by Gretchen Steenstra, Senior Consultant, Technology Management, DelCor
Gather a panel of technology professionals – people who don’t always agree and often butt heads – and ask them to share advice and tips about a challenging topic: project management.
Give them an affable, some would say silly, moderator who keeps the discussion moving along.
Add an audience who is fully engaged and entertained in a room full of good feeling and community.
And what do you get?
You get a session that everyone remembers and talks about – conference veterans look forward to it and newcomers are immediately hooked.
Welcome to Project Management Poker, or, as it’s affectionately known at the Avectra Users & Developers Conference (#AUDC12), PM Poker.
Oh, yeah. Did we mention the open bar?
Let the Game Begin
Eight years ago Tobin Conley and I were invited to do a project management session at the first AUDC. We were hot off the talking heads circuit having just presented PM sessions at other conferences. But this time we wanted to try something new instead of the usual “best practices” panel. One night I saw the World Series of Poker on TV and an idea started brewing.
At the time I worked for the Optical Society of America (OSA) managing the implementation of our new AMS, Avectra’s netFORUM, along with Tobin, our DelCor Senior Technology Consultant. Tobin and I had an ulterior motive for PM Poker. It wouldn’t just be an educational session. We used it to have a difficult discussion in public about OSA’s and Avectra’s project management issues and frustrations.
The first game was a scripted performance with a purpose: to get everything out on the table in a respectful conversation that would also help audience members with their project management challenges.
Playing the Game
The theme for this year's game was Maintenance – which explains Tobin’s uniform and stage name “Delvis” in the photo above (credit: Avectra/Flickr). Each of the three rounds focuses on a project stage. This year’s rounds were:
- Keep netFORUM Alive & Visible
- Keep netFORUM Projects in the Budget (Upgrades, New Projects, Training)
- Integration & Extending netFORUM
Each player is dealt a three-card hand. For the first round, the cards list scenarios that arise during the “Keep netFORUM Alive & Visible” stage, for example:
- Staff wants to use new functionality but isn’t trained
- Everything is #1 priority
- “Get to it later” – staff doesn’t return to the list of Phase 2 items outlined during initial implementation
Players have only 90 seconds to give advice on the three scenarios. 90 SECONDS! Imagine solving problems so quickly in real life. But it has a point: you must manage your time well and make your point quickly if you want to succeed.
At the beginning of the game, wildcards are passed out to audience members. After each round, they get a chance to address the issue they’ve been “dealt” or they can ask one of the players to address it.
The audience members are sometimes more eloquent and pithy than us players! Audience participation is one of the reasons why PM Poker is not only fun, but an engaging learning format.
In my next post, I'll bring in an expert to explain why our brains love PM Poker – no, it’s not the beer. I’ll also show how your association can use PM Poker for project management and more.