Newsletter: August Edition Print

Across the Board

Our PMI chapter is one of a very few in the PMI world in its board structure. We enjoy a board of directors that is elected by the membership and separated from the appointed executive staff. As someone who is used to either doing the work or managing the work, stepping back and creating guidelines as to how both should be done without being hands-on involved has been a challenge and a learning experience.

Luckily, our chapter believes in training as a core value and many board members and executive staff have attended training and events concerning board policy and governance through policy. I would like, over the course of this short article, to share with you some of what I have learned. The basics of board policy is as we practice it are found in the Carver model.

In the Carver model, boards create a series of policies where adherence is measurable. These policies are as broad as possible while collectively creating an environment in which any reasonable interpretation by executives of the policies will yield results acceptable to the board. In short, rather than a board saying “go do this specific activity to solve this problem” they say “solve these kinds of problems with these additional constraints.”

In some ways, this has the feel of a very broad project charter where the executives are authorized to perform certain activities under certain broad constraints. However, the analogy ends there. Whereas project managers are authorized to manage relatively specific projects with outcomes, executives are authorized to steer the company. As a result, policies are much more board than charters and the documents would look very different.  

There are several advantages to governing through policy.

Focusing on the Owners (The Members)
While the board is elected by a significant part of the ownership (you, the members) and is responsible to you, we best serve you by focusing on defining your needs and measuring our success against those needs, not in repeating the work of the executive.

The primary role of a board of directors is to represent the owners. Those owners, in the case of our chapters are primarily the members, project managers who are not yet members but in our region, volunteers, and students of project management.

By governing through policy, the board can focus on developing, refining and measuring against a series of constraints and guidance to executives to ensure that their actions broadly meet the needs of the owners and we as the board can concentrate un linking the needs of the owners with what we do as opposed to micro-managing the CEO.

Enabling Leadership
If you were CEO, would you want a group of elected board members who met a couple of times a month to second guess every one of your decisions? Would you want to have to guess as to whether what you were doing met the board’s approval?

What you would probably find ideal is for the board to be able to articulate a series of guidelines and tell you that if you follow those guidelines, you will be meeting the owner’s needs. Yes, you will need to prove regularly that you are following the guidelines, but you can make decisions with significantly more confidence.

Better Oversight
If you were to approach the board without a governance through policy approach, you as a board member could certainly measure individual projects and non-project efforts. You could use your personal expertise to support the CEO (or in her/his mind perhaps interfere) and you would feel comfortable in working in a way that you were more used to.

However, since governing through policy prevents a board from managing directly, what you can and do is provide better oversight. You can invest in understanding the owners better and articulating policies that will keep the organization in sync with the needs of the owners. This focus on more elegant as-broad-as-possible-while measurable policies that collectively describer a boundary for the CEO has proven time and again to be a unique value that boards are expected to provide and ultimately make oversight of a complex organization possible.

In Summation
Board members are elected to ensure that the chapter is serving you. We do this by understanding your needs and determining how to articulate that in policy statements.
We appoint a qualified CEO and invest our effort in measuring that person’s activities through policy and continuously re-assessing your needs and the effectiveness of the policies. I am thankful to continue to sit on the board and hope that you, as members, see the value of this chapter and our efforts.

 Don McClure is a Board Director and Treasurer of the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of PMI and a VP of Program Management Consulting, Training, and Corporate Integration Astound Commerce

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Chapter Leadership Update

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What kind of Player are you in Conversations

Athens KoliasWhether you are on a project team or on a Board of Directors, you inevitably will be a part of group discussions and decisions. Little do we realize that there is much more going on in any group conversation besides just “talking”.

For example, look at the differences between these three words:

 informal interchange of thoughts, information, etc., by spoken words; oral communication between persons. (1) 

Discussion: a word whose roots mean “to break apart.”
Discussions are conversations where people hold onto and defend their differences.(2)

Dialogue: The essence of dialogue is an inquiry that surfaces ideas, perceptions, and understanding that people do not already have.
“You begin to think together – not simply report out old thoughts.”

Dialogic Leadership: a way of leading that consistently uncovers, through conversation, the hidden creative potential in any situation.
The promise of dialogue is that a small group of people might do something that impacts the world.”

Amazing, isn’t it? And all this time we thought we were just talking!  Let’s dive a little deeper…

Kantor 4 player model

William Isaacs cites David Kantor’s Four-Player Model (1995) which provides a basis for Dialogic Leadership. The Kantor Model says that in any conversation, people organically reflect the unspoken needs of the group and situation, through filling at least one of four Player roles (3):






Initiate Ideas

Voicing: your true voice; encourage others' true voice


complete what’s said; support what’s happening

Listening: as a participant


challenge what is being said

Respecting: the coherence of others' views


provide perspective on what is happening           

Suspending: your certainties

What’s interesting is that all four roles are needed for an effective dialogue, and in fact, we move in and out of each role seamlessly without thinking. 

A healthy conversation and team, according to Kantor, consists of all of these roles and actions being used in balance. None is omitted.  All of the people in the conversation are free to occupy any of the four positions at any time.



Absence of any of the player roles
Notice the notations stating what happens when any of the roles are missing.  We need someone to drive the conversation, and someone to fill in the blanks.  We need someone to step back and provide a broader perspective, as much as we need someone to look at all sides of the issue and make sure we are not forgetting something.  Absence of any of the Player Roles equates to communications and decision-making risk, evidenced by a narrower perspective, and failure to consider alternatives
. (2) 

So how do we ensure we are taking leadership roles in the way we have our conversations?  By cultivating the skillsets of Listening, Suspending, Respecting and Voicing, within the Four-Player model, we can shift towards a higher quality of interactions with others. (2)

Next time you are in a group conversation, look at who is filling which role during that conversation.  Notice the balance that occurs when all four roles are present.  Notice what dysfunctions creep in when any of the Player roles are missing? You might share the Kantor Four-Player model with your project team or your Board of Directors as a training exercise, to bring collective awareness towards purposeful interactions. 

Moving from ad hoc or unconscious behaviors to systematized models of behavior (whether project management or governance principles or communications intelligence) we become aware of a deeper meaning to our actions. We look beyond the casual transactional conversations (4) towards the transformational dialogues which can change our world.

Athens Kolias, MPM, PMP, PGP, PMI-ACP is a former Chair of the Board of the San Francisco Chapter of the Project Management Institute, and part of the Engine Room team supporting the CEO of the International Policy Governance Association. Athens teaches PMP bootcamps nationwide, and consults with Boards on attaining effective and accountable governance. She can be reached at

(2)    Isaacs, W. (1999). Dialogic leadership. The systems thinker, 10(1), 1-5.

(4)    Glazer, J. (2013) Conversational Intelligence: How Leaders Build Trust and Get Extraordinary Results.
(5)    William N. Isaacs is a lecturer at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, and author of the book: Dialogue and the Art of Thinking Together (1999, Doubleday)

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Starting Something New? 4 Tips to Starting Any Project With the Right Mindset

It can be difficult to start something new, especially if it's a new project or a new approach to a project that you haven't experienced before. And if no one in your organisation has ever done it before? Well, that can be terrifying.

Even if you and your organisation have executed similar projects many times in the past, starting a new project is difficult. 'New' implies risk and challenge - but it also implies opportunity and growth.
No matter the number of projects you've worked on, the status quo will only take you so far. At some point, you will need to break out and work on something new.

When you do, the right mindset is crucial.

Take the Right First Steps

First steps should include focusing the vision. A project may start out as a great idea or even an offhand thought about something you should do, but the vision needs to be clarified. The focus must be on what the project is going to accomplish. This can be a high-level scope statement, or you can begin to drill down on the scope and define the requirements that will be met by the project.

It may be difficult to do this, especially if it's in an arena that's not familiar to the organisation, but the appropriate research and level setting should be done first - before the project goes any further.

Look Outside the Organisation

While there may be a wealth of knowledge within your organisation or your company about the projects and work done in the past, if you're starting something new or approaching a problem differently, you might need to look to experts outside your organisation.

Help can be found in project management organisations or websites, through mentors or even through research in the library. In other words, when you're starting something new, do your homework - but recognise that much of that will need to be done outside of the normal avenues for subject matter expertise.

Build on What You Know

Every step in a new endeavour should be built upon the work of previous endeavours. There's no need to throw out what has been done before in order to try new things. There are always lessons learned and valuable assets from previous projects.

For example, there are often processes and templates that can be leveraged into new projects even if the scope or work is veering into new arenas. While trying something new is a great way to grow personally and as a company, the steps you take should always be based on past experiences and the strengths of the people involved.

Accept That Risks Are Unavoidable

Yes, risks are unavoidable in projects, but they're especially present in projects that involve something new or something different. A solid risk plan involves identifying the potential issues and coming up with a mitigation plan and a mitigation budget. When the organisation or the project manager is working on something new, then, that risk budget becomes extremely important.

In addition, extra time should be built into the schedule from the outset in order to accommodate a learning curve or estimations that are not based on past experiences. These risks should be understood and communicated - from the beginning of the project to the very end of it.

In Summary

From taking the right first steps to staying on top of risks, how you approach any project is crucial, and ultimately impacts the project's success. With the right mindset, you can help successfully drive any project through to completion.

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Calendar of Events

The PMI- SFBAC chapter looks for opportunities for our members to get involved and meet other project managers in the field. Whether you're new to the area or looking to grow your professional network we have something for you. See our calendar of events for new or upcoming events or contact us for additional details.  

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Volunteer Opportunities

The PMI SF Bay Area Chapter is looking for volunteers to help meet the needs of its members. If you are interested or know someone who might be interested in these opportunities then please contact for more information. Currently we are seeking volunteers for a variety of positions including: 

  • Business Development Manager
  • Social Media Manager
  • Events Manager
  • Evening Programs Manager
  • Newsletter Editor
  • Sponsorship Support
  • Professional Development Support


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Did you know?

  • For every $1 billion invested in the United States, $122 million was wasted due to lacking project performance. (Source:

  •  Fewer than a third of all projects were successfully completed on time and on budget over the past year. 

  • 44% of project managers use no software, even though PWC found that the use of commercially available PM software increases performance and satisfaction. (Source: Pricewaterhouse Coopers)

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Membership Certification

5 Ways to Boost Your Project Management Career

Professional development is all about the long game. But you can get noticed in the short­term with these simple career hacks. Building the skills and experience organizations look for in a project leader takes years of focused effort. But there are also small steps you can take in the short term to position yourself for success. Here are five project management career hacks that can help you showcase your skills — and stand out from the pack come promotion time.

1. Map Out Your Future

Create a personal development plan that lists your career goals and outlines how to achieve them, says Ali Kaabi, PMP, general manager of global practice at MSC Mobility Solutions, a mobile technology company in Sydney, Australia. “Start with your three­ to five­year plan, either creating a list of organizations you’d like to work for or a list of positions you’d like,” Mr. Kaabi says. “Then conduct the necessary research to draw a career map to the top. Recently, I created a similar plan for my team members. I drew up an eight­level plan that started at project coordinator and tracked them all the way up to project management office (PMO) director.” At each level, identify the skills, certifications and individual competencies associated with the position. This will help you pursue the right development opportunities and make strategic career choices along the way.

2. Strategize and Specialize

Having an area of expertise is a great way to stand out from the crowd. And if you can develop a specialty that will stay in demand, that’s even better. For instance, in the United States, the need for project managers in business services and healthcare is expected to increase in the near future, according to PMI’s Project Management Talent Gap Report. “Leveraging the experiences that are gained from taking on a specialty can prove really beneficial,” says Angel Cutruzzula, PMP, manager of implementation operations at HR software company Zenefits in Phoenix, Arizona, USA. “Not only does it allow the project manager to bring unique value to the team, it offers them an area where they can educate others.”

3.) Team Up with a Mentor

If your organization doesn’t have a formal mentoring program, ask someone who has a job on your career map if they’d be willing to take you under their wing. This way, you can better 10/29/2015 MAY 2015 Archive http://www.pmi­­us/newsletter/archives/may­2015­archive/ 3/4 understand what it takes to succeed in a position you’d like to have one day. “I received excellent advice from a vice president who was willing to mentor me, and she really helped me think outside of my particular role to have a bigger vision within the organization,” Ms. Cutruzzula says.

4. Network, Network, Network

Surrounding yourself with passionate project managers is a great way to pick up skills that can help you jump to the next level in your career. “Participate in like­minded groups, such as your local PMI chapter or another specialty interest group,” Mr. Kaabi says. He also recommends setting a networking goal. Whether you aim to reach out to one connection each month or attend two networking events per quarter, this helps make sure you’re constantly expanding your professional reach.

5. Walk Away from Work

Spending all your time in the office can sap your inspiration and lead to stale project plans. Recreational distractions that take your mind off of your project can provide some muchneeded perspective, Mr. Kaabi says. “It’s important to have a release to take your mind off the problem of the day,” Mr. Kaabi says. “I do that by participating in a team sport or listening to my favorite music while I take a walk. It’s necessary to refresh your mind and start the next day on a productive note.” While nothing can take the place of long­term planning and preparation, these simple steps can show your supervisors you have the potential to make a great project leader.

Acknowledging Chapter Members’ Achievement of PMI Certification

by Mark Franks, PMP

As PMI members almost all of us are familiar with the PMP certification — in fact, we try to publish monthly the list of members who have recently achieved their PMP certification.  What has gone under appreciated until very recently is that many of our members are attaining the other PMI certifications.  Due to the membership database structure we cannot easily distill monthly data for these achievements; however, acknowledging the effort and accomplishment of these successes is important. We will strive to recognize our fellow Chapter members’ achievements semiannually by listing all those that attain certification at the newsletter link

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Toastmasters is not just a forum for better speaking skills, it's where we build tomorrow's leaders.  This is also a great venue for discussing, practicing, and perfecting communication techniques for all types of situations, from meeting facilitation to professional networking.

The Scopemasters chapter adds a project management focus to the mix, and the result is avaluable, PDU earning, meeting that can pay big dividends for the time invested. If you are interested in finding out more about Scopemasters please send an email to our VP of PR, Gretchen Peters and include your contact information.We’ll get back to you with more details about how to be a part of this exciting organization.

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Newsletter Team


Editor-in-Chief: Vacant

Editor: Vacant

Web Layout Editor: Lola Akanmu

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