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

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"I wish I had me when I was you..." That 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 24 years, many of those years as an employee in the "hot seat" responsible for building internal capability. 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. Learn more at ImpactbyLaura.com

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Recent Posts

Becoming a Customer-Centric PMO

10 Steps to Ensure Project Rescue Success

Things to Stop Doing to Be High-IMPACT

The Big Credibility Differentiator

Did You Know That Project Management Can Change The World?

Becoming a Customer-Centric PMO

Categories: PMO

As we get into the thick of building and running a PMO, we often get caught up in the templates and process or figuring out how we are going to get all the projects delivered. We fight with a never-ending scenario of not enough (time, resources, funding, etc.) and must delicately balance all the competing priorities on our time and energy.  As a result, we might forget why we are there in the first place.

The PMO is a service organization.

We provide a litany of services that, when leveraged effectively, can drive ever-higher IMPACT for our customers and the broader organization. Everything we do, every product we produce, and every service we create should be with that customer in mind. Follow these practical steps to ensure that you and your team have a customer-centric mindset:

  1. Identify your customer.
    Before we can build anything that will have a chance of delivering IMPACT, we must focus on identifying and understanding who we serve. What value do they provide to the organization? Who do they serve? How are they motivated? What are their highest priorities? Take the time to dig here, so you have a good sense of your customer avatar.
  2. Learn what they value.
    Once we know who they are and how they serve, we must ask “why?” Why do they need the PMO? We must know what they value enough to ask for or need help and once we ask questions, we should follow with silence. Our objective here is to listen, not talk. How successful have they been in getting their projects delivered with high-IMPACT outcomes? Listen to their story and let them talk about what matters most to them.
  3. Discover the customer journey
    It’s so easy to start building services that we “just know” the customer needs and wants. I mean, why wouldn’t they want a complete set of templates to help them walk through the project process? The reality is that if your customer is drowning in chaos, they probably cannot even look up long enough to grab a template. We must always meet them where they are and then gently guide them where they need to go. This means that we may have to start with making their lives easier so that they have the time and space to learn something new. Fix the pain. Then worry about growing capabilities.
     
  4. Develop a roadmap together.
    The journey starts with the customer in their current state and is developed together based on pain points they identify and business objectives they must accomplish. Make sure that you look at the biggest pain points they are experiencing and evaluate which ones you could solve quickly. Do those first. This creates momentum off which everything else will run. Then, establish a thoughtful plan of capabilities you can roll out over time. Remember that it will take them a lot longer to implement new capabilities or engage in new services and see value than it will for you to create them.
  5. Speak their language.
    As you identify the services that you can deliver to provide IMPACT for the customer, consider how you will talk to them about the capabilities. Don’t underestimate your role in marketing. The art of marketing is speaking to someone in the way they need to hear information and helping them understand how they can benefit from services you provide. They need to hear about the outcomes you will create for them, not the PM speak you will use behind the scenes to get them there. We must resist the urge to tell them about the medicine they must take and instead focus on how their life will get easier.
  6. Treat them like a partner.
    You need them and they need you. Without them, the PMO has no value. Work with them to establish a set of guiding principles that you will both follow to ensure strategic alignment, transparency, predictability, reliability, and ultimate return on investment (ROI). Make sure that everyone in your PMO is clear on the importance and their role in providing a stellar customer experience.
  7. Remember that while the customer might not always be right, they are always right. 
    Never underestimate the power of an unhappy customer to derail your PMO sustainability. Your goal will be to cultivate that relationship with your customer, hearing them along the way as they express concerns or frustration. While it’s so easy to tell them how we know better when it comes to the things your PMO can provide, if they can’t yet see it for themselves, it doesn’t exist. Go back to the values they hold dear and see how you can align your services and offerings with what matters most to them. That, my friend, is how you ensure your PMO can deliver IMPACT.
Posted on: April 30, 2018 06:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (13)

10 Steps to Ensure Project Rescue Success

It can be a sticky situation to rescue a project that is struggling to meet the business needs. Here are some quick tips on how to ensure that the process is as productive as possible and you get that project back on track quickly.

  1. Be sure to avoid the blame game, but know how you got here. You must use an honest self-assessment approach with the team to understand why the project is where it is and how it got off track. If you don’t, the team could repeat the same mistakes on this project or future projects. We must learn from the process.
  2. Revisit the project’s Why statement. Why is this project being done and what IMPACT do we expect to achieve via this project? Getting clear on the purpose of the project and intended goals has the benefit of resetting everyone. Make sure they all get it.
  3. Get clear on ROI. Evaluate if the project can possibly meet the intended outcomes for an appropriate return on investment (ROI). It doesn’t make sense to continue a project if it doesn’t have a chance of meeting those original goals.
  4. Determine if the original goals are still valid. Sometimes projects go off track because the goals that were originally defined are no longer the right direction. The team begins to shift the focus, add new scope or require other changes that are more likely to meet the best outcomes. This can be a good thing, but requires you to reassess scope, schedule, cost, and ROI so that you can properly ascertain IMPACT.
  5. Get everyone involved. Look for feedback from everyone involved in the project, not just primary stakeholders. Sometimes the best insights come from those that can look at the bigger picture, provide an outsiders perspective, or are not too emotionally tied to the project.
  6. Make it realistic. Ensure that the new project constraints (time, scope, cost) are developed with ALL the stakeholders expected to do the work. Often, the project didn’t have realistic timelines, scope, and budget to begin with because the right people (aka the ones doing the work) weren’t included in the planning process. Don’t make that mistake twice.
  7. Hold people accountable. Establish an accountability model that allows for everyone to actively commit in writing and verbally to what they will accomplish and hold everyone accountable publicly to keeping their commitments.
  8. Mean what you say. Create consequences for lack of adherence to the agreed-upon constraints and commitments. The worst thing we can do as leaders to degrade our authority is to shy away from creating real and meaningful consequences to undesirable behaviors.
  9. Act as a fiduciary. Don’t be afraid to shut down the projects that will not meet their IMPACT requirements. If the return on investment is just not there, don’t let emotion or the fact that this is someone’s pet project keep you and the team from doing the right thing. It’s on you to ensure that you clearly align the business outcomes desired with project outcomes you create.
  10. Take the time to do it right this time. If the project skipped some important process steps along the way, now is the time to correct them. Don’t have a clear business case? You MUST have one before you even try to rescue the project. Don’t have solid requirements? Well, then, of course, you aren’t seeing the intended benefits…you don’t know what they are! Schedule unrealistic? Get the right players around the table so this schedule is attainable.

When you take on the role of Project Rescuer, you must remember to assess the current situation unemotionally and that your role is to represent best interests of the company, not the project. It can be utterly exhausting on everyone to drag along through a project that shouldn’t be happening or is so far off track, that they’ve lost sight of the purpose. When you get this right, everyone wins. This is your chance to set this project team up for success. Go be an IMPACT Driver!


Thanks for taking the time to read this article.

I welcome your feedback and insights. Please leave a comment below.

See you online!

Warmly,

LauraBSignature_black

Posted on: April 23, 2018 08:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (14)

Things to Stop Doing to Be High-IMPACT

At the start of each year, many of us make our to-do list of things we want to accomplish. On that list, we often put many professional goals or areas we are hoping to grow in the new year. We start the year all excited with our lists and then…reality happens.  Other priorities get in the way and we longingly look back at our list of “to dos” and wonder where the time is going.

Let’s try something different

With all our energy focused on all the things we want to do, we sometimes forget that part of being successful is letting go of some of the things we are doing. I’d like to give you a refreshing list that you might be able to “accomplish” this year…or more accurately, the things you should STOP doing if you want to have a more satisfying and productive year. I hope these tips give you a way to clear out some of the toxic activities that could be standing in the way of you being truly awesome and making a huge IMPACT. 

  1. Putting yourself last

Putting yourself last may seem like the fastest and best option in the moment, we have all been there. In the long run, strategically it is important to take the time and make the investment to develop your skills. Many of us fall into the trap of excepting our employers to pay for developing our skills – you are responsible for your skills and marketability, both for your current employer and the next one. It’s time to put your name at the top of the priority list.

  1. Rescuing team members

We’ve all been there. The work is piling up. The deadlines are hovering over our heads and our project is behind schedule. It’s so tempting to just jump in and start rescuing the project to make sure that the ultimate outcomes are achieved. We want to be the hero and we know we are ultimately accountable for project success, but there are some big challenges that come with being the firefighter and rescuing our project team members when they aren’t getting their work done.

That is a big mistake. If you are busy rescuing team members, then your work isn’t getting done and you lose the ability to hold others accountable. This leads to the entire team functioning at a lower productivity level.

  1. Making things more complicated than necessary

Have you ever heard of the K.I.S.S. method? Keep it Super Simple. There is always a way to simplify your job, automate a process, take fewer steps to accomplish the same goal. This often starts with getting clarity around your role and what you are good at. Then take everything else and delegate or outsource it. Remember, you don’t have to do everything yourself.

  1. Settling

Your value to the organization is directly tied to the results you achieve, not the number of projects you manage. Get serious about delivering IMPACT within your organization. Build your skills, make your career development a priority, take the work you are doing seriously. Go big.

  1. Multitasking

You can’t really do it, none of us can. We think we can do it and everything suffers. Do you want to be known as the person that checked things off the list, but they were all poor quality or the one they can count on to deliver IMPACT? Trust me, when the important assignment comes around, they won’t be looking for the person that can partially meet the goal while doing 10 other things (also poorly). They will be looking for the person that they know can deliver, with laser focus, the outcomes they are looking to create.

  1. Accepting unacceptable behaviors

Whether it’s the constant latecomer to meetings or the person that doesn’t deliver their work on time, you must stop allowing the behaviors. Remember, ignoring it is allowing it. Why is one bad apple such an issue? People will always push boundaries and if they see that someone is getting away with things, they will also do it. This leads to total breakdown in meetings, chaos on the projects, and a very frustrated you.

  1. Saying no

I don’t mean to say yes to everything your business or sponsor hands at you, but we need to think differently about our projects. For example, when they want to change scope, it’s because they want to add more value to the project. That scope change could be the difference between a system that gets used by the customer and one that is completely ignored.

System doesn’t get used = failed project, regardless of whether you were on time, budget, and scope when it gets delivered.

Our answer needs to be “Yes, and…” when we are asked about changes. Here’s how that sounds:


“Yes, you can have that new scope item, and here’s the IMPACT to the schedule and budget, as well as IMPACTS to the customer expectations.”

This feels so much better to the receiver because they feel heard and they can make an educated and informed decision about the outcome they wish to create and at what cost. Give them the control to make decisions and you do your job of educating them and ensuring that no one forgets all the decisions AND IMPACTS throughout the project.

  1. Holding onto toxic relationships

This one is a regular item on my annual to-do list and it certainly applies to us in our professional relationships, as well as personal. Think of all the time and energy you will save yourself, as well as heartache and headache if you stop letting the noise of those that are not helpful to you consume your energy.

Now, of course, you don’t always get to choose who you work with, so for the people you have no choice but to interact with, you can choose how you respond. We can choose to not let the annoying things people do impact how we feel or see the world. You just keep on doing your thing with a smile on your face and let their toxic energy roll right off you.

The bottom line is that there are many ways to accomplish goals this year, by stopping these 8 things you are paving the way to creating a much bigger IMPACT, personally and professionally


Thanks for taking the time to read this article.

I welcome your feedback and insights. Please leave a comment below.

See you online!

Warmly,

LauraBSignature_black

Posted on: April 16, 2018 08:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (8)

The Big Credibility Differentiator

We’ve all been there. We make a commitment to do so something for someone (or for ourselves) and then life gets in the way and it just doesn’t happen. I’m having one of those days today. There are good reasons that I didn’t get things done like I wanted to, but if I’m not super careful, it will happen way too often. And here’s the thing: it doesn’t matter what the reasons are if we let the “reasons” be to blame every time we fall short of the commitments we make or the outcomes we planned to achieve.

Some of us will say, “yeah, but” to this and talk about all the reasons they really wanted something to happen. My answer to this is, “yeah, but” it didn’t happen. That’s the problem here. Our intentions are not the same as our actions. This is what happens when we break our commitments:

  1. It erodes confidence in yourself.
  2. It leads to overwhelm and frustration (yours and others).
  3. It reduces your credibility.

I could go on and on here. There are so many negative outcomes you can create by falling short of your commitments. We know this. Yet, it still happens. Why?

Here’s the truth – because we let it happen.

We want to be good collaborators and partners, so sometimes we:

  1. say yes to things we probably shouldn’t
  2. allow ourselves to get overbooked and keep pushing off the thing we committed to because of the 10 other things we also committed to
  3. don’t realistically plan for the scenarios that are likely to trip us up and prevent us from getting everything done
  4. “hope for the best” in achieving the commitments we have made and continue to refer to how much we “want” to help

The challenge here, of course, is that this sets everyone up for failure.

There are a couple of steps necessary to break this cycle.

Step 1: know the difference between actions and intentions. Here’s how I see the difference:

Intentions – What we committed to do.

Actions – What we did to live up to the commitment.

Sometimes our intentions and actions don’t quite get aligned. We know we really wanted to get that thing done. We had hoped to make it happen. If we are not super protective of our commitments and priorities, we can find ourselves in a vicious game of “who do I disappoint?” when trying to get things done. That feeling can be frustrating and toxic to productivity.

However, we can’t stop there. Sometimes, our actions don’t lead to the outcomes that align with the commitments we made, either. That’s where step 2 comes in.

Step 2: make your actions intentional, purposeful, and impactful.

Did the actions we took directly lead to the committed outcomes? This can be a bit tricky. Sometimes our actions fall short of achieving the outcomes because (and if we are honest with ourselves here), we either didn’t understand the commitment we made, we realized we don’t have time to do it right so we do something to just check it off the list, or we…well, there are a ton of other reasons we do this…not all intentional.

Here’s the real credibility differentiator:

Results – Achieving the outcome intended via the commitment we made.

We are all measured by results, not intentions, yet when we fall short of our commitments, we tend to talk about how much we tried. I totally get it. I have said that so many times this week. I tried. Well, guess what? Trying doesn’t actually change the world, get the project done, or get your kid to practice on time. What does work? Uh, the stuff we all know so darn well, PLANNING!

If we take the time to plan our work thoughtfully, evaluate the risk factors that can get in our way of being truly productive, and commit thoughtfully, we will be far more likely to reach the goals we set for ourselves.

The next time you are about to make a commitment to someone, do yourself a favor and STOP for a minute. Think about what you already have on your plate, think about the 50 “it’s just a 5-minute thing” types of tasks that will pop up, and maybe most importantly, ponder the impact of not keeping this commitment. Is damaging your credibility worth it?

Of course, this doesn’t mean you say no to everything, as fun as that might be! This just means that we do for ourselves what we do so well for others…plan the work, then stick to the plan!


Thanks for taking the time to read this article.

I welcome your feedback and insights. Please leave a comment below.

See you online!

Warmly,

LauraBSignature_black

Posted on: April 09, 2018 08:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (14)

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 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 the time…the nonprofit 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 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 Get. It. Done. event. 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 a $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. These events give 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?

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.

Because 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.

Fast forward to today…

  1. The Project Management for Change team received the prestigious Daily Point of Light Award from Points of Light early in 2017 for their contributions to service in the nonprofit community. They have also been fortunate to have received recognition and the following speakers at the D.C. events:
  2. 2015 – U.S. Secretary of Commerce, Penny Pritzker
  3. 2016 – U.S. Administrator of the Small Business Administration (SBA), Maria Contreras-Sweet
  4. 2017 – U.S. CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), Wendy Spencer
  5. The Washington, D.C. team is gearing up for another event, the 4th one in as many years, but they are not alone. Take a look at the other events that are coming or have taken place around the globe: San Francisco; Hampton Roads, Virginia; Brisbane, Australia; New York City, New York; Edmonton, Alberta Canada; Atlanta, Georgia; and Houston, Texas; and who will be next?

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 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!

Your skills matter, as does how you choose to use them.

Help us change the world, one project at a time!

Project Managers:

  1. Volunteer to scope and plan projects with nonprofits. Just a 6-hour commitment with breakfast and lunch provided!
  2. Find an event local to your area or start your own! You can reach out to your local PMI chapter or setup one through your organization. Just contact us at info@pm4change.org.

Nonprofits: Sign up today to receive pro bono project management services to help you with your toughest challenge!

Everyone: Help us raise the necessary funds to make the event happen. There are many ways you can contribute:

  • Donatedirectly on our website.
  • Use Amazon Smile to help us raise funds every time you shop.
  • Connect your organization to us to reap the many benefits of being a sponsor.

Help us get the word out!

Share this post with everyone you know. Send out to all of your social media networks! @PM4Change on Twitter / LinkedIn / Facebook


Thanks for taking the time to read this article.

I welcome your feedback and insights. Please leave a comment below.

See you online!

Warmly,

LauraBSignature_black

Posted on: April 02, 2018 08:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (13)
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