposium, which I believe is admirable. Along with the 4 PDUs offered, this is a good way to network with other project managers (PMs). The seminar speaker (and symposium morning keynote speaker) was Todd Cohen,, who has authored a book titled, Everyone’s in Sales. Now I must admit to everyone that I do belong to a couple of network groups and I am very well aware and believe whole-heartedly that everyone is in sales. So, I went into the seminar with a chip on my shoulder believing that I already know all there is to know about networking.. Todd quickly knocked that chip off my shoulder. Yes, there were topics that I have heard and practice. However, I must tell you that Todd’s enthusiasm was both infectious and refreshing. What I came away from this seminar is that when I approach networking, I must be positive, proactive, and project a positive attitude.

Monday Symposium
Monday Morning Keynote
Everyone’s in Sales
Todd Cohen (
Once again, Todd provided his enthusiastic pitch in about an hour, compared with the four-hour Sunday seminar I wrote about above. The only addition that I would add is that I boasted to all those at my Monday morning table that I attended the Sunday seminar and that they should have as well.
Rating=4. I am giving it a 4 because it wasn’t as intense as the Sunday seminar because of the time constraint.
Morning Breakout – Track 1
Process: Developing World Class Process Maps
Lori Britt (
So, here is an admission and a bias: I love process maps. Especially those that are well documented and simple so that everyone can understand what is being depicted in the map. Here’s what I came away with from the presentation by Lori Britt and her co-presenter (whose name escapes me and was not documented): I was especially impressed of their admission that when they consult at a business, they request that management stay out of the process meetings. YEAH!! I also liked their example of how to map out a “customer experience.” I will make this recommendation to those who believe they can map out a process without bias; Lori convinced me that an objective third party is the best way to do this. I recommend that anyone who is looking to do this should go to their website and be ready to be impressed.
Rating = 4. The only reason I am giving this a 4 is because the documentation should list ALL of the presenters and not leave it up to the audience (who is copiously taking notes on the subject matter) to write down any additional names.
Second Morning Breakout – Track 1
Process: Leadership is Taken not Given
Gus Cicala (
I must say that when it comes to a session on ”vision” and communication issues in project management, I always attend as I believe communication issues contribute to most failed projects. Here’s what I took away from this presentation: Gus places the finger on the main reason why communication fails – a disconnect from the tactical reason of a project that connects with the overall organizations strategy. BINGO! I could not have said it better. The reason why project team members don’t understand the project or can’t communicate its main objectives, or value, is because the PM has not communicated them. Gus’ methodology was well communicated and understood. Better yet, it is a “play book” for good PM communication processes. I strongly recommend his methodology to all those who need some guidance.
Rating = 4. The only reason I am not giving this a 5 is because I believe this should have been a keynote. That is more for PMINJ to correct than Gus to adjust.
Lunch Keynote
Projects Mean Change, Are You Ready?
Martha Legare (
Here’s what I took away from this presentation: Culture change is the most important reason for project failures. Yes, there are contributing factors like restructuring, mergers, and re-engineering, but culture change is the most important. Also, a PM must be aware of their surroundings like a soldier walking through a minefield.
Rating = 3. These are superior points that must be understood by all PMs. I am not sure that these points were well communicated. 
Afternoon Keynote
Behaviors That Lead to Exceptional Behaviors 
Neal Whitten (
Neil Whitten’s experience and documented success speaks for itself. I cannot provide any evaluation except to say that if you were one of the individuals who left early and did not hear Neal, you missed possibly the best presentation of the two days. What I took away from Neal’s presentation are these key tips: Understand and practice empowerment, think for yourself, and manage daily to your top three priorities (this was the most important for me). There are many more items that I took away from Neal’s presentation, but I don’t want to be thought of as an intellectual property thief. If you have the opportunity to attend Neal’s next speaking engagement or webinar, I strongly recommend that you make the time to attend.  
Rating = 5.
I give the overall Seminar and Symposium rating as a 4.

My next article is about motivation and how to keep it in a project with your team.  
I am open to discussion at any time on these blogs or anything else related to project management you would like to explore. If you would like to comment about this blog, please do so by posting on this blog or by responding in an email at Benny A. Recine.You may inspire a blog article. I look forward to your comments.

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