(Roger Chou PgMP is the Director of PM-ABC (www.pm-abc.com))
How do you manage change? How do you persuade people, whether in your project, or in your company, that change is necessary? In recent years my own company was involved in persuading my government to take project management teaching and qualifications more seriously. It has paid off – with a petition containing the signatures of 2000 influential people, and then a letter appealing directly to our President – as of January 2010 it is now a requirement that all civil servants need to have professional project management training and qualifications. We expect other developments that will make project management qualifications for business and education.
I believe the hardest example of managing change comes from trying to persuade government departments to be fully involved in campaigns that try to introduce new ideas, new practices, new technologies, or anything that requires rethinking the conventions of what was done previously. Government departments see their main responsibility as implementing government policy – discussions about, or changes to, their working practices could be potentially costly distractions from an already sensitive process.
This is what many project management education providers encountered in Taiwan when we started teaching project management. Five years ago, we found a general lack of awareness about how project management could be taught as a set of formal skills and practices that could lead to recognised qualifications. Either from business or government, the whole society didn’t really appreciate the value of certified project managers.
This led us all to the basic question: how could we persuade the whole society of the worth of professional project management teaching and qualifications, and that having as many qualified managers as possible would be good for business, and therefore for society? They are actually, “enterprise environmental factors” referred in the PMBOK® Guide.
My company soon discovered the quickest way to persuade these people was to provide free training to business leaders, company managers, politicians and other influential people. All of these people knew enough about management skills and practices to take such an invitation seriously – and if it is free, how could they refuse? In undertaking free training with my company these influential people gained an understanding of what teaching professional project management entailed. Then outside of the course, putting this training to use in their own businesses, they would realise the effectiveness of having more of their workers professionally trained.
In this way they would become sympathetic to what all the PMP education providers were trying to achieve.
This became our business’ strategy: “influencing the influential”
At the same time, we also facilitated numerous newspaper reports on major successful projects, including Tai
pei’s Tower 101. As years passed by, I did find that public opinion toward the PMP qualification was changing. In 2008, as our company asked job-hunting websites to recognise PMP certification as a part of a job-seeker’s profile, they agreed
In 2008, as our government was trying to find ways of dealing with the decline of our national competitiveness, and after our company had made progress convincing influential people through offering free training – I then decided it was time for us to start work on persuading our government to see the benefits of professional project management teaching and qualifications.
We began by contacting all the people we knew or had trained to sign a petition. In the end we managed to get over 2000 influential people to sign the petition. In 2009, following on the debate this petition began, I felt that our company should write an open letter to our President about the importance of project management teaching and qualification. This started a process which has seen the President and the government look seriously at PMP education and certification. In January 2010 it became an official requirement that all civil servants have to be professionally trained in project management.
Whilst “influencing the influential” was a business plan specifically tailored to Taiwan’s situation and needs at that time, we were nevertheless following our own professional management training. As the PMBOK® Guide indicates, identifying your stakeholders and satisfying their needs would be the first step to successfully managing change, regardless or how big or small that change.