A few words from the IAPM’s President

A few words from the IAPM’s President 18.12.2015 - Astronauts vs. project managers and the chance to make an entry in the IAPM product backlog

A few words from the IAPM’s President

Dear IAPM Community,
In most projects and undertakings, a lot of things depend on whether the people involved are using one-hundred percent reliable computer software or apps.
Even in space!
Just imagine you’re an astronaut on your very first mission, conducting an experiment in space. You’re floating around the Spacelab (because it has zero gravity) and in front of you there is a chair with wheels on rails, like a kind of space tram.
Your task is to strap yourself into the chair, attach a lot of electrodes and cables to yourself, look into a black tube with a camera and - wait. Now your fellow astronaut at the control panel is going to accelerate you towards the back wall of the Spacelab. Behind that several centimetres-thick wall is the endless blackness of the universe with its millions of galaxies. You’re supposed to brake the chair just before it hits the wall and then accelerate backwards. That’s the experiment they conducted in 1984 on the first German Spacelab mission, “D1”.

The astronaut sitting in the chair was Reinhard Furrer and his colleague at the control panel was Dutch astronaut Wubbo Ockels. This experiment was designed to discover the effects of zero gravity on the human equilibrium organs (which are located in the inner ear). Before the experiment starts, imagining you’re the astronaut in the chair again, you’d probably have the following thoughts: Will everything go to plan? Does the computer software work? Will my colleague pressing the start button make a mistake? Hopefully not!
At the time of the original experiment I was sitting in the control centre in Oberpfaffenhofen. As Crew Interface Coordinator, my job was to support the astronauts conducting the experiments and discuss how the experiments went. All their medical data, plus live images, were transmitted to us. I’d sat in the chair myself when we were recording the basic data at the University of Mainz’s Institute for Physiology, so I had a good idea of how Reinhard Furrer must have felt about being accelerated towards infinity...
Astronaut training and the development of procedures are two very important aspects of preparing for a project like this. When you consider the risks involved, it’s obvious that meticulous precision is necessary in the process of developing the computer software, GUIs, procedures and action sequences. What’s more, everything has to be as intuitive and simple as possible! That’s why we didn’t have time to set everything out in complex specifications during the development phase. Instead, we used agile methods. At every training session we entered the astronauts’ comments and requests in a product backlog for integration in the next version. The comments and requests were integrated without any changes in the users’ (astronauts’) language. So we were working with user stories before we had any idea that this agile method of software development would become widely established. At that time, in the mid-eighties, agile project management models such as Scrum, Extreme Programming and Kanban were still unheard of.
Project managers are to the IAPM what the astronauts were to the space programme. There are more parallels than many people might think.
When the rocket engine is switched off after the spacecraft enters into orbit, everything becomes weightless, the floor disappears from under you and you float around. At the same time you feel hot because there is no gravity keeping your blood down so it rises to your head, but also because you’re excited. Above you is the black endlessness of the universe, and below you is the beautiful blue planet Earth.
Most project managers have experienced the feeling of  being hot and flustered after receiving a critical phone call, dealing with annoying customers, or being pressurised by the line manager or executive board. It feels like the project floor is being pulled out from under your feet. But then there’s also that feeling of elation when a project is successfully closed out and something new has been created.
A key tool in agile project management is the product backlog. This is where the users’ requirements of a software or app are noted in their own language, expressed in user stories. When the IAPM was founded it created a product backlog for project managers and they’ve been adding their user stories to it over the years.

The IAPM’s vision is to create a project management organisation that is fundamentally different from all others by having online roots, being as agile as possible and responding quickly and flexibly to project managers’ requests and needs. It wants to be available to project managers without imposing any pre-conditions such as membership on them. Any project manager can attend any of the IAPM network events at any time. Useful publications such as the Project Management Guide 2.0 can be downloaded free of charge from the IAPM website by anyone. New developments, such as the rise of agile and international project management, are identified and implemented in online certifications and courses provided by our training partners in these specialist project management fields.
Fairness is our top priority. That’s why our certification fees are based on the gross domestic product of the country where the certification candidate has citizenship.
At the IAPM’s IPMM (International Project Manager Meeting) this year in Graz, participants discussed how the IAPM can more effectively engage with project managers, support them in their work and help them to resolve their challenges and problems. One of the items on the agenda was a retrospective of 2015 and the IAPM’s current situation.
In short, the IAPM’s concept is still working and it’s had an extraordinarily successful year. The IAPM has certificate holders from 72 different nations, including new certificate holders from Taiwan, Malawi and South Africa, and this figure is rising. 6,200 project managers are currently under the IAPM umbrella. And 97 percent - a unanimous vote of confidence - confirmed in this year’s IAPM certificate holder survey that they would recommend the IAPM to other people.

Here’s my request to everyone interested in the IAPM. Contribute to the development of our organisation! What would you enter in the IAPM’s product backlog? How can we continue to move forward?
  • What do you need from us?
  • What can the IAPM do to become an even better organisation?
  • What specific challenges are project managers, product owners, scrum masters and the like encountering right now?
  • What things are missing, where can we make improvements and how can we become better?
  • What kinds of other things could an organisation like the IAPM do?

I look forward to your receiving feedback, suggestions and constructive criticism.
Finally, I hope you all have a very successful, healthy and happy 2016!
Dr Hans Stromeyer
President of the IAPM
Senior Official, Houston, Texas, USA


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