IPMA International Project Management Association
5 October 2015 / 2:26

Getting The Right People On The Bus: The ​ICB4 Dream Team

This is the story of how one small team created a big work product. And about how getting the right people on the bus is often more important than knowing your direction from the beginning.

When the twelve editorial staff were assigned to the project in September 2013, the project was in disarray. We had been through 1.5 years of discussions with a much larger group of up to 150 subject matter experts. Many of these original contributors felt that their efforts were in vain because the project was not delivering a work product. ExBo reformulated the project to include a small team of hand picked individuals, each with strong resume. This new team took a different approach. Instead of seeing the ICB4 as a certification tool, we established that the ICB4 was something larger – a global standard that could be used by many different types of users from assessors to HR, to trainers and educators, to the individual PM. Therefore, we established this document as a product, with a product development lifecycle.

Screenshot 2015-10-04 08.49.38

What Was Our Process?

The ICB4 Team spent very limited time together, so we would make the most of each session. We would arrive at the session with draft content completed, and the agenda usually included reviewing the old content and then diving into new content.  Each session would result in a new set of assignments. Pretty standard – nothing too  exciting. The magic was in how we processed the work. We would take turns facilitating, sometimes formally, other times just jumping in and getting a job done. We set up regular bi-weekly meetings in a timeframe that worked across all of the zones. The meetings were held, no matter who could make it. We focused on breaking down complex concepts into manageable ideas.
Our primary challenge was to take a three dimensional model of Role-Level-Competence Elements and transform it into a two dimensional book. This challenge was very difficult to overcome, because as a product, we needed to present something that made sense to the marketplace. The complex nature of this problem demanded a team that could analyze the problem from many different points of view.
As a team, we had a good mix of people to look after all of the various aspects of developing a product. The workgroups below tended to be somewhat fluid in terms of their composition, however, we usually managed to have one or more people filling each workgroup.


  • Content Development. This workgroup wrote and edited the core content, and synced content across different products and sections of the ICB4.
  • Marketing/Product Development. This team created transformed the raw content into the product – including key tasks like layout and design. This team drove development of the structure, web pages and collateral content.
  • Stakeholder Engagement. This team focused on working with the public and with key stakeholders via surveys, conversations, and focus groups. We test the content several times to ensure that it was aligned with stakeholder expectations.
  • Team Support. This included the project manager, project secretary and others across IPMA and the MAs who supported our efforts.

By adopting a workgroup approach within the team, we were able to focus on specific areas of the growing body of content without slowing down the whole group.

Some Lessons Learned
We are currently developing a formal lessons learned, but here are a few that speak directly to the team experience.
  1. Develop teams who listen, understand and compromise. We spent time discussing our own performance. This helped us to become better team members. When someone was stuck in a way of thinking, invariably, the team would find a way to help that person break through, or even the other way around. We had many long discussions and battles over content in ICB4. But always, there was a sense of fair play and “let the best ideas win.” 
  2. Faster, shorter delivery cycles is almost always better. We found that long assignments suck out the energy and lose the accountability. Instead, we recommend shorter cycles and clear assignments. 
  3. Get to know your customers. The ICB4 team spent time working with MA’s, industry, and assessors to name a few. We met privately and in larger focus group settings. We really tried to keep an external focus throughout and not get stuck inside our own belief sets.  
  4. Build diverse teams. One strength of IPMA is its diverse membership. ICB4 excelled at diversity in terms of expertise, however we could have used more diversity in race, gender. As a federation, IPMA needs to spend more focus on building teams that reflect our federation geographically and in terms of race, gender, and background.
  5. Minimize logistics and friction. Global teams need strong support. We set up file sharing, regular dial in numbers, common processes in order to minimize the friction and keep people focused on the most important parts of development.

Delivery In 2015

After more than 4 years since the project’s inception, and thousands of hours of effort, the new ICB4 Global Standard was delivered at the 2015 World Congress.

Not pictured: Jesper Garde Schreiner

Not pictured: Jesper Garde Schreiner

One benefit of a close team is strong friendships. We didn’t always agree, but there was always a sense of camaraderie and friendship.  The ICB4 team expanded my horizons, my professional abilities and my circle of friends. I think I can speak for the every single member of the team in saying that the ICB4 was a deep, rich experience, and very rewarding. I would highly encourage anyone interested in getting more involved to join a product development team!


And be sure to visit the new products site at products.ipma.ch.


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Tim Jaques

Author of this post

Tim Jaques is CEO of HighWire Projects (highwireprojects.com), a company dedicated to helping organizations pursue and succeed at time sensitive, mission critical projects. HighWire Projects is on the front lines of change, delivering product development, project management, and organizational change services to high risk environments. A serial entrepreneur, Tim began HighWire Projects as a vehicle to advance businesses through process, technology, and human interaction. HighWire works in a wide range of sectors including healthcare, higher education, transportation, government, and nonprofit.. Tim has published two books on project management and is currently finalizing a new book entitled The Optimal Organization: Making Change in a Fast World, which explores emerging best practices in the fields of leadership, organizational change, communications, and human performance. Tim is on the Board of the International Project Management Association, United States Member Association and leads the development of the ICB4 project. In life, Tim is a husband, musician, and father to two young men – a speed skater and a magician! Tim can be reached at [email protected]