Already for the 5th time IPMA hosted together with the new member association of IPMA Korea the Research Conference in Incheon in Korea from Nov 2-4 2017. The theme of this conference was dedicated to “projects, management and success: do we need a new understanding?” The unambiguous answer of the outcome of the two days is: yes, the current definition is not sufficient any more given the new constraints as complexity or the need for sustainability in today´s time.

The conference started with seven congratulatory and keynote speeches, one from the former Prime Minister of Korea and UN secretary general´s envoy Dr. Han Seung-soo. His presence and speech sends an important message to the project management community in Korea and worldwide. The fact that a high-ranked politician perceives project management as an important strategic tool to implement change in a society is a milestone for our PM community. Finally also politicians understand that they can be by far more effective by applying the methodology of project management in their own assignments. In a high power distant country as Korea this message from a former Prime Minister cannot be overrated as a signal to both current politicians but also to other leaders in organisations and institutions.

A further keynote speech came from the gold winner of the 2015 Project Management Excellence Award, Dr. Soo-hong Kim, CEO of Incheon Bridge company. The planning and construction of the 22 km long bridge within a record time is a great example for this years´ conference theme of project success.

The afternoon of the first conference day was dedicated to the 12 paper presentations which were clustered in four streams: Ethics & Philosophy, Sustainability, Culture and Value. For the first time a call for paper was released in the PM community six months ahead the conference to encourage researchers and practitioners to reflect on the current definition of success and to present their proposals to discuss the ideas. This new proceeding not only brought new participants to the Research Conference but also enriched the discussions during the conference.

The first day ended with the Research Award Gala Evening. IPMA awards researchers in three categories every year. The winner in this year in the Category Young Researcher is Maude Brunet, the winner in the category Research Award is Lavagnon Ika and in the category lifetime Achievement Award is Jeffrey Pinto. The three winners gave great insights to their research projects in their speeches and again the theme of success fitted very good to the three speeches. The award evening ended with the honouring of Rodney Turner for his extraordinary engagement for IPMA as former president of IPMA and his dedication to the professionalization of PM research as the chief editor of the International Journal of Project Management for 25 years. He raised the journal impact factor so that IJPM is today ranked as the major journal in PM research, being well acknowledged also outside the PM community.

Day 2 started with 5 keynote speeches both from practitioners IPMA president Reinhard Wagner, IPMA Korea Chairman Wong-ong Cho and IPMA president elected Jesus Martinez Almela as well as from the two researchers Beverly Pasain and Carl Marnewick on project success. The session was concluded by an interview with Rodney Turner about his personal reflections on project success.

The aim of the afternoon session was to broaden our thinking on project success with two parallel creativity sessions, namely a Design Thinking and a Six Thinking Hats workshop facilitated by Haukur Jonasson and myself. With the help of these two different creativity techniques the participants could reflect on their thinking about project success by getting out of their comfort zone and using new ways of approaching their challenge, but also to learn and apply a new technique.

As in all other IPMA research conference this conference was terminated by the world café session which is in the meantime world-famous: in 5 rounds the following 5 topics were discussed:

  • How can we integrate sustainability in the current definition of project success?
  • What are the further new aspects that project success should include?
  • What can governmental institutions do to enhance project success?
  • What are the new research questions regarding project success?
  • What is the legacy of this conference?

As the answers are long and need interpretation there will be another blog post about the outcome of this World Café in the next days.

The second conference day was concluded by the the common unambiguous answer: the current definition of project success is not sufficient any more given the new constraints as complexity or the need for sustainability in today´s time. However it is not possible to come up with a new proposal for a definition yet.

It became already another tradition of the IPMA Research conference that the third conference day consists of an excursion to local projects and some sightseeing. This time we began our excursion to the famous nearby Incheon Bridge, where the participants learned from the charismatic CEO and project manager Dr. Soo-hong Kim about the challenges of planning and constructing a spanning cable-stayed bridge, the five longest of its type in the world, reducing the travel time Songdo and Incheon International Airport by one hour. The overall lengths of the bridge road is 22 km. In 2015 the Incheon Bridge project won the IPMA Project Excellence award and the participants had the opportunity to understand the ingrediences of this project success story.

In the afternoon the participants were accompanied by a tour guide to Seoul where we visited the wonderful Gyeongbokgung Palace, an antique quarter of Bukchon where all participants had the chance to decorate a jewelry box with shell plates and a stop in the art district of Insadong. The evening ended with a typical Korean barbeque dinner in a famous restaurant.

The possibility to talk to local project managers, see local projects and to experience how project management is applied in Korea made this 2017 IPMA Research Conference a very memorable, highly impressive event for all participants. Project success and the local application of the conference theme gave us the possibility to get to see some highlights of our hospital host country. The Incheon Bridge and its engaged project manager Dr. Kim will remain as a landmark for all Research Conference participants when thinking about project success in the future.