Interview with Pierre Le Manh, President & CEO of Project Management Institute, conducted by Aneta Wereszczak

What was your first impression of PMI?

The thing that has impressed me the most at PMI is its extraordinary community and the enormous impact its members make around the world. PMI reaches so many different industries and is at the heart of corporate and global transformation. It is quite an exciting time in PMI’s history, with a continued emphasis on globalizing, digital transformation, and scaling our impact. As I’ve met with members, volunteers, and certification holders around the globe, I’ve been struck by the consistent passion and enthusiasm they all demonstrate for the community.  People are so engaged with PMI because it satisfies many needs at the same time. It acts almost like a family at times. It’s also an ecosystem providing a wide range of offerings and capabilities – thought leadership, trainings, certifications, and more to satisfy intellectual curiosity. Above all, I’m proud that we have a clear ‘for purpose mentality.’

How did you celebrate becoming the President of PMI?

In truth, I had so much to do to prepare that it was challenging to find time to celebrate! That preparation has included going through the process of studying for certifications myself in order to develop a strong, firsthand understanding of the user experience. I studied for my CAPM, and the plan is for me to take the PMP next, once I have been able to implement the structural changes I need to focus on this year. It was a whirlwind first few months, but I, fortunately, had the opportunity over the holidays for some skiing with my sons in the French Alps, a trip we make a priority each year. 

Fot. Pierre's archive Pierre at PMI All Hands 2022

What made you interested in PMI as an organization?

It would have been very difficult to say no to PMI. It’s remarkable to consider what this community has achieved over the past half-century in putting project management on the map and formalizing the profession. With the critical role project management plays worldwide, project professionals are well positioned to drive impact as CEOs and government officials push their transformation agendas. That’s why it is not a surprise to see the demand for project management skills continuing to grow. Our research has found that the GDP contributions from project-oriented industries are forecasted to reach $20.2 trillion over the next 20 years. The PMI Talent Gap report predicts that there will be a gap between the demand for project management skills and the availability of talent, leading to job opportunities for project professionals. It is estimated that 2.3 million people will need to enter project management-oriented employment each year to close the talent gap and meet demand. It’s a great privilege to join PMI when I think about the opportunity ahead, especially in regard to our community applying their skills in driving impact. As I have said in the past, we primarily offer three things that we are very good at – connections, knowledge, and impact.

What was the most challenging project you participated in?

One challenging project that comes to mind; colleagues still reach out from a company I ran 25 years ago and still talk about how we converted its product line and lifted digital products from 0% to 70% of revenue in less than four years. This experience prepared me well for the high levels of uncertainty that leaders face today.

Fot. Pierre's archive Pierre at PMI Leadership Institute Meeting 2022

If you could share with our readers some big failures that turned out to be a great lessons for you?

I’ve made my mistakes – recruitments, in M&A moves, in other areas. And I will still make some. There is, however, no big failure that I never recovered from. I learned, all along my career, that things are never going as well as you want, but they are also never as bad as you think. We all are continuously learning in many situations – from our leaders, from our colleagues and from mistakes. How we approach mistakes psychologically is very important and with experience and the perspective of others, we get better at that. That’s one reason why PMI’s mission is so important. We are continuously sharing knowledge to support people and help them excel in their career journeys.

What are the skills of the future for project managers?

Regardless of the industry, we’ve all known people who are comfortable with the status quo, even in the middle of great change. This is not a good approach for making an impact within an organization, especially for project managers. The future of work for project managers requires a mindset of innovation and acquiring new skills. Another aspect that will continue to be critical in our industry is mastering agility. I don’t mean only on the team level in terms of incorporating agile practices, but primarily on an individual level. At its best, agile is about ‘getting better at getting better.’ Being agile means fully embracing an open mindset and continuous learning, seeking frequent feedback and adjusting to maximize delivered value. What I have experienced in my career is that unforeseen events or changes in the context in which you are operating give you the opportunity to suddenly move faster than others and achieve great results that would not have been possible in a stable environment. In order to enhance the agility of our teams, project managers need to demonstrate these behaviours by themselves shaping the team culture towards empowerment and ultimate customer focus.

Fot. Pierre's archive PMI Leadership Institute Meeting 2022

How to strengthen these skills?

On top of that, customization is key, given the nuances and differences of every project or product. We learned over the years that there is no such thing as ‘one size fits all.’ Project managers need to be proficient in ways of working and in selecting the methods that provide the best fit to their teams and not adhering perfectly to a specific framework. Embracing agility and the continuous improvement mindset will help practitioners thrive and improve as project professionals. Project practitioners will need to draw upon a wide range of skill sets and capabilities, well beyond many of the technical skills that have been at the heart of the profession for so long. PMI training and certifications are no longer just about matters like scheduling, budget and scope creep; today, the challenge is increasingly to identify the right way of working. By the way, please note that agile now comprises about 50% of the PMP. The PMI Talent Triangle provides a useful framework for practitioners to think about all of the skill sets that they need – Ways of Working (whether agile, predictive, design thinking, or new practices still to be developed), Power Skills (interpersonal skills like collaborative leadership and communication) and Business Acumen (to better understand macro and micro influences impacting their projects). Above all, it is critical for professionals to continue learning and upskilling throughout their career journey. In one McKinsey study, nearly 80% of business leaders cited capability building as ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ important to their organization’s growth, compared with 59% before the pandemic. PMI is well-positioned to continue helping practitioners navigate their personal learning journeys. In a time of many uncertainties, we strive to help our community develop skills that last a lifetime. Our ultimate goal is to help our members and volunteers be more influential and drive greater impact not just as managers, but as leaders.

Fot. Pierre's archive Pierre with Jessica O. Matthews, Founder and CEO of Uncharted and her father, Dr. Idoni Matthews,
Uncharted Board Member

How to build a productive organization based on volunteers?

In the case of PMI, it all started with volunteers. They are the core of our community in Poland just as anywhere else in the world. From running chapters, writing and reviewing our certification exams, developing our codes and standards, and supporting our product development, to planning and speaking at events and serving as subject matter experts, our volunteers lead and power the global project management community. We have over 11 000 volunteers contributing to our collective impact each year. While this network is impressive, it only makes up less than 2% of PMI’s members, indicating we still have plenty of room to grow!

What will leadership look like in the future?

I actually believe there are many styles of leadership and the important consideration is to find the one that works for you, whether you’re a CEO or leading a small project team. Leadership is about the ability to inspire and ultimately drive action and change around you. This, I think, won’t change. But of course, leadership is about your impact on others and understanding the world, society, how people relate to each other, how they communicate, understanding cultural nuances. All of this plays a critical role because even as some of the deepest motivations of human beings are very stable, their expression evolves. You can’t be a leader of the future if you don’t understand how the future is shaping up.

Fot. Pierre's archive Rochester Rising Leaders, 2022

How does your typical day look like?

There is no real typical day because I travel a lot. But let’s say a typical day is a day I spend in New York, working from my home office. When I wake up, I read the press and answer a few emails, before getting ready. Then usually I have lots of video conferences in the morning and afternoon. I try to take a 30 min break to eat and read the press again. When the evening comes, I usually talk to my closest team in the evening as well to discuss and align, or I do work that requires focus and concentration, like producing ideas or content, reading documents etc. before dinner with my wife, which is always at 8 pm prompt – she was raised by a German mother and you don’t mess with punctuality. I try not to work after dinner. Of course, a few days per week, it is not possible but I really try to limit it to, let’s say, one-hour maximum. Then I read or watch movies, unless I’m out, of course. Sometimes I have business lunches in the city, or drinks and dinners. I work every weekend a few hours each day too, usually to catch up with things I didn’t have the time to do during the week, or deal with my personal paperwork or other activities I have outside of my job. I like this time because it is usually on my own, at my own pace. I always go out a couple of times with friends during the weekend, usually in the evenings, but sometimes in the daytime too, depending on what we do. When traveling, I meet with as many people important to PMI as possible, to help further advance the project management profession – from government officials to corporate executives to chapter leaders.  

Fot. Aneta's archive Pierre Le Manh and Aneta Wereszczak at the Global Summit in Las Vegas 2022

What is your superpower?

I don’t know if I have a ‘superpower’ because that would sound presumptuous. But people who know me well always say that I am very perceptive. Ever since I was a small child, I was able to cultivate a strong sense of ‘weak signals’, including what others were thinking, feeling, or about to do. This is a useful skill, of course; it helps with anticipating issues and adjusting to others when needed. 

We have learned about the new PMI values. What is especially important to you?

PMI recently rolled out our new values. They are: make it easy; aim higher; be welcoming; embrace curiosity; together we can. These values were developed in co-collaboration with more than 1,300 members of our community. Their contribution especially resonated with me, and I was part of the final work done to synthesize and express these values in a way that I hope is meaningful to all of us. In my opinion, these values may be the most important reference point we now have at PMI to foster unity. We need to embrace them in everything we do and in every interaction we have. They should guide our day-to-day behaviors, the way we recruit, the way we assess performance, and the way we interact across our community. But we need to start with all learning them by heart, with the exact words and in the right order! It’s an important first step and it is not that difficult.

Source: Pierre’s social media