By Quynh Woodward
When establishing a PMO, building trust is seldom on the checklist of things to do. However, for the PMO to be effective, building trust is not an option but an essential element for success. Trust can be the driver for boosting team morale, collaboration and productivity. Trust can bring about more stakeholder engagement, commitment and support. In the PMO world, there are many stakeholders such as senior executives, project managers, business operational leaders and external customers. Building trust with these key stakeholders should not be left on the sidelines.
Paul J. Zak, founding director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies and professor of Economics, Psychology, and Management at Claremont Graduate University, spent over two decades studying trust in organizations. Dr. Zak found that "compared with people at low-trust companies, people at high-trust companies report 74% less stress, 106% more energy at work, 50% higher productivity, 13% fewer sick days, 76% more engagement, 29% more satisfaction with their lives and 40% less burnout."
Looking over the presentations from past PMO symposiums, many presenters highlighted trust as a notable success factor.
For the Triglav Group, 2018 PMO of the year finalist, building trust is a key focus in their PMO transformation. The Triglav PMO strives to be the organizational role model for leadership, cooperation and execution. According to the Triglav team, the “PMO can build trust and gain relevance by representing the value of project management based on exact data, outcomes and impact on the business. Trusting and effective working relationships are built by addressing challenges, sharing experiences and acknowledging achievements.”
Trust is essential in a team environment because it fosters collaboration, commitment and productivity. John Carter, author of Innovate Product Faster, spoke at the 2018 PMO Symposium and discussed trust as a crucial element to empower teams. For trust to develop, boundary conditions, such as must-have features or expected performance levels, need to be identified upfront to enable effective decision making. If the team is within bounds, executives do not need to intervene unless the team crosses a boundary. According to Mr. Carter, “lean process is enabled by trust. Management now places more trust in product development teams. The greater trust allows the team to have ownership and engagement.” Trust is stronger when there are clear expectations and open communications.
But what if you inherit an established team with trust issues? This situation is challenging. One potential way to tackle the challenge is to analyze the root cause by listening to your team, using surveys or creating a safe place for team members to voice their viewpoints. Once the issues are identified, ask the team to discuss and come up with their own solution. In some cases, a third-party mediator may be needed to facilitate a resolution.
Trust starts with leadership. As a PMO leader, your teams and your stakeholders are going to analyze your communications and discuss your actions. Your role requires thoughtful transparency and alignment of words with action. According to Dr. Ernie Mendes of UC San Diego Rady, Center for Executive Development, and a 2016 PMO Symposium speaker, “leaders’ abilities to listen, communicate clearly and lead, have the strongest effect on employees’ organizational commitment. When communication channels begin to deteriorate, misunderstandings and misrepresentations abound, and a climate of mistrust sets in.”
As PMO leaders, what do you do to promote a culture of trust?