IPMA International Project Management Association
18 September 2020 / 12:14

Gaining experience on the topic of self-organization through practical application

Last week the 8th IPMA Research Conference took place with the topic “Projects as arenas for self-organizing”. Due to the pandemic, it was not held in beautiful Berlin as planned, but as a virtual event. Even though this was a daring venture, it proved to be an excellent one in view of the topic.

The series of IPMA Research Conferences was launched in 2008 at the GPM German Project Management Association in order to initiate a dialogue between researchers, but also between researchers and practitioners on the topic of project-related work. IPMA adopted this concept in 2013 and conducted the first IPMA Research Workshop in Berlin under the motto “Theory meets Practice in Projects”. From the very beginning of the series, new formats were tried out, and this year was no exception.

During the first two days, an international team (thanks to Raji Sivaraman, Marisa Silva and Ken Coyne) organized the first IPMA Hackdays using the tool “Slack”. There were 7 topics around self-organization to choose from and the participants could pick a topic and devote themselves to it in a self-organized way. Even the organization of the groups in a new tool was a challenge, more so the focussing of the topic for processing towards a presentation on Thursday, which was evaluated by a jury according to pre-defined criteria. One team presented their findings on “Developments, Potential and Application areas of self-organizing”, another team developed an 8-minute video on “Mindset, Culture and Atmosphere for Self-Organization” and the third group finally presented a “Self-Organization Navigator”. This solution convinced the judges the most. However, for all teams, the focus was more on experiencing self-organization on a topic in a very short time. Taking part in one of the teams I could experience myself the energy and the flow, right from the beginning till the end… and we continue working on the topic even beyond the IPMA Hackdays.

For many, using different tools for virtual collaboration was the first challenge. MS Teams, Zoom, Slack, Google Meeting and many others were used. Each tool has its own peculiarities and the computer user must first be set up accordingly. But also, different languages, time zones and technical backgrounds require coordination, close communication towards a collective mind, with which a demanding task can only be mastered. Processes and structures, as well as leadership, play less of a role, but more than ever it is important to find the right mindset of the individual and the group, to create an atmosphere of trust in which everyone can contribute his or her ideas. There was so much momentum in our group that the official end came much too early and cannot stop us from continuing to work in the team and on the topic. The results of the teams will be further elaborated and successively published via IPMA and social media.

On the third day, the research conference focused on presentations and a panel. The conference started with a keynote by Miriam Sasse (arvato Bertelsmann) on “Experiments for Organizational Change”, followed by the second keynote entitled “Insights of a transformation journey in an agile environment” by Efi Polydora (Dutch Lottery). This was followed by 14 paper presentations in which general contributions on self-organization and agilization were made, as well as references to the construction industry, innovation projects and telecom/IT. All in all, a tour d‘Horizon of self-organization from a very international perspective. The research conference ended with a panel on “Challenges, opportunities and threats for individuals involved in self-organizing”, a summary of the results from the IPMA Hackdays and the closing keynote “Self – Awareness, Assessment and Organization with Personal Agility” by Raji Sivaraman and Michal Raczka.

Next year´s IPMA Research Conference will invite us to Jinan, the capital city of Shandong Province in China on June 12 and 13. The key theme is “Project Leadership and Society”. More information is available via the website: https://www.ipma.world/researchers/research-conference/





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Author of this post

Dr. Reinhard Wagner has been active for more than 35 years in the field of project-related leadership, in such diverse sectors as Automotive, Engineering, and Consultancy, as well as various not-for-profit organizations. As Managing Director of Tiba Managementberatung GmbH, a leading PM Consultancy in Munich/Germany, he supports executives of industrial clients in transforming their companies towards a project-oriented, adaptive and sustainably successful organization. He has published more than 40 books as well as several hundred articles and blog posts in the field of project management. In more than 20 years of voluntary engagement he served the German Project Management Association (GPM) as well as the IPMA in various roles and was granted for his international commitment with the Honorary Fellowship of IPMA and several of its member associations. He received his doctorate in the field of projectification of society and continues to be active in it through his research and lectures.