05 09 2023 at 00:00
Interview Jan Van Broeck
Let me continue the series “Everything you wanted to know about the Past Presidents” …
I would like to introduce you to Jan Van Broeck, President nr 3.
Jan was President of PMI Belgium (Luxembourg) Chapter from 2002 to 2005.
As a first question I would like to ask you: how are you doing?
I am doing very well, approaching now my 64th birthday. Over the last years I gradually shifted business priorities, hereby influenced by the COVID period. It has been, for all of us, quite a shaky period. If I focus on project management as subject, the advent of Agile has impacted project, program and portfolio management compared to 20 years ago. When I started as entrepreneur in the project management field, the territory was rather open, certification became important and only a few players were focusing on project management methodologies as a business. This world has changed completely and now many players are active in the agile world. This evolution, with its advantages and disadvantages guided me towards a new balance in life, hereby supported by events in the family sphere. Bottom line, time to harvest… !
How did you come to PMI BeNeLux/Belgium Chapter? And why do you decided to take the mandate as President?
My arrival into the PMI world has been fully influenced by my colleague partner in business Louis Mercken. When examining both our CVs, you will easily notice that our joint path started in 1991 in a company, currently called Umicore.
I had the privilege of being mentored by Louis for quite some time, and his passion for project management was the trigger for me to contribute to the ambition to bring project management to a higher level within the BENELUX area. The best way to contribute as volunteer is to participate in the Board, and when the term of Louis ended, I volunteered to pick up the role as president.
What do you remember from that time?
We were a BENELUX organization in transition, with a clear objective to build autonomous structures in the Netherlands and Luxembourg. Certification to CAPM or PMP were popular whilst focus on Program and Portfolio Management entered the scene. I had the opportunity to enlarge my personal network in the 3 countries, with many volunteers.
During your mandate, what is your good experience?
Belgium is small, however, it was great to observe our contribution in the overall, global PMI world. Our presence in European events, new at that time and inspired on our own “Benelux Days”, our contribution to the European PMI Service center, participation in global study groups, these are just some elements of a strong presence and influence at the global level of PMI.
And what do you identify as a bad experience?
PMI creates standards, and when the first standards of program management and portfolio management were published, I was strongly disappointed. It came over like a quick and easy job. Take the famous PMBOK guide and just replace project by program…
Whilst company wise, we had invested in research together with a Belgian university in program management, our findings did not match at all the standard published by PMI.
If you look into the mirror, how do you evaluate your mandate? What would you do differently?
I do not tend to evaluate my own performance, feedback from others is the basis for personal reflection. It allows me to examine how I can contribute in the same or in a different way to the future. PMI is a global organization, balancing between regions that are ahead, and regions that are behind.
I shifted my priorities after my president position from local involvement in Belgium towards distinct assignments within the global PMI organization. The effort needed to get things moving forward at the global level was just another dimension. It only makes sense to do such a move, if you are willing to invest years and years. I underestimated this but I am very happy that I did that move.
And what would you wish it still existed?
During my time with PMI volunteership in the Board, PMI Belgium had a very close relationship with the global PMI organization. I am not sure this is still the case today. I hope it is.
How to attract members to become presidents?
It is essential that any Chapter ensures proper renewal of their Board. I remember Chapters in Germany that were “property” of the president. No new faces, and a rather possessive attitude of the president, not willing to transfer role to a newcomer. How can you promote a position in the Board in such an environment ? You need to ensure that the Board involves newcomers in events and task during the year, allowing them to be stimulated to join the Board in a next year.
I believe it is essential that a president has a facilitating role. Whilst the PMI Chapter governance is a team effort. A plan for succession is part of this facilitating role.
What do you advise to the current president and to the coming presidents?
Listen to your members. They are the reason for the existence of the Chapter. Secondly, express your voice towards PMI global. I have looked at PMI’s website recently, whilst I had not done it for quite some time. Post COVID there seems to be no European congress anymore, whilst PMI seems to offer plenty of digital trainings. It is up to the Chapter Boards of the future to (re)define the Chapter’s position and role within the global, digital world.
Any anecdote to share with us?
I had the chance to meet with Fons Trompenaars, when he was keynote speaker in a PMI European congress in Amsterdam. A great speaker and inspiring person as culture guru. He convinced me to read the book ‘Did the pedestrian die ?’. Very inspiring…
How do you imagine the PMI Belgium Chapter in the future? And how do you imagine Project Management?
Project Management was a hot new topic some 25 years ago, and the opportunity to certify towards PMP or CAPM has contributed substantially over the years. The role of a Chapter is defined by PMI : it is about connect, develop and give back. The Chapter is there to adhere to this role, and if the Chapter Board does not feel happy with this agenda, there would be a long-term survival challenge for that Chapter.
What can I wish you for in the future?
Please wish us all a feasible plan for the world of tomorrow. I have a clear opinion on the evolution of our world over the last years. Just pick up the news every day, whether it is about climate, politics, crime, tolerance, etc.
I wish me and all of you an answer to these challenges…
Do I miss an important question for you?
Importance is relative, I hope that my answers will give our Chapter members enough insight on the substantial change that happened since I became involved in PMI matters.
What do you want to also share with us?
If you are a Project Management professional, certified or not, reflect every moment in your project whether the ‘project’ or ‘product/service’ focus is relevant. Agile has shifted all attention to the ‘product’ (personal opinion). Do not ignore the Project Management Knowledge Areas as they existed in the past PMBOK guides…
COVID also changed the way we do projects: many virtual meetings, home (or mobile ?) office, plenty of digital tools, …. Not all processes are now so transparent as they were in the past.
Up to PMI and its Chapters to show us the best practices… I wish the PMI Belgium Chapter a long, fruitful and prosperous future.
I would like to thank you very much for agreeing to share your experience with our members and I am looking forward to welcoming you at the PM Fair on 13th of October 2023.