Interview with Seppo Halminen, founder of PMI Finland Chapter

Seppo Halminen founded PMI Finland Chapter.Today, we would like to present to you an exclusive interview with the founder of PMI Finland Chapter, Seppo Halminen. Seppo has more than 30 years of experience in project management. Originally working in the construction sector for more than two decades, he then joined Nokia and now he is Vice President and Key Account Manager at IIL (International Institute for Learning). Seppo Halminen founded PMI Finland Chapter in 2005.


Could you tell me more about your background and what led you to founding the PMI Finland Chapter in 2005?

Since the middle of 70s I have been in construction, doing international construction projects, mainly in Africa. Having done these projects for 25 years, I was sure I knew what project management was about. Then, when I moved to the IT field and started working at Nokia, I realized that the experience I had was not as relevant as I thought. I had experience managing the product process, but not doing the management of the project. I was only developing the product. It took me a few weeks at Nokia to realize that there is a management process, a process of managing people, of making people make the product. This process was a real discovery to me. I had never paid too much attention to managing my people towards the project. I was motivating people to the product. So after realizing that, I started looking for project management training at Nokia… There were about 50 different courses for project managers, all for different products (for keyboard makers, for software inside telephones, etc.). I needed training on how to organize the work from the beginning to the end and manage people. This didn’t exist in Nokia. So I suggested offering one project management training to all project managers, who would then study their own specific products in their units. The idea was implemented with the offering of one only course on project management fundamentals. I started looking around to find proper training for project management. First I found PRY, a Finnish project management association, for Finland and in Finnish. Nokia being an international company, I couldn’t find anything that could fit in Finland. Eventually I found PMI. PMI has PMBOK, a real guide in the process of project management. So I suggested creating training based upon this process. Overall, it took me two years to find PMI.


How did you found PMI Finland Chapter?

In 2004, together with a small group of people, I started to negotiate with PMI to establish a Finnish Chapter. We had our first annual meeting at the beginning of 2004. Then, the registration of PMI Finland Chapter occurred on August 24th 2005 (agreement with PMI), after the registration as an association in Finland on July 1st 2005. The membership meeting on February 15th 2005 elected the board: Seppo Halminen chairman, Pekka Mäkelä treasurer, Päivi Manninen secretary and Deepak Chauhan, Rajiv Aurora and Matti Ahvenharju members. During its first year, the chapter gathered about 90 members.


What was your vision for the organization?

I wanted to make project management nobler, elevate the profession and spread the word about what project management is. I wanted more and more people to realize what I had realized about the real nature of project management, in Nokia and more generally in Finland. I even took Nokia to an elite group within PMI, which gathers big companies from all around the world (HP, IBM, Siemens, Ericsson, etc.). They meet twice a year for 3-4 days to discuss matters of project management in very large companies.


What do you think of the Project Management Forum which will celebrate the 10 years of existence of PMI Finland Chapter?

I have had this event in mind for at least 5 years. In Finland there is Projektipäivät, one of the biggest, if not the biggest project management event in Europe. Projektipäivät exists and happens every year during the autumn for 7-8 years, welcoming 600 to 1000 participants, which is a big figure; it is big for Finland and it is big for Europe as well. If in Finland, some project management event can attract so many attendees, it means to me that there is interest and demand for more than once a year. What would be good would be to create a balance to Projektipäivät and to have two big project management events in Finland, one in spring and one in autumn. I hope this event will be organized regularly, that it will be moved to March and will become more established.


Who is your main influencer in terms of management practices and leadership?

In project management practices, with no doubt, Dr. Kerzner, a real guru in project management. He writes about a thousand pages a year about project management. Already in his seventies, he has been writing project management bibles during the last 25 years. He has an incredible ability to pick new ideas and put them in the framework of developing the project management process, step by step. He also has an incredible ability to renew himself and his ideas. Besides, he is a great speaker. In his seventies, he understands and comprehends the new trends fast and is a little bit ahead of the time. He always says that he is so frustrated when he writes a book because when it gets published, it is already old, as it takes almost a year between the idea and the publication. He is the author of Project Management 2.0 in which he acknowledges me for encouraging him to write the book. In project management, I take his word.

About leadership… That’s a more difficult question. The world has great leaders. Nelson Mandela for example was a leader with a big L. But how about every day leaders? Those who are not recognized. I have been 25 years in the construction sector and I have seen those guys, the building masters, leading the construction groups in the construction sites. They make the people, the rough people, behave and do what is to be done. I consider those building masters as leaders, leaders who are not recognized, leaders in project management. And there are many other everyday leaders, everywhere.


Which qualities does one need to manage and lead effectively?

Listening. I believe listening is one of the most important quality a leader should have. A leader should listen more than talk, and not only should he listen but also hear and understand what the others say. By listening you can build the correct argumentation not only based on your ideas but also linked with what your interlocutor said.

Another important quality, coming from experience, is the ability to empower people and let them lead themselves. Finns are quite good at this; they leave space to workers and employees and tell them what needs to be done without explaining all the steps.


If you are interested in knowing more about the history of PMI Finland Chapter, take a look at our previous blog post on PMI Finland Chapter over the last 10 years.

And don’t forget to buy your Early Bird ticket to the Project Management Forum!

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