PMI-Montréal project management blog

Jean-Pierre Polonovski, PMP®

Author : PMI-Montréal

Jean-Pierre Polonovski is an engineer who graduated from Ecole Polytechnique. He began early in his career working as a project and program manager. He perfected his business knowledge via the HEC Management program. As an entrepreneur, he has created and managed multiple organizations. As an innovator, he has also filed several patents. For the past few years, he has combined portfolio management and strategic analysis as a method in helping organizations transform to increase their market value, as well as their ability to rapidly meet market demands. He is also a lecturer at UQAM in the Project Management master’s program


As a project management professional, what keeps you up at night?

Improving an organization’s efficiency is a delicate compromise between long-standing knowledge which comes with historical biases, and a fresh vision that sometimes may rub the organization and its members the wrong way. A recent study showed that organizational performance is directly affected by the morale and happiness of its members. Not finding a balanced solution or poorly expressing it will keep me from sleeping soundly.

What would you like to see happen in the Project Management industry in 2017? 

Some time ago, Serge Garon and I tried to bring the more traditional world of project management and Agile project management methods closer together. We showed that very high-risk projects use the exact same methods, not just the same lingo.

A project manager’s main goal is customer satisfaction.

The world is constantly changing and the speed at which those changes occur within organizations increases every year. These changes are necessary. They support evolving strategies which themselves translate into a portfolio of projects.

I’d like the different tools and techniques to be considered part of the same toolkit in reaching the only goal that matters: better performance and better morale for our organizations and our teams.

Like Amirouche Sellam, I’d like benefits management to be at the core of Project Management debates. Benefits are often considered as results of well-managed projects. Benefits are actually the very reason we start a project at all. Project scope is just one way among many others to get these benefits. Cost and delays are driven by the scope. In 2017, I’d like for the project management industry to move past the “on time, on budget” mentality and improve organizations’ focus on projects’ motivations and their benefits.


What pushed you to pursue a career in project management?

The need for results that had a large strategic value brought me to manage my first major project at a time where Project Management knowledge wasn’t really that much codified.

Modern Project Management is the organization’s vector of transformation. Some are content to adapt to their changing environment, others take initiative to stay ahead of the curve. Project Management begins with the organization’s strategy that it maps into its portfolio, and ends with the operationalization of the projects than belong to this portfolio. At both ends, Project Management is often a mean to influence and rationalize choices. It gives purpose to major decisions that will affect the organization’s future.

I remember, for example, an organization whose strategic planning decided in a meeting that encompassed all the departments. Choices were made according to how powerful or influential certain departments were. Any transformation that involved a more balanced map of the internal powers had no chance of success. The Portfolio Management team proposed all the departments a set of criteria to evaluate the relative importance of the projects. Once management accepted the criteria, we were able to produce a strategic plan that benefited the entire organization and that was adopted by all the departments. Making organizations more adaptable to their environments and more attractive is a huge motivator for me.


What is your most memorable moment with PMI-Montreal?

A few years ago, Joseph Bejjani and myself received a prize at the Elixir Gala for our involvement in the PMI mentorship program. We each had the highest number of mentees. Obviously, it’s very moving to receive recognition from the Project Management community, in particular from PMI, but the bonds I’ve built with “my” mentees over the years have kept me motivated. I have kept in touch with many of them and I still mentor some of them.

I myself benefitted from a mentor in the beginning of my career, and we’re still in touch over 30 years later. Giving back what he gave me is a mission I have yet to accomplish.


What project would you like to draw the industry’s attention to (a small community project, a major project that went under the media’s radar, etc.)?

The 5th edition of the PMBOK added an extremely important change: they added stakeholder management as a tenth knowledge domain area.

Until then, PMBOK associated success in project management to delivering results (result-oriented). Stakeholder management introduced the notion of stakeholder satisfaction (people-oriented). This gives a broader view of project management, which comes from using a method to obtain a result, to be now closer to managerial management, which requires a more complex balance between results and the happiness of the stakeholders.


Is there anything you’ve reflected on that you would like to share with the industry (a realisation, advice, a call to all, a reference, etc.)?

Organizations are in dire need of diversity. They need the courage to weather changes. The world is changing so fast that everything feels old already. So, we must always innovate, including and especially in management, and that requires courage because you have to defend perspectives that stray from the tried-and-true beaten path. Management suddenly must listen to unconventional voices and make room for them within their organizations


Why did you become a PMI-Montreal member, and why will you renew your membership?

Project management is a field that requires “soft skills.” Knowledge transfer, especially implicit knowledge can only be done through sharing views with other practitioners or researchers. PMI’s Communities of Practice allow this kind of exchange and provide a space for these kinds of questioning.

I’ve been very active as a mentor in the PMI program, and it has provided me with the incredible opportunity to see how realities vary in different sectors. A mentor’s role is to bring the mentee to reflect on aspects of their chosen field, or to shed light on the field in a way that will help the mentee pick their own path. Inevitably, this is mirrored and the mentor also comes to reflect on their own reality. They can also learn from other organization.

Of course, PMI’s public activities also allow us to meet other Project Managers, and allow us to congratulate President Benoit Lalonde who has done a remarkable job in increasing PMI’s visibility in Montreal and Quebec, which has in turn considerably increased the very credibility of project management.


Which Project Manager would you like to see in the next PMP Generation?

Serge Garon


Are you a PMI-Montréal member and have something to say about project management in Québec ? Answer the PMP Generation questions ! Click to access the form. 

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