Challenges with getting PM procedural compliance from non-PMs

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My musings on project management, project portfolio management and change management. I'm a firm believer that a pragmatic approach to organizational change that addresses process & technology, but primarily, people will maximize chances for success. This blog contains articles which I've previously written and published as well as new content.

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Categories: Project Management


A common complaint I hear from our customers is that they are frustrated with getting their staff to comply with a minimal set of project management practices.  Usually, this complaint is focused on the “accidental” project managers – those staff that primarily perform another function but on occasion are called on to lead projects.

While many times this is a result of PM procedures that are simply too onerous or that don’t scale, other times it is an issue of insufficient change management being exercised through the roll out of the new practices.

This can start with a basic assumption – “I feel these procedures are common sense and lightweight, so everyone else should too.”  Unfortunately, the creators of PM processes and procedures tend to be Type-A, process-oriented individuals.  To have the majority of employees follow procedures a few key change management practices are needed:

1. Change the bare minimum to meet your management team’s requirements for project planning, tracking and control.

2. Provide PM 101 training to all staff that do project work but don’t make  it theoretical – invest the time in finding a training provider that can make it fun and that can show attendees that a lot of what they are used to doing every day is project work (and how they can be more effective at it).

3. Use positive reinforcement to encourage compliance – spot awards or other such types of recognition go a long way towards developing advocates.

4. Receive and manage constructive criticism positively – consider this a sign of “engagement” and ensure that you acknowledge the feedback and try (if it is reasonable and feasible) to incorporate it within your procedures.

5. Explain (repeatedly) and demonstrate to staff how compliance with the procedures will help them.  For example, a project leader might find themselves getting regularly interrupted in their work by stakeholders or sponsors requiring updates on a project.  By having consistent, regular project status reporting practices, these interruptions should be reduced over time allowing the project leader to focus on their work.  For staff being asked to do time reporting for the first time, defuse the fears of “Big Brother” by explaining that capturing good time data over a time period can help reduce overallocation scenarios and could provide solid evidence for justifying resource augmentation.

6. Ensure that the functional managers and executives are supporting your procedures – this includes being willing to discipline staff that refuse to comply with procedures even after repeated attempts to coach and mentor them.

It is very easy, especially in the first few days of a PPM or PM capability improvement initiative to get frustrated when you encounter resistance or compliance issues.  It is also very easy to channel this frustration into defensiveness or into drawing conclusions about the professionalism or worthiness of the staff.  Always remember “It’s easier to catch flies with honey, than with vinegar“.

(Note: This very compliant article was originally published on kbondale.wordpress.com in August 2009)

Posted on: February 27, 2019 07:00 AM | Permalink

Comments (13)

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Kiron, interestingly enough, all of your items listed above are communication of some kind. This just reinforces the need for good communication practices between the project team members. Scaling the PM practices to meet the needs of the project or the stakeholders is something that probably should happen with every project, as every project is different. Thanks for the article.

Great recommendations Kiron. I fully agree with you and I face my accidental Pm’s from time to time.

Good advice Kiron. I have used item 1 & 5.

Thanks Susan - right on, being an effective communicator is a critical requirement for PMs!

Thanks Rami & Drake!

Interesting topic. I have come across similar situation in my area of work.
Points made in this post/article are real and its a challenge to address these issues.

Well Explained Post with good points. Specially "Receive and manage constructive criticism positively" this is really critical point.

Thanks for your valuable suggestions.

Excellent advice on effective engagement of stakeholders for PM procedural compliance. It is one of the area being overlooked in project thinking that PM procedural compliance is PM or PM team job. You have rightly highlighted this issue where lots of improvements possible.

Thank you Kiron!!

Thank you for these advices especially the one about criticism.

Good points! Thanks, Kiron.

Good reveal Kiron. Actually where I work, the high level (strategic) the project is, the more likely you are to find the accidental project managers.

Thanks for sharing , nice points...

Good advice. I was caught by "invest the time in finding a training provider that can make it fun and that can show attendees that a lot of what they are used to doing every day is project work". I would normally provide that kind of training myself, or within our organization, but it would depend on the organization and the curcumstances. I may just be influenced by having been a trainer & training branch head (as well as many other things) over my Navy active duty career. Do you lean toward professional trainers as a rule, or are you thinking more in terms of large, corporate environments where specialization and outsourcing are common, or do you have other reasons for specifically treating training as a matter for outsourcing to a specialist?? Thanks.

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