This month we are talking about improving the PMO. There's a lot of opportunity here, but generally new PMO services will have to be built in an evolutionary fashion rather than a revolutionary fashion.
This is especially true if the PMO is at a maturity level where it provides guidance and best practices to the organization it serves. It cannot garner much respect at this point because it will not be seen to have much impact on results. How does such a PMO grow into a more valuable group?
By coming to the rescue in a crisis.
It is better in this case to wait until the time is right, when a problem is hurting a large number of stakeholders and a consensus can be attained for a particular improvement.
Here's how this can be achieved. Assume project managers and stakeholders are complaining in the hallways about how they are frustrated with the chaotic environment. They say that too many projects are using resources at once. Now tollgates are coming up for many projects and the problem is magnified with the same resources scrambling to ensure each project is prepared for review. You can see that stakeholders, some of whom have resources prepping for the tollgates and some of whom are leaders of business units that will suffer from any delays, are in agreement that there is a problem.
What you have here is a crisis that can be exploited for targeted improvement. This is the time when the lowly PMO can step in with specific solutions that will satisfy a broad spectrum of stakeholders. But you have to be ready in advance!
This is not all that difficult. If you are in the PMO, then you have probably looked ahead many times and anticipated what problems are going to happen when. You may even know of business cycles or release cycles that generate periodic crises. The tactics to use to be ready and to execute the targeted improvement are more clear using the example of the tollgate traffic jam.
I'll post the tactics and steps in a couple of days.
Until then, consider these questions:
Why A Little Anger May Go a Long Way
If you are like me, you spend some time making sure you don't make people around you angry. You get expected reports out on time, you strive to deliver on time at the expected quality, you don't ignore your budget, you try to work collaboratively with stakeholders, you don't sneeze without covering your mouth. Likewise, if they are angry you try not to interact with them until later.
And when you want to motivate someone to act, you commonly use fear. You say things like: "If your team doesn't complete this work on time, it will lead to a significant budget overrun." "We'll never meet the deadline if we don't get additional resources."
So if you wanted someone you work with to want something more and work harder to get it, would you make them fearful or angry?
New research tells us that it is better to make people angry if we want them to want something in particular. Specifically, people who were shown a picture of an angry face desired objects more and exerted more energy to obtain those objects.
So consider using anger as a motivator rather than fear.
For example, when you are talking to the individual who can approve needed resources: "The shared resource we thought would be available will not be available. We requested the resource far in advance, so I do not blame you if you are mad. Let's get a contingent worker to finish of this work so that we can stay on schedule."
"Other project managers I have spoken to do not think we can get requirements and design completed fast enough to start development on time. They think it is too complex for this team. I hope that makes you feel as angry as it does me. Let's show the doubters what we can do."
A little anger may go a long way.
You as a project manager do not work in a vacuum. The issues that leaders in your organization worry about effect the environment in which you work. Some things they tell you and some things they don't necessarily make public. This blog is about workforce management and so keeps you updated on workforce concerns of leaders so you don't have to worry about sneaking into their offices at night to find out.
A recent report gives you an insight into how workforce management concerns stack up against other areas. Business leaders were asked to identify what they worry about when it comes to threats to the business.
See how well you understand business leaders' collective mind. (Don't be afraid. Results will not be tracked.) How would you rate these factors (highest to lowest) as threatening your business?
Attracting and Retaining Talent
Complying with Laws
Increasing Employee Benefit Costs
Medical Cost Inflation
When asked business leaders said that they worry "a great deal" about these threats at the rates shown below.
Medical Cost Inflation 32%
Increasing Employee Benefit Costs 29%
Legal Liability 24%
Cyber Risk 18%
Complying with Laws 22%
Attracting and Retaining Talent 18%
So you see that the original list posed to you was in reverse order. The order shown above represents the order where "worry a great deal" and "worry somewhat" are bundled together. No matter how you slice and dice the numbers, talent management remains lower than the others. Maybe I better rethink my blog topic.
Now it might be more clear why you wrestle with workforce issues in your project! On the positive side, this report does help develop tactics for resolving certain workforce management problems.
You may have to make strong efforts to resolve your more difficult workforce issues to get them on the radar. For example:
You can increase the possibility of success if you connect your workforce issues to an item that is a higher priority on the "worry a great deal" list (or any other item on the priority list). Example connections:
Here's a struggle that we will all continue to experience: We are asked to get results through people, but organizational barriers to doing so keep getting in our way.
This month's topic is Project Portfolio Management (PPM) and before it gets away from us, I want to make sure you do not inadvertantly promote confusion about a particular deliverable.
In a project to deliver PPM for the first time, there is a deliverable that you cannot confuse in your WBS. It is related to communication, but you don't want to get it mixed up with the Communication Plan developed with the Project Management Plan. The communication deliverable for your PPM project is the "dashboard" or other display of the status and health of the projects being managed.
In your WBS, don't call activities to create this dashboard anything like the "communication plan." Use the deliverable name, such as Portfolio Dashboard, if you know it, otherwise just use a working title like they do in the movies. "Project Status Display" for example. Separate them geographically as well, keeping the dashboard activities away from project management tasks and into project deliverables design and development teritory.
While we're thinking about this dashboard, we might as well develop more WBS activities. Start with these three activities:
Identify sources of information (data) for status and health of projects covered in the scope of your PPM project. Among these are financial reports, some of which may be new. There will also be schedule and resource information, from a variety of sources.
Identify the roles that will create the dashboard that will go into production immediately upon project delivery. This first phase may be a subset of what is planned eventually, but make sure there are enough resources to handle the load into the near future.
Determine if hiring is needed because of inadequate resources available.It is easy to consider those who are looking at the dashboard. They are leaders and stakeholders and can intimidate you. People who work for these leaders may be expected to compile data and approve updates to the dashboard, or it may be expected that new production support resources will do this. The most fun happens when there is disagreement over who is going to do the work.
If hiring is needed, consider hiring early so that the new resource(s) will be able to learn the process, but even help with implementation and documenting and procedures and management.
You can build on these ideas for activities in your WBS. But first, make sure you build your WBS to avoid confusion between your project communication and the dashboard being created by your PPM project.
Employers Don't Know What Workers Want Now
One thing I try to do in this blog is make sure you are aware of areas where you may have misconceptions about what your workforce needs to be productive. After that, of course, I give you ideas to use in your project. Here's your latest test.
Which of the following two lists represents the five factors, in order of descending importance, that workers in a recent study said causes them stress?
While there are some overlaps, you would have to know the correct list in order to properly intervene to help your workers be more satisfied with their jobs and more productive in your project. Towers Watson and the National Business Group on Health teamed up in the U.S. to study how workers felt about their stress at work. Researchers asked employers the same questions to see what employers believed the main sources of stress are. That's why there are two lists above, one is the employee list and one is the employer list.
The study found that there is a disconnect. Take a minute to get over the shock.
The worker's list of causes of stress is Group A. Note how workers are more concerned about inadequate staffing. Group B, representing employers' view, shows employers think the main problem is of work/life balance. Just looking at these two factors illustrates a trend. Employers believe that they can implement programs to help employees solve their own problems. But employees see the main cause as outside of their control, and inadequate staffing leads to uneven group performance and keeps them from getting the support they need. No wonder participation in employer programs for health and productivity is low.
You can make a big difference if you give workers in your project the support they need.
Help everyone prioritize their work . . . With so much to do and not enough resources, workers report that they need more help with prioritization.
Clarify the matrix . . Workers complain of matrixed organizations working under inadequate staffing where conflicts occur from multiple projects and uncontrolled workflow.
Pay attention to your high potentials . . . Don't make the common mistake of believing your high-potentials are immune to stress. If the study represents you workplace, chances are that your high potentials are working harder than others and are burning out. They may be looking to leave for greener pastures.
Help with time flexibility . . . If there was a peak period of work where long hours were needed, reduce hours during a slow period by giving people Friday off or Fri afternoon off or some other option they suggest. Tell your workers that they can come to you and ask for a break.
Listen to complaints about what you cannot change . . . Be a good listener. Perhaps the complaint is low wages after hearing the enterprise has had another profitable year. This is a common feeling according to the study.
Think of your own ideas appropriate for your workplace that can help workers with their highest sources of stress. You don't have to solve managment's problem with meeting the needs of the workforce. You just have to build a powerful skill useful for the foreseeable future.