Project Management

The Importance of Regionalization: Connecting at the Local Level

6 May 2021
Joe Cahill
PMI moved boldly amidst the COVID crisis to install its new regional operating model. A year and a half in, that model has taken root and is yielding significant benefits for PMI and its stakeholders. Joe Cahill discusses the regionalization effort and how it’s given new voice to PMI members and volunteers.

Image by Claudio Schwarz on Unsplash

One important aspect of PMI’s ongoing transformation journey is to get closer to our many stakeholders—to truly understand their pain points and better sense their needs so we can deliver more finely-tuned solutions and support.

PMI, of course, has a significant global footprint: we serve nearly 3 million professionals around the world, including more than 600,000 members across 300 chapters in every corner of the globe. Fully harnessing the potential of this global network, we realized, would require new thinking about our organization.

That’s why in 2020—in the midst of the COVID crisis when “getting closer” physically was off the table—we moved aggressively to put in place a new regional operating model in which greater authority and decision making are handled by regional managing directors in a range of distinct markets: Asia Pacific, China, India, the Middle East/North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, Europe, Latin America and North America.

With this one move, we enhanced not only our global reach but our local impact and internal capability building. Perhaps more importantly, we’ve given new voice to PMI members and volunteers around the world. In our regional network, they now have a powerful new channel for expressing their views and ideas to PMI leadership.

Our responsibility now is to listen and, when appropriate, to act on their suggestions. We’re already doing so on multiple fronts—from providing materials in more local languages to making it easier for members to remit payments in local currencies.

And in some ways, the COVID timing was auspicious. Our chapters rely heavily on face-to-face interactions. COVID, therefore, had a major impact on their operations. With the new regional structure in place in many parts of the world, however, we were able to work closely with chapter leadership to help address these challenges and respond quickly to changing needs.

From my vantage point overseeing the regionalization effort, it’s exciting to see the network take shape. The regions are quite different from one another in terms of culture, language and the nature of their local economies. But they’ve all embraced the opportunity to work more deeply and intensively with local chapters to advance PMI’s mission in their region.

  • Right now, we’re seeing this manifested most clearly in how they’re engaging with members and volunteers and in the local programs they’re launching. Take our Youth initiative, for example. Some regions are engaging young people by holding competitions, others are doing meet-ups and more are forging partnerships with local youth organizations. What’s important is that they’re able to operate in the way that is most effective for their region, drawing upon the unique culture and capabilities of the markets they serve.
  • This will pay dividends as we expand our reach beyond our core audience of project professionals to engage a wider circle of changemakers, as we’re doing in our Youth programs. We’ll need more culturally-attuned resources, more customized products and more local “boots on the ground” to capture the hearts and minds of these stakeholders.
  • This, in turn, will create more leadership opportunities for our members and volunteers. And it will drive more collaboration—among chapters within a region but also among the regions themselves as they share ideas, experiences and best practices.

Part of my job is to encourage this cross fertilization. Our regional leaders and local chapter heads have never been shy about sharing their ideas and suggestions, and I look forward to many spirited discussions and idea exchanges in the future.

Of course, we’re still in the relatively early stages of our evolution as a regional organization. And while we’ve recognized the value of the regional model, we also understand the importance of maintaining a strong global PMI brand. We can’t, after all, have eight different experiences of PMI. There needs to be a core brand experience that manifests itself in locally relevant ways.

That’s why we operate as a matrix organization—with the regional structure intersecting with global functions like marketing, HR, communications and finance. The functions provide the global assets—resources, processes, templates, messaging materials, etc.—that the regions then adapt for their local needs. It’s the best of both worlds.

There’s no question that our regional structure has added an important dimension to the PMI brand. It’s part of the new PMI that emerged from our transformation that’s still playing out across the globe. But wherever you are in the world—and whether you’re an experienced project professional or a novice changemaker—we want the transformed PMI to appear new, fresh and close to you.

Joe Cahill Joe Cahill

As Chief Customer Officer (CCO), Joe Cahill is responsible for all PMI’s Global Customer Group. He oversees the Global Customer Engagement Team, the Global Customer Experience Team and PMI’s eight geographic regions. Joe previously held the positions of COO, Interim CEO and SVP of Finance and Administration in his time with PMI.