by Gretchen Steenstra, Senior Consultant, Technology Management, DelCor
You can learn a lot at a poker table, even project management. Every year at the Avectra Users & Developers Conference, DelCor hosts an educational session, PM Poker. Last week I described why and how the game is played. Take a few minutes to read that if you haven't already; when you come back I’ll explain why there’s more to PM Poker than laughs and free booze.
Now that you know how to play the game, let me introduce you to the players. The PM Poker players represent the different roles on a project management team. During the game, we hear the perspectives of each one as they wrestle with project management issues.
This year’s players were:
- Rebecca Achurch, PMP, CSM, CAE, netFORUM Program Manager, American Chemical Society (representing the large association)
- Mary Bullard, Assistant Vice President, Finance & Administration, New Jersey Business & Industry Association (representing the small association)
- Debbie King, PMP, MCITP, Chief Executive Officer and founder, DSK Solutions (representing the implementation consultant)
- Dana Pisano, PMP, Senior Managing Director, Professional Services, Avectra (representing the product vendor)
- and me, Gretchen Steenstra, PMP, Senior Consultant, Technology Management, DelCor (representing the technology consultant)
And our dealer, as always, was my colleague, Tobin Conley, Senior Consultant, Technology Management at DelCor. To hear from new voices, we rotate players in and out each year. The topics are serious, but the mood is light. Unlike the poker tables on TV, ours is full of laughter and gibes. The open bar helps.
Your brain on PM Poker
We always thought PM Poker was a great learning concept, but we checked in with an education professional who’s attended a few of our games: Jodi Wesemann, Assistant Director for Higher Education at the American Chemical Society.
Jodi says PM Poker works because it’s focused on people’s realities. It’s an example of contextual learning. “The questions and scenarios resonate because the audience has wrestled with them. They’re real, relevant, and timely.” The format also “highlights the partnerships that have to be there during a project.”
“The lecture format is the least effective way to foster learning. PM Poker takes the lecture out of the session, and suggests that we (the audience) are supposed to be involved in learning.” The audience wildcards “show that people in the room have expertise as well, not just the players. The audience is part of the learning experience.”
Jodi noticed several overarching PM concepts reinforced throughout the game. Players often give the same advice, but from their particular perspective and in their own words. That’s the power of repetition.
DIY PM Poker
We encourage association staff to play a few rounds of PM Poker at project kick-off meetings, especially when people from other departments don’t understand why they have to spend time on “your” project. Bring your IT, operations, finance, membership, and events people to the table. Give them a safe place to share their perspectives and pain points. They’ll soon understand that everyone’s job is hard, and that you’re all working toward the same goal.
DelCor originally used PM Poker to start a really difficult conversation in a non-threatening public way. If your board or membership is wrestling with challenging issues, maybe a frank yet friendly discussion around the poker table would help bring people closer together.
You could also use PM Poker to work out issues that are putting segments of your membership at odds with each other: professionals vs. vendors, old school vs. new school, or niche vs. niche.
A PM Poker game creates a positive and non-threatening environment where people with different roles and perspectives can address difficult issues with mutual respect and candor. Everybody laughs, everybody learns.
PM Poker decks are available from DelCor, to associations and nonprofits only. Contact us if you’d like a deck, or are interested in having us facilitate a game for your staff!