PM² Mindsets: Key Success Factors of your project. An interview with Nicos Kourounakis

Within the PM², Project Management Methodology, is a very special point that can make your project successful: The mindsets. Let’s see from the hand of one of the people who knows more about them.



Project Management Methodology

PM², Project Management Methodology, is a methodology that has been developed by the European Commission. Its aim is to provide a tool for project managers so that they can deliver to their organisations all the benefits of effective project work management.

If you want to know more about this methodology, here is the link to the article I dedicated All about the Open PM² Methodology from European Commission.


Who is?


Nicos Kourounakis

Nicos Kourounakis

Nicos Kourounakis, BSc, MASc, MBA, PMP, PRINCE2, IPMA-D, PM²
Project Management Consultant

Nicos is the Co-Author of the PM² Project Management Methodology of the European Commission (2012, 2016, 2018), the Agile PM² Guide (2014), the PM² Portfolio Management Guide (2018), and a founding member of the PM²-Alliance (www.PM2Alliance.eu).

Over the past 8 years, as a senior consultant of the Centre of Excellence in Project Management (CoEPM²) of the European Commission, Nicos has led many consulting projects with major EU Institutions such as the European Commission, the European Council, the European Central Bank, the European Investment Bank and other EU Agencies.


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He was also the Project Manager of the EC’s Open PM² Initiative, a project aiming at bringing the PM² Methodology and its benefits closer to EU Member States Public Administrations.
Nicos has also been involved in many international projects in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Belgium, Austria, Germany, Portugal, Luxembourg and Greece, working both with large organizations and with smaller ventures and start-ups.

He holds an MBA from McGill University, Montreal, Canada, a MASc in Electrical Engineering from the University of Victoria, Canada, and a BSc in Physics from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece.

You can follow Nicos on twitter nkouroun



Julián: What are the PM² Mindsets?

Nicos: The PM² Methodology is comprised of four pillars (i.e. Governance, Lifecycle, Processes and Artefacts) and the PM² Mindsets are the 5th element which is the soul and personality of the PM² Methodology and becomes the glue that holds the PM² pillars together; The Mindsets crystallise the philosophy of PM² as a methodology and make it both more effective and complete.

They help project teams (re)position their project management priorities in a wider context and provide a common set of beliefs and values for all PM² practitioners while reminding them of the attitudes and behaviours that can help them to productively navigate through the complexities of project reality.



Julián: Are the Mindsets a key element of the methodology that helps users adapt it to a breadth of possible situations?

Nicos: It is true that one size never fits all. Therefore, adapting (or tailoring as we call it) the methodology to the needs of an organisation and project is recommended. Therefore, tailoring guidelines can help adapt the methodology’s elements such as its processes, documentation, etc. to their specific needs.

However, what is almost impossible to do is to provide tailoring guidelines on how to adapt our attitudes, behaviours and actions based on the situation in order to remain productive and value focused. This is where the PM² Mindsets come into play, that is, to help us align our judgement, correctly interpret the situation and chose the right behaviours and actions, repeatedly and consistently, not only as individuals but also as teams.

The PM² Mindsets help us interpret the spirit of the methodology and help us understand what is really important within a given context and what is less.



Julián: In the context of a methodology, couldn’t the second mindset be considered a contradiction when it states: “Remain mindful that the methodologies are there to serve projects and not the other way around”? Or is it just brutally honest?

Nicos: Many believe that applying a project management methodology is simply about following the motions of the methodology, about following procedures or filling in templates. However, the whole concept of projects is based on the goal of creating value for its stakeholders. Implementing a project management methodology
intends to facilitate this value creation process.

When Project management is seen (or becomes) nothing more than a layer of bureaucracy and produces, the exact opposite of the intended effect is achieved: instead of facilitating the value creation process, the methodology ends up eroding the value creation potential of the project or/and the organisation.

And this is the exactly the purpose of the mindset “Remain mindful that the methodologies are there to serve projects and not the other way around”, that is, to remind us that sometimes we can get lost in the motions of project management, focusing too much in doing thigs right that we neglect asking whether we are also doing the right things, at the right time, to the right extent or level of rigor. Or in other words, we shouldn’t forget that efficiency only makes sense in the context of effectiveness

Note that as with all elements of the methodology, the mindsets should be considered as parts of an integrated whole, and not as standalone or disconnected parts. Therefore, as strong as this statement is, it works as the counterbalance to the previous mindset which states that “we are committed to using the PM² Methodology”.



Julián: It seems that we find quite a bit of “agile spirit” in the PM² Mindsets. Were the Agile Values and Principles of the Agile Manifesto an inspiration for PM²?

Nicos: I’m please you recognised this! Indeed, the Agile Manifesto has been a source of inspiration for PM² and for the mindsets in particular. Originating from and used within the EU public institutions, PM² needed to make sure that the good influences from the Agile world were integrated into both the practices and (mainly) in the philosophy of the methodology. PM² isin many ways “agile ready” in spirit and in the way that it acknowledges and integrates the agile practices into the PM² lifecycle (see also Agile PM²).



Julián: One of the Mindsets tells us about the importance of culture. Is culture the last frontier for successful project management?

Nicos: The Critical Success Factors (CSFs) of effective project management are not only good project management methods, but also management sponsorship, supporting structures, effective teams and appropriate culture. Culture is an important characteristic of every organisation and an important consideration for project management.

The sociocultural dimension of project management should be acknowledged and actively managed for the benefit of the project. Because we know very well that “culture eats procedures for breakfast”, managing culture should be the first and most important frontier, rather than it being the last one.



Julián: Are you developing any guidelines, like best practices, on how to properly use the mindsets?

Nicos: Mindsets should not (and cannot) be as prescriptive as processes. Mindsets are there to provide a compass and not a map: an ethical and behavioural compass which helps us in making the difficult complex decisions (for the complicated ones there are plenty of tools and techniques that are readily available).

So, to answer your question, although no specific guidelines are being developed per se, I personally have invested some time to expand further on one of them,
related to the “Ps of Project Management” as Critical Success Factors in Projects.

Also, another domain, however, that I personally find particularly fascinating (and useful) is the connection of the PM² mindsets to the personal and professional virtues mentioned in the methodology.

Generally, I expect that the mindsets will attract the attention of many in the field who will further develop them and link them to relevant contemporary management theories.



Julián: How can one apply the PM² Mindsets in a real project case? Could you provide us with an example?

Nicos: The PM² mindsets can be a powerful reference for project managers that are managing project and teams with limited formal authority.

The Mindsets can provide the starting point of putting together a Project Team Charter – an internal agreement of conduct and a team “contract” on how to “behave” within a team. This Team Charter reminds team members of the upfront agreement that has been made by all to enhanced team performance, and therefore can be used to highlight unproductive behaviours and hopefully provide a basis for an intervention to realign them.

Thank you nicos and thank you Elias Michelioudakis for facilitating the interview.


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