Categories: project portfolio
One of the main ideas that top management must maintain is that projects must be aligned with business objectives. This is where the concept of a project portfolio and the role of a Project Management Office (PMO) become important.
Let's suppose that a company establishes as a business objective to increase sales by 10% during the current year. Remember also that the objectives must be SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, time limited). In this scenario each area will come with its own projects, which require budget and time. For example, the sales area will present a project to acquire a new sales system through mobile devices. The human resources area will present another project that involves improving the infrastructure in which the staff currently works and the systems area will present a project to improve the technological infrastructure. Somehow, these areas will compete for scarce resources.
Which of the previous projects would have a higher priority?
The truth is that what at first seems to be the most appropriate, may require further analysis. What would be the real impact of acquiring that sales system? How long would the increase in sales allow us to recover our investment? Will there be another alternative solution with lower cost and greater impact? Defining if the projects are viable and which projects generate the greatest impact and which generate the highest ROI (return on investment) is an important task within the organizations to evaluate which projects contribute more significantly to the business objectives.
I am currently conducting a study on portfolio management and one of the first results confirms that several companies accept projects without analyzing if they contribute to their objectives.
On the other hand there are two other levels of alignment of additional objectives
1) Objectives of the team. For example, each area of the company defines its own objectives for the area and the team of people who work in it, will direct their efforts to comply with them. But these team objectives must maintain alignment with the main business objectives.
2) Personal objectives. Each member of a team has their own personal goals that can vary from covering their physiological needs, learn a new technology, lead teams, travel. etc. Probably when reading the latter one of the first words that comes to mind is "personal motivation" and the truth is that a person is more motivated to work, when the project in which he participates allows him to continue advancing in the fulfillment of his personal objectives.
The above applies to business, but if we generalize the same applies for our life in general. If we have an objective in life, we can analyze if the projects we initiate and the activities in which we engage contribute to the fulfillment of these objectives and we may discover that some of these activities in which we are involved do not contribute much and we could stop doing them, with which the time and effort devoted to other projects would bring us closer to the fulfillment of our main objective.
We know that a team is a group of people who are directed towards the same objective and who should establish internal rules to increase their effectiveness and efficiency. Under this definition it is logical to think that team members must collaborate with each other to achieve the goal.
Is this situation occurring in all teams? Are all team members willing to share their knowledge and experiences for the benefit of the project? Can a team be successful without this collaboration among the members? What would be the minimum level of cooperation required to achieve the objective? Is collaboration necessary between teams to achieve a competitive advantage?
I thought about the answer to all those questions and I asked myself an additional question. When we find a problem whose solution we do not know, what is our first reaction?
You probably have to use more than one of the options above to find the solution and do some preliminary tests. This involves time and therefore usually costs. However, after we solve the problem, the dilemma arises. What happens if one of our partners has the same problem? If he is lucky, he could somehow find us and we could help him solve his problem quickly, otherwise he will repeat the whole process that we had to do to find the solution again, meaning time, cost and in some cases unnecessary stress.
Here is one of the reasons why documenting solutions to problems and lessons learned has a critical role. However, under the idea that knowledge is what differentiates us from others. It may be the case to think that if we share our knowledge we are losing a status situation.
I have seen this in both academic and professional projects, but if handled properly, it generates a "WIN-WIN" relationship in which all parties benefit (the one who shares, the one who receives and the organization). A key point here is that those who receive knowledge, in addition to solving their specific problem, should generate FEEDBACK and share their own knowledge and skills for the benefit of the organization. The other point with respect to this topic is "RECOGNITION". Who shares knowledge for the benefit of the organization should be recognized for it. It certainly does not sound good that we do a job and another takes the credit, so the organization should seek to generate a culture in which knowledge sharing is rewarded and those rewards are received by the right people.
In the current era in which the use of technology plays a critical role for organizations in order to remain valid, we started year ago talking about digital transformation processes.
We say process or strategy because the digital transformation should not be seen as a project that has a beginning and end, but seeks that the company, after the first cycle of changes, continue observing new technologies and analyzing their possible use for the business. In this context some companies create digital transformation offices for this purpose.
The creation of the digital transformation office does constitute a project, which includes a change in the organizational structure, implies consumption of resources of the organization and affects the way of working.
In the same way, each new technology implemented is an incremental improvement or it can generate a radical change in the way things are done..
In both cases you might think that technology plays the central role, however the truth is that a digital transformation project should focus on the benefit to the business and how it contributes to achieving the objectives.
Within this context, the main affected by the process of digital transformation are the collaborators and customers.
The employees who had been carrying out their tasks in a certain way are faced with a situation in which they do not know in principle if after the changes will still take place in the company, this can generate uncertainty and even anticipated organizational mourning. State in which, people significantly reduce their productivity and will hardly want the success of the project.
Think for example of the person who is responsible for moving or storing the physical documents. After a process of automation and the establishment of a culture of zero paper, this person in principle would no longer have place in the company. Under this same scenario, several variants may occur:
- The person is young, he entered recently and we could easily help him relocate him to another company.
A different scenario would be that of a specialist person with a lot of knowledge that is currently wasted and who, after the change process, will be able to invest his time in performing more interesting tasks that generate business value instead of repetitive operational functions. Under this scenario, this person may receive the change with pleasure, but only if he is properly informed about what the change is expected to generate. Although it is also possible that the person feels comfortable without having to face new challenges and not receive well the change. The only way to know is to interact with this person.
On the part of clients or users, the perception may go on the side that "before, It was easier", "I prefer to talk with a person", "now everything is more bureaucratic". When carrying out a digital transformation process it is necessary to know who your users are, to what generation they belong and taking into account the first principle of marketing, segment them and develop appropriate strategies for each of the segments.
In all of the above, the definition of purpose, good communication and training in new technologies and business models play a key role and are part of the change management required for success. This in turn implies the allocation of economic resources and the identification of agents of change that act as promoters in their respective units or groups.
A friend of mine Past President of the PMI Lima Perú Chapter used to say that human resource management is the blind spot in project management and other author David Fischman said that when the boss focuses on results, he can forget about people. This is called leadership blindness. Thus, it is necessary to remember that in a process of digital transformation, the human factor must be taken into account. Depending on the size of the company there will be multiple stakeholders that must be considered to participate in the project, be consulted or simply keep them informed. Failure to do so, jeopardizes the success of the project, its sustainability and as such the objectives of the company.
And remember that contrary to what you think, people are not afraid of change, they are afraid of the impact that change has on them.
Under this perspective, a first task must be for people to understand the impact of digital transformation. If this is not done properly, people will begin to invent situations, often far from what is really wanted and that will increase resistance to change.
It would be curious, for example, to think that the greatest saboteur of the digital transformation process is just the information technology area, however this is feasible if they are not involved in the definition of the project, they are not provided with the resources to support the change and in general if the human factor is not managed properly.
Be very careful with potential saboteurs, who must be identified and managed very closely and invest time in monitoring the willingness to change and not rush to go to production when it is not yet ready.
A leader brings out the best in his team
Today my second son is 4 months old and I remembered what I wrote some time ago about the role of project manager as leader and I wanted to share it
Just as a parent has a responsibility to provide the chances for their child to achieve their goals, but in a different way, a leader has responsibilities with the members of his team. In general, if project and organizational interests are aligned with the personal objectives of team members, they will be expected to work more motivated and more likely to achieve the expected results, but this is certainly not a simple task and It also requires knowing the motivation factors of each person.
Here is a difference between a boss and a leader, the leader will work not only in relation to the purpose of the project and the organization, but also in making the best use of the knowledge and skills of each team member, as well as providing space for develop new capabilities. By doing this, each team member will have the opportunity to continue developing and growing as professional.
However, to achieve this, we must be prepared to delegate, without fear of giving up control. I participated for several years in projects oriented to identify and implement improvements in organizations and one of the phrases that I most remember is that: "If I am indispensable for the organization to continue working, then I must be doing my work in a wrong way". This, in no way means that anyone is not important to the organization, it simply means that part of a job well done, is that it has a structure and people trained to meet the needs of the organization. If a job is focused on a single individual, something is definitely wrong and the consequences of maintaining it could be detrimental to the organization. As much as possible, I try to keep this thinking in the projects.
"So, No one is indispensable but everyone is important"
Another way to see it is that if you want to continue growing, you must help others do it, in this case the members of your team.
In any organization, there are multiple levels of authority and in every project, the project manager must have some level of authority over team members and available resources. This authority provides a certain level of power. However, exercise authority and authoritarianism are ideas that are far from each other. The first is required to coordinate and use resources efficiently and must be earned. The second generates an adverse work environment that most likely affect the overall performance of the project.
The project manager that search to be a leader can use his authority to manage the project, identify corrective and preventive actions, assess performance and help to grow the team members. This authority may come from a formal designation accompanied by respect acquired based on their experience and lessons learned,
This brings the word "confidence" to my mind.
Authoritarianism on the other hand, is present in those managers who fail to make the team to work voluntarily, Instead they gain control imposing its authority, inspiring fear instead of trust, transforming work in a heavy environment. In other words, discouraging the project team and preventing these members use their creativity for the project. This can arise for various reasons. The fear that another person could highlight or the lack of confidence to delegate are just some of them, but the truth is that this attitude will eventually become self-destructive, because when working in teams is always possible to learn something from others (superiors and subordinates).
Regarding this subject, Albert Einstein said "The worst thing is to educate with methods based on fear, force or authority because it destroys sincerity, trust and only a false submission is achieved"
Under this scenario, it's possible that a project, carried this way, culminates, to some extent successfully, or resulting in failure, but in both cases the lack of confidence of the team members and the working environment generated will eventually generate that the project manager get stuck in their professional and personal growth. Also team members, once acquired knowledge, will seek other opportunities in other companies, and the organization loses the knowledge and experience of such people, besides investing in expenses for additional recruitment and training