I wish I had me when I was you...

This title expresses precisely how I feel each time a project manager or PMO leader tells me a story about their frustrations encountered while trying to create effective and sustainable change, build (or fix) a PMO or deliver projects successfully. I always think to myself…I wish I knew then what I know now. I’ve made it my mission to share with you everything that I have learned while creating change and building PMOs in both large and small organizations for the last 20 years. Change isn’t easy, but it CAN be done and done well without pulling your hair out! Projects can achieve their intended outcomes leading to satisfied stakeholders. PMOs can become an integral part of your organization's high-impact outcomes. The keys to my success and what I've seen in others is not necessarily what you think. You won't find the answers in the project implementation methodology. The answer is not in the templates you use. It's in how you engage with people and bring them through the process with you. Do change with them, not to them. I’m hoping these articles help you along your journey as you continue to evolve and develop skills and techniques to be the high-impact leader you are meant to be. Please let me know what you think and how I can support you along your journey. Warmly, Laura Barnard, PMP CEO & Founder, PMO Strategies PMO Expert, Coach, Consultant, and Educator

About this Blog


Recent Posts

Did you know that Project Management can change the world?

People Are Not Resistant to Change

Talking in Business Speak about PMO Value

What is a business driven PMO?

How to Train Your Sponsor

Did you know that Project Management can change the world?

Business leaders: Have you ever wondered the real value of the Project

Management profession?

Project managers: Are you a project manager who knows darn well your value and wishes others would see just how valuable you are?

Are you sick of having your entire career called the accidental profession?

Everyone: Do you wish there was a more meaningful way for you to give back to your community?

Well, have I got a story for you!

Enter the Project Management Day of Service (PMDoS)  

What’s that?

Oh, only the record-setting event where we do exactly as the title says…we use the profession of Project Management to change the world.

Project Managers have mastered the skills to make things happen despite lack of time, lack of funds, not enough skilled staff, and lack of clear scope.  And yet, even with these constraints they are still effective.

But even more, project managers take inputs, and plan for specific outcomes…we plan transformation, we deliver change.  Ultimately we are delivery agents of change. Making change for organizations that are chronically hampered by resource constraints to achieve their missions, and with no time for the Project Management overhead, that’s the challenge.

And that’s always the problem, isn’t it?  Not enough time to do it right, but enough leeway to either have to do rework, or just take the best product you can get, right? There is a whole sector that exists in this mode of operation all of the time…the Non-Profit Organizations…

Many nonprofits, whose mission is to make a local or global impact, make do without the skills of project management, or they do it in the same incidental manner that has plagued our profession for so long.  But we have matured past that and we have the opportunity to step in and have an impact.

Nonprofits can achieve their mission of creating local and global change through the resources available to them in project management and by using project managers.   After all, what profession has more to offer than project management, a profession that focuses on planning within Scope, Schedule and Budget?  We get things done!

From actually helping them with projects to beginning to educate and teach on the tenants of Project Management for their ongoing success, we have something to offer. 

This event engaged the project management community in a meaningful way to show that professional project management can have an impact, that we can do good work and make a difference.

The goal of PMDoS was very straightforward.  We believe that all project managers have a role to play in helping clarify and strengthen the value proposition of Project Management. This event showed everyone that we can make a difference and that Project Management matters.

The first annual event was held on Martin Luther King Day, 2015, a national day of service.  On this day, 350 project managers met with 100 nonprofits for an all-day ScopeAthon.  These project managers volunteered their time to help nonprofit organizations define and scope a business challenge or mission project they wanted to undertake and then together, they built a road map for execution of that project so that the organization could realize their mission objective.

Just imagine…100 nonprofits walking out of the room with a clear and specific path forward for their most pressing mission.

That’s what happened here. The work done on this day equaled $200,000 worth of project management services provided in a single day. Now, take the value created by all of those nonprofits achieving their project objectives and you have $1,000,000 impact in the local community. IN ONE DAY!

THAT is what Project Management can do!

Project managers get stuff done for a living.  This event gave them an opportunity to use their unique and hard-earned skills to make a difference in their local communities while shedding light on the ever-increasing importance of project management done right.  Where else can they use project management to give back and have this kind of impact?  It was about aligning mission with resources.

Our profession is about change, and it is also about intent and service.  This event has ripple effects, as many project managers shared feedback that PMDoS has inspired them to become more active in their local nonprofit community.

As a result of the work done by the Project Management Day of Service, there is now an established foundation and expandable opportunity for project managers to engage in pro bono service using their specific project management skills.

The movement has begun.  This event has become a catalyst for creating opportunities for continued work to raise the profile of the Project Management profession.

This day of service model opens the door for us to understand as a Project Management community how we can begin to engage in even more assertive and continuous ways with our local communities.

  1. It gives project managers across the globe a framework to provide pro bono project management services to nonprofit organizations desperately in need of these services and connect with their desire to give back to the community in a meaningful way. 
  2. Giving project management organizations an opportunity to provide high-value pro bono project management volunteer opportunities and increase membership value and engagement. Adding additional meaning and purpose raises the profile of the Project Management profession globally.
  3. Providing nonprofit organizations an opportunity to see the value of the Project Management profession applied directly to a business challenge their organization faces, seeing real-time, impactful results directly.

So now what?  How can you use your project management skills to make a difference?  Do you want to put project management in the driver’s seat on the quest to change the world?

Project Managers can take the mission and drive toward transformational outcomes that can literally change lives, save lives, and create a better world for us all.

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is ‘What are we doing for others?’

– Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.”

You now have a choice to make and you can choose to do good and have impact in a meaningful way using your Project Manager skills. 

Why?  Because it matters!

Please join those of us that believe that making a difference in our local communities matters.  Help us change the world, one project at a time!

To learn more about Project Management for Change, the 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization responsible for the Project Management Day of Service, please visit PM4Change.org

Posted on: May 22, 2017 08:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (10)

People Are Not Resistant to Change

No, seriously, they aren’t. Don’t believe me?

Know anyone that has gotten married, had kids, changed jobs, tried a new hairstyle, remodeled their kitchen, bought new clothes, read a new book, taken a class, rearranged their furniture in their house, or any of millions of other large or small changes? How many of those have you willingly chosen to do, yourself?

Yeah…we go through change, all of the time.

Alright, alright, no need to yell! I can hear you saying, “Sure, but not the people I work with. They are ALL resistant to change, or this project I’m trying to get done, or the organizational change we are trying to create, or the new system we are trying to put in, or…”

I hear you. As my awesome coach says, “all generalities are false, even that one”.  So, sure, there are exceptions to every rule, but I’m willing to make a bet that the change itself isn’t actually what they are resisting. Come along with me for a few and then let me know what you think…

Ever try to pull someone by taking their hand? What’s their first reaction? To pull back. They pull away from you because you are pulling them, of course. Yet, that’s what many of us are taught when it comes to creating change. Convince them, tell them, make them, etc. How many of the tools provided to people in the project management space are all about telling people what to do? Have you ever thought to yourself, “I wish they would just do what they are told?” World would be a lot better place if everyone just did what you told them to, wouldn’t it? Ha! I feel you!

Unfortunately, they don’t. Annoying, I know.

I believe that people are not actually resistant to change (see change examples above), but what they really do NOT like is having change DONE TO THEM. People like to have control, maybe not of others, but surely of themselves. They want to choose their work environment, the people they work with, the work they do, etc. When you threaten that, the safety of their environment, and take away their control and choice, you have a problem.

I speak at conferences all over the country and every time I ask the crowd if they think people are resistant to change.  If it’s a room full of change agents (a.k.a. project managers), most of the people in the room raise their hand! Interesting…because people willingly go through change all of the time…so why is it that these folks that “do change” for a living are finding the most resistance?

Well, it’s because many of them are doing change…to people.

So, you’ve been charged with creating change and told you need to get it done. So what do you do?

You do change WITH them instead of TO them.

What does that mean?

That means you go stand next to the people you need to come through this change and hold their hand, walk beside them, and bring them through the change WITH you.


  1. Stop talking and listen.  No more convincing people of anything. Listen to their fears, understand their motivations, ask them questions. You may be surprised what you hear. What do they know that you don’t? Have they seen this movie before (and it didn’t work when the last guy tried this)? Do you understand the environment? What do they think needs to get done for this change to be successful?
  2. Remove the secrecy.  I know for me, I don’t like the unknown. I like to know, to understand, and not necessarily have control, but I like to understand what is going on around me. There are many people like that…they don’t like the unknown. Ask them what they want to know. The safety for them comes in the knowing, so tell them. Let them ask questions and answer them. Remove the cloak and dagger style of management from your organization – provide transparency.
  3. Bring them with you. For some, they just want to be a part of it. They are OK with the world changing, as long as they can feel included in the process. So, include them! If you are the boss, let them sit in on your strategy meetings. Let them take notes, whatever it takes, just let them be there to see how the magic is happening and understand more about the process that is driving the decisions. If you are the lucky project/change leader, remember that you are there to facilitate the change through people. Project management is getting things done through others. You need them. Bring them with you through the project by including them in the process. You are NOT the best person to put together the plan. The team you build around you and leverage are the best people to put together the plan if you want them to own it and implement it.
  4. Don’t assume they get it. When we understand why something is important and see the value, we assume it’s obvious to everyone else. It’s not. You may have more information than they do (because you didn’t do #3 maybe), the value proposition might not be really clearly articulated yet (suggest you check out some of our last few blog posts), or it may just not be as important to them yet.
  5. Make it matter. Unless you make it important to them, they probably won’t come along. They might tell you they are with you, but actions may suggest otherwise. How do you make it matter? Give them their WIIFM (what’s in it for me)! First, refer to #1. Once you’ve done that, you will have a good idea of what matters to them and can find a way to connect the change you are creating to something that benefits them. Here’s an example: You are implementing a new system or process. When telling them that the new system will save the company money…you hear crickets. Instead, tell them that when that new system goes in, they will all be able to get back to 8 hour working days. Now, you have their attention! Make it personal to each of them. When talking to Susie, tell her she’s not going to have to miss any more of her son’s soccer games. Tell John he’s going to be able to make it to his cooking class. Whatever their personal WIIFM is, find it, know it, leverage it, and you will now have their support! After all, this is JUST work. As important as your project is to you, it’s just work and not as important as the many other things these folks have going on in their lives.
  6. What about the naysayer? There’s one for every project. I love those people! The ones that are telling you all of the things that are going wrong with your project! You know what I do with them? I hand them a whiteboard marker and put them in front of a whiteboard and let them tell me all of the things wrong with what we are doing. Then, I ask them what they would do to fix it. You know what happens? They start giving you solutions. Keep digging, keep engaging, keep working through it with them, ask more questions. You know what happens next? They start owning the solutions…they start becoming invested, they are now a part of the future of the change. You want to gain their investment? Implement one of their ideas, and then another. Go ahead, it won’t hurt you. Let them be a part of the solution.

I’ve given you some ways to rethink how you bring people with you through the change. Now, go Get. It. Done!

Posted on: May 15, 2017 08:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (13)

Talking in Business Speak about PMO Value

Does it seem like the “business side” of your company speaks a different language? Are you the business side and sick of not being heard, or feeling misunderstood? We all (or at least most of us) have positive intent when it come to getting the job done, but we seem to have stars that just don’t align when it comes to how we talk to each other…this is apparent in so many different areas…IT vs. “the business”, sales and marketing vs. product development, or even the PMO leaders and their various stakeholder groups.

We’ve all seen it – they don’t talk your language and you don’t talk theirs.

As I talked about in my last post, What is a Business Driven PMO, we often focus too much on the tools and process of a PMO and not the why people care part. The people, your clients, your stakeholders, and the people that you want to engage in your PMO are the people that want to see it provide value. Talk to me in my language if you want me to understand you.

I’m guessing that part of the reason “the business” doesn’t engage in your PMO is that they haven’t seen the direct link between what it is doing and what they need in order to get the job done. Let’s assume for a moment that you read my last blog post and said, “Yes! Exactly! That’s what my PMO (or insert any other business support organization here) is here to do! WE support the business! We provide business value. We help them achieve their business objectives.”

OK, awesome! We are on the right track. Do they know that? Do your business stakeholders know that you are helping them achieve their business objectives? Can they see the direct link between the tools and process you created, and the way their lives have been made easier by you doing your PMO thing? No? Not sure? Have they called you process heavy, administrative, box checkers or any other similar names recently? Maybe it’s how you are communicating with them…

Things “the business” needs to hear you say…

We will not rest until our PMO is seen as an organization that effectively manages strategic initiatives by..

  1. Providing transparency to you so you know what’s going on with your projects.
  2. Giving you reliable information so you can make educated and informed decisions.
  3. Arming the people on your projects with the tools and resources they need to help them do your projects better/faster/more reliably/cheaper/with greater throughput, etc.
  4. Decreasing the cost of a project by removing barriers to project progress.
  5. Making sure the projects we implement are actually realizing the intended value.
  6. Supporting the project selection and prioritization process so we are utilizing our resources most effectively and getting our most important company priorities accomplished.
  7. Minimizing the need to cut projects each year because we are doing the right level of planning and maximizing project throughput.
  8. Increasing accountability across projects so that everyone understands their role and how to keep your initiatives moving forward.
  9. Giving you a centralized view of the work happening and where your projects are in that portfolio.
  10. Enabling the strategy development process and transition to project execution so that no information is lost during the process and project alignment with strategy can be maintained.

That is what they want to hear…unfortunately, when many PMs and PMO people talk to the business about what the PMO does, they say…

  1. project reporting
  2. project status
  3. templates and process
  4. risk and issue management
  5. project value realization (or EVM)
  6. portfolio management
  7. project planning and portfolio management
  8. hold you accountable
  9. portfolio management and dashboards
  10. attend your business strategy sessions

Is it any wonder they aren’t listening or seeing the value? Connect the dots for them, people! Give them their WIIFM (what’s in it for me). Don’t talk at them. Don’t tell them you are doing the second list to them (and yes, I said to them…it feels like it’s being done to them when you talk in list 2 terms). Talk in list 1 terms about whatever value you are bringing to them in their terms and you have the beginnings of a conversation. They will come if you talk to them in their language and then actually deliver on the promise.

How do you deliver?

Posted on: May 08, 2017 08:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (6)

What is a business driven PMO?

There are a lot of buzz words and phrases out there in the PMO space, but what does it mean to really be a business driven PMO?

It’s very, very simple. Your PMO is there to serve the business. Don’t forget that. The reason you exist is to support the process of getting things done in your organization to improve the business in some way:  greater project throughput, process performance, capability improvement, cost savings, revenue generation, etc.

Sometimes we forget that the reason we have the templates, the tools, the process, and the people is because we are there to make things better for the business – otherwise, why does the PMO exists? And to exist (and stay effective and sustainable), you need to provide real impactful business value that helps move the business forward. The PMOs that don’t survive are the ones that business leaders have lost hope in…the ones that aren’t helping the business get things done, better than they would be without the PMO. If you have heard any of the following terms used to describe the PMO, watch out! You may not make it to the next fiscal year.

Things you do not want to hear: process heavy, checklists, red tape, barrier to progress, overhead, administrative, etc. Those words translate to “the first place we make cuts when we need to tighten our budget”.

Look at it from the business perspective. If you are there to make their lives easier, yet you spend months upon months on planning, creating process, building templates, putting in systems, and doing this all with the promise of a someday benefit, you will lose their interest. The business will go on without you. You will be unnecessary. And, to make it even more of a challenge, if you weren’t the first one attempting to do this, you have to pay for the lack of patience they now have with you as you are just starting – in their eyes, this is the second, third, fourth attempt at this. They’ve seen this movie before, and it hasn’t worked. What makes you different? You are months or years behind before you’ve ever even started. I’ve been in that situation many times and help my clients through that process all of the time.

How do you change this? I will tell you what to do right now…immediately…today…this minute.

You need to rapidly identify some very quick wins that solve a problem they have.


Talk to them.  Have you done that recently? No? Do it now!

Find out exactly how much pain they are in and what your PMO could do to solve that pain point by the end of this month.

Don’t think you can move that fast?

Well, then you’ve just acknowledged you can’t be the PMO that your business needs.

The PMOs that are effective and sustainable, whether just starting up, going through a transformation, or taking their capability to a higher level, are all successful because they know what is going on with the business, understand their value to the business (and how to communicate it), and know how to solve business pain points early and often. That’s how you get the attention of the people that decide whether you stay or go, whether the business has moved on without you, or you are seen as a strategic asset for driving change in the organization.

The pain points you solve do not need to be complicated, they just need to improve the ability for the business to get things done – better, faster, or cheaper than before. For example, there is not enough clarity on the projects your sponsors are overseeing – stop the 10 page (or more, yuck) status reports and give them a One Page Executive Dashboard that covers what they really need to know about the project. Tell them what they need to know to make educated and informed decisions. Then, STOP! Stop talking and drilling into details. Stop giving them layers of unnecessary information that only you, as the really awesome detail oriented person that you are, care about. Just answer their questions and tell them what you need from them. Then, get back to the business of getting it done.

How about the meetings for the meetings for the meetings? Stop them. Now. Period. You may as well say you don’t care about company resources, value realization, or the bottom line if you have filled everyone’s calendar with review meetings, status meetings, and other group think that keeps people away from their desks and producing results.

The best thing you can do to raise the energy level and support for your PMO via business stakeholders is to find out what you can do to help them “Get. It. Done.” Start small, show quick and real value, then grow that trust. People that know, like, and trust you are more likely to try what you are offering. Then, when it makes their lives easier, you can get their support to “buy” into being more patient for the bigger PMO improvements you want to make.

Posted on: May 01, 2017 08:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (5)

How to Train Your Sponsor

The number one factor in determining success or failure of your change initiative is…sponsor engagement. Thought it was communication, didn’t you?  If you read my last blog post, that’s even what I said. Well, yes…the right communication matters A LOT, but don’t forget that all of the communication in the world could fall on deaf ears if your sponsor isn’t backing you up.  The engaged sponsor tells everyone that this initiative matters…and they are willing to remove barriers to prove it. So, that is something you must get right if you are to successfully drive your change.

1. Make sure they are sponsors: Oftentimes, we have folks in our organization that we call sponsors, but they barely engaged long enough to help you define the project or create a charter. As a result, you stopped hearing from them after their signature was on the dotted line. If they don’t care or are not impacted by the outcomes of the initiative, they may not actually be your sponsor. You may think they should care, but if, ultimately, they don’t, they may not be the right person to go to for help with removing barriers, obtaining resources, solving problems, etc.

2. Define the WIIFM – What’s In It For Me (for them): Ask yourself what they win or lose as an outcome of this initiative being successful or not so successful. Do they win if this change is successful? Do they lose? What good things might happen to them if this change doesn’t succeed? What happens to them if this change works? You need to understand their motivators so you can understand how to talk to them. If you talk to them in terms of their own WIIFM, you will be speaking their language.

3. Set expectations:They may not know what you need from them.  This could be their first time in the role of sponsor…or maybe no one ever taught them how to engage.  Now you have to teach them.  Talk in terms of what you expect from them and what they can expect from you.  It’s important that you do this both ways.  They need to know how you will communicate with them, what you will share, what you will need from them and when, and how you will engage with them throughout the life cycle of the project.  This contract sets the tone for your engagement.

4. Gain commitment (for real):Speaking of contract…write it down.  The act of writing it down and sharing it makes it more real. Also, to make it feel real to them, have it be your “standard sponsor engagement plan/document/approach”. That gives it the validity of the “this is how we always do it” culture. Get confirmation from them. Make sure they understand (by asking questions, not talking at them).

5. Tell them what you need: In my post “Project Communications Your Sponsor Will LOVE“, I explain how we need to communicate with our executives in meaningful ways and give them the information they need to make educated and informed decisions, to help you keep your project moving. We use something called IRMA, Items Requiring Management Attention. This is the area on your status report that tells the sponsor, “I want you to do something.”  Management appreciates directness and guidance on how they can help. What is the issue and what, specifically, you want management to do. Executives love simplicity, pictures, and when you answer their (sometimes unspoken) request to, “Show me what to focus on.”

6. Tell them where you need them: Just like you don’t like being dragged into meeting after meeting all day long, neither do they. Generally, your sponsors are people that are in management within an organization…that usually translates to lots of meetings. They shouldn’t be in every meeting. Use the meeting invite thoughtfully. If they are in a meeting, there should be a very specific reason and outcome you expect from their attendance. If you fill them with too much information, they won’t know what is important, and what you need them to act on. Tell them what meetings you are having and which ones you need them in, and for what specific reason.

7. Use cc carefully: They shouldn’t be on every email. See above about meetings. You will have them poking their nose into all kinds of stuff that you really do not need them doing AND it will slow you down instead of speed them up.

8. Don’t give them too much information: Give them just what they need to make educated and informed decisions. Then, STOP!! Have I made that clear yet? The sponsor with too much information, that isn’t all relevant, is a dangerous weapon that should never be fired.

9. Actively and regularly engage them: This is a two way street. If you share with them the information they need to know on a regular basis, and engage them in meaningful conversations, you can generally get what you need. Don’t just call on them when there is an emergency – you will have to spend more time than you would like getting them up to speed. If they have been kept informed to the appropriate level all along, they will be able to act quickly on your behalf.  Not sure what level you need to communicate? See the Project Communications Your Sponsor Will LOVE post.

10. Be very respectful of their time: You want your sponsor to love you and engage? Make every conversation go something like this:

Hi, Sponsor. I have a brief update for you and a couple of items we need help with.

Here is the update (use one page or one bullet list – no paragraphs or monologues).

These are the two items we need help solving:

  1. This is the issue, this is the recommended solution, and this is how I think you could help. What questions do you have?
  2. Second issue is X and we have explored two options, neither of which seem viable because Y will push the date out by three weeks, and Z is going to cost more money than we have in our budget. Could you please help us explore options or determine if our assumed constraints are real?  

In both cases, you present the problem and show that you’ve done your homework before coming to the boss/sponsor for a solution. Who doesn’t love that?

Leverage them to help you problem solve and support the initiative, but don’t bring a laundry list of complaints to them. They don’t want to hear it. It’s time consuming and unproductive. Save that for another time that you’ve set aside specifically for discussing grievances or when you need coaching…focus and keep them FOCUSED.

11. Speaking of coaching…need help getting them to engage? Figure out what kind of manager they are. Some people aren’t very focused when it comes to the details of a project. But, if you start sentences with, “could I ask for some…guidance, coaching, thoughts, advice, leadership, etc…,” you may be able to engage them. If they like to share their wisdom, then leverage that to get some of that wisdom thrown toward your project. This is not sneaky or dishonest. This is called meeting your stakeholders where they are and engaging them in the most effective way to get to outcomes. You talk to your kids or friends differently than your boss, right? It’s the same thing.

12. Use the “Power of Sponsor” sparingly: It drives me crazy when people name drop left and right to get people to act. That’s not leadership. If you go back to the WIIFM for the stakeholder you are trying to get to move, you should be able to motivate them properly. Brow beating them with the boss’s or sponsor’s name all of the time will just annoy them…and ultimately, they will see you have no power. Have real power over people…lead them…

13. Make them look good: People want to do well and they want to look good in the eyes of their peers or to themselves. If you focus on communicating with them in a way that ties their WIIFM to the successful outcomes of your change initiative, everyone wins.

Want the rest?

Join us for one of our several virtual training programs.

In our PMO and Change Management training courses, we specifically teach people how to train their sponsors and stakeholders. We set expectations on how we want sponsors and stakeholders to engage and we train them to read and take action based on what we provide to them in this report. Don’t miss this opportunity to train your sponsors so you can run high-performing projects and teams that are focused on the business of Getting. It. Done.

The Building Blocks of an Effective and Sustainable PMO/Change Organization

How to Train Your Sponsor

The One Page Executive Dashboard

Don’t worry, all of our virtual training courses are recorded, so once you sign up, you will have unlimited access to the recordings if you can’t join us for the live sessions.

See you online!!

Posted on: April 24, 2017 07:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)

"My goal is simple. It is complete understanding of the universe, why it is as it is, and why it exists at all."

- Stephen Hawking