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Be A Good Patient

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Many years ago, while I was still a project manager, my PMO Head invited an external consultant to take an inquisitive look into our internal ways of working within the PMO team. The main objective of the exercise was to identify existing problems and propose recommended areas for improvement. The consultant took a few days speaking with people, analyzing the existing framework, organizational process assets, best practices and templates and came to a conclusion. Below was what the consultant said to the PMO Head.

Consultant: “To be frank, you do not need any nerve-racking change. All you have to do is follow and ensure people follow. You already have everything you need.”

What the consultant actually implied was that the set of framework, templates and best practices that we had back then, though not perfect, were sufficient to get our day-to-day jobs done efficiently and effectively. The problems were not with the tools and processes; the problems came from people who refused to adhere to the established rules and standards. In other words, we were weak in both governance and compliance.

Dumbfounded by the consultant's conclusion, the PMO Head was obviously not convinced by the recommendation given. He insisted that the consultant was second-rate and failed to diagnose the problems to come up with appropriate solutions for the limping PMO. And so, the quest to search for an elixir continued…

I did not follow through the quest as I had since moved on to another organization. However, that incident reminds me of a typical scenario between a doctor and his patient. Whenever we fail to see improvement in our illness, the first thing we do is to blame the doctor. We question the capability of the doctor and we even doubt the effectiveness of the prescribed medicine. What we have not done, and probably will never do, is to ask ourselves if we have taken the doctor’s advices seriously to rest well, drink more water and keep up with the schedule on the pills. Just like the incident above, the problem is not because we have a lousy doctor; the problem is we have a stubborn patient who refused to listen and follow. In another words, what is the point if we keep on improving the processes and tools, but not changing the mindset of people? Problems like this are quite common in matrix-based organizations where project managers report directly to business and not to PMO. Without the right authority, it will not be easy for the PMO to enforce compliancy within and across project teams. Unfortunately, this is a common constraint that most PMOs have to live with.

Have you been a good patient lately?

Posted on: April 30, 2013 06:39 AM | Permalink

Comments (5)

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Very good article and on point. Whether we go to a doctor, lawyer or PMO consultant to advice us on a problem, it still remians our decision if we want to listen to what they advise. Many times we have already arrived at what we want the answer to be and even though we may have paid a consultant a great deal of money for their expertise, if the conclusion is different from ours the consultant is wrong, We are really looking for the consultant to validate our opinion.


Thanks and once again spot on. I really like your point "We are really looking for the consultant to validate our opinion", it is just so true that most of us seek for acceptance.

Ah...mindset. It's been more than 15 years since I ran a Mindset session for my team. Within a week they improved a lot in balancing risk and customer servicing. In saying that they also became high maintenance.

Very interesting case study, Wai Mun. Perhaps the Head of PMO was more like the Mother Hen. shielding the flock in the face of criticism about not following through on "established rules and standards"?

Unless the stakeholders or members seconded to the project by the business unit, were the culprit/s. In which case, I don't blame you for moving on.

Lily, I believe the main problem in the above scenario is lack of management commitment and enforcing compliancy. In other words, there were more talkings than walkings.

Wai - Since the consultant had zeroed in on governance& compliance being the main problem, didnt he propose ways of overcoming this lacking?

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