Voices on Project Management

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Voices on Project Management offers insights, tips, advice and personal stories from project managers in different regions and industries. The goal is to get you thinking, and spark a discussion. So, if you read something that you agree with--or even disagree with--leave a comment.

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PMO Directors Should Think Like Executives

Closing the gap between initiatives and strategy is a hot topic among PMO Symposium 2013 attendees and executives alike. But one of the creators of Balanced Scorecard -- keynote speaker Robert S. Kaplan, professor emeritus, Harvard Business School -- devised an elegant solution: Organizations should be able to describe their strategy in 50 words or less. Keeping it concise makes it easier to map out how that strategy connects to measures, targets and initiatives.

That kind of focus on strategy should be happening right out of the gate. Ed Hoffman, PhD, CKO and APPEL Director at NASA, a PMI Global Executive Council member, suggested in a panel discussion that PMO leaders ask: "What's the problem we're trying to address in our organization and what are we doing that really helps?"

"The solution doesn't have to be elaborate and high-tech," said Ruth Anne Guerrero, PMP, senior vice president, PMI Global Executive Council member TD Bank, N.A., and head of TDBNA PMO. Complex solutions may actually distract more than help, said Tony Gayter, vice president, IT and strategy, HP, a PMI Global Executive Council member. "Pick six metrics that really matter. Don't overcomplicate it."

Taking a deeper dive into PMI's Pulse of the Professionâ„¢ In-Depth Report: The Impact of PMOs on Strategy Implementation, PMI's vice president, IT Frank Schettini said high-performing PMOs share three qualities: 

  1. They create a project management culture at their organizations. 
  2. They continually evaluate the PMO's performance. 
  3. They evolve and improve through knowledge management and change management. 
The most successful PMO directors think and communicate like senior executives, Mr. Schettini said.

Part of that comes down to a shift in language, said keynote speaker and author Daniel Pink. "This is where smart people often go awry," he said. "They use their own language instead of that of the people they're persuading. Use the language of the C-suite when you need to 'sell' up. Convince less technical people with less specialized jargon."

Mr. Pink also recommended that PMO leaders learn to curb their power. "You'll get better results by understanding others' perspectives and finding a common ground." 

Read more from symposium.
Posted by Cyndee Miller on: November 18, 2013 10:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

PMOs Help Connect Projects to Strategy

"We're not forming PMOs for the sake of forming PMOs. It's about helping organizations deliver initiatives or change in a way that's aligned with strategy," said PMI president and CEO Mark A. Langley during a panel discussion at PMO Symposium 2013. 

And organizations could certainly use the help. While PMI research shows that 88 percent of organizations say strategy implementation is important, less than half say they're good at it. "There's a major disconnect happening in organizations," noted Mr. Langley. 

That's where PMOs have a role to play. "All strategic change within an organization happens through projects and programs, so our job is to connect what we do to strategy," said Mr. Langley.

The need is greater now than ever for PMOs to step into that lead. The exponential acceleration of change today means nimble strategy matters more and more.

Panelist Margo Visitacion of Forrester Research encouraged PMO leaders to translate tactical project elements into the language of the C-suite. 

"Aim for smart simplicity," added panelist Perry Keenan of Boston Consulting Group. "Don't serve up 300 activity reports to the senior leadership team. Serve up milestones and key metrics instead." 

In a later session, Mr. Keenan discussed how PMOs can serve as powerful change agents. For change initiatives to really take root, organizations require a "change delta" composed of: 

  • Strong governance and sponsorship with an active PMO
  • Executional certainty, initiative owners with a transparent view of progress
  • Enabled leaders who are aligned and visibly own change 
  • Engaged employees who understand what the change means to them and are equipped to change behaviors 

"The world is changing at an unprecedented pace," Mr. Keenan said. "Almost every organization in almost every industry should be mindful of resisting temptation to think it's different for them."

For more on PMOs, check out the PMI® Thought Leadership Series: Strategic Initiative Management - The PMO Imperative:


Read more from symposium.

Posted by Cyndee Miller on: November 15, 2013 04:54 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wanted in the PMO: Strategic Thinkers

Project management offices (PMOs) don't just change processes. They change their organizations, markets, industries and communities, said PMI president and CEO Mark A. Langley as he kicked off the PMO Symposium 2013 in San Diego, California, USA.

The 600 attendees -- representing 406 organizations, 30 industries and 29 countries -- heard just how powerful PMOs can be during the 2013 PMO of the Year Award.

The top honor went to Canada Health Infoway, a not-for-profit overseeing CA$2.1 billion in public funds. With a portfolio that has increased fourfold since 2005, the PMO acts as a strategic adviser on digital health-record projects. Proving the value of the PMO's strategic focus: Only 4 percent of projects in the portfolio have failed, and almost all of those failures occurred early in their life cycle, prior to significant expenditure.

"Their PMO is a clear demonstration of how organizations can and should implement their strategic initiatives," said Mr. Langley.

The other two finalists were:

  • Jones Lang LaSalle: The commercial real estate's PMO oversees 1,000 project managers. The PMO focused on strategic sourcing of suppliers, business intelligence, and strategic learning and development.
  • Bentley Motors: The luxury carmaker's Beyond 18 initiative aims to define and drive business strategy across the organization through 2018. After identifying 11 strategic projects, the PMO worked with project leaders to deliver best practices, tools and coaching to the areas guiding the organization's future.

The sessions that followed reinforced the growing focus on strategy. A PMO is the governor and facilitator -- the organization's glue, said Greg Miller, vice president at PMI Global Executive Council member CareFirst, Blue Cross Blue Shield.

PMO staff should go in armed with a comprehensive understanding of the organization's strategy, accept the executive game plan, maintain an orderly and expeditious flow, and unify the organization. "PMOs must take center stage and they must operate strategically."

Today's fast-paced project environment is accelerating the drive toward strategic alignment and change management at the heart of a successful PMO, said Michel Danon, senior vice president and CIO, Hawaii Medical Service Association independent licensee of PMI Global Executive Council member Blue Cross Blue Shield. "We need project practitioners who are really adaptable, who can understand and energize people and point them toward a common goal."

That means finding and fostering the right project talent -- within or outside of a PMO. Ed Hoffman, PhD, CKO and APPEL Director at NASA, a PMI Global Executive Council member, said PMOs can support talent management by:

  • Building individual, team and organizational capabilities
  • Providing checks and balances among project, engineering and safety communities
  • Institutionalizing knowledge of best practices 

"A PMO should be wrapped around the notion of knowledge and development," Dr. Hoffman said.

Lynn Batara, PMO director of Franklin Templeton Investments, spoke of the importance of developing project talent and engaging stakeholders: "The mystery of project success is people."

Does your organization's PMO focus on strategy and talent development? Read more about the PMO symposium on this blog or on Twitter, #PMOsym.

Posted by Cyndee Miller on: November 12, 2013 04:42 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
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