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. Found out more at ImpactbyLaura.com

About this Blog


Recent Posts

Dealing with Difficult Stakeholders

Lesson in stakeholder management from Mr. Rogers

What your resume says about you

Stop Playing with Toys – Where Many PMO Leaders are Getting Stuck

Your Role as a Sponsor: A letter on Behalf of Your Project Manager

Dealing with Difficult Stakeholders

What does it mean when you call someone a difficult stakeholder? No, back up. What does it mean to be a stakeholder and how do you engage them effectively?

My definition of a stakeholder is anyone that can positively or negatively influence, or is affected by, the outcomes of a project. It’s about cause and affect (not effect). Meaning, if their actions can affect a change on your project or your project will (or they think it will) affect them, then you better be paying attention to them and actively managing their engagement (or lack thereof).

Here are my simple steps for managing stakeholders, even the difficult ones:

1. Find them

Look for them everywhere using the above definition. There are obvious groups of stakeholders like the business unit or company you are doing the work for, the project team, sponsor, etc. The ones you may not think about are those that can affect the project outside of that core group. Look at it from a risk perspective and anyone that could influence broader direction. For example, any other stakeholder on any other project that is in a position to shift resources from your project to theirs is a stakeholder of yours.

2. Get to know them

Everyone has a WIIFM (what’s in it for me). Know theirs. Ask questions, engage, and understand how they benefit when your project is successful (or fails). If you would like more information on how to talk to your stakeholders about their WIIFM, see this previous article: Lessons in Stakeholder Management from Mr. Rogers.

3. Categorize them (so you can manage them)

I’m a Myers-Briggs ISTJ (yes, I know, no one that ever meets me believes that, but it’s true). That means I like to categorize things, people, projects, everything really, so that I can make order of the chaos and figure out how to act. I like to figure out how to engage stakeholders properly, so ordering them into a system helps me do so. I have two systems for this. First, assessing them on a capability scale: Do they understand, are they motivated, and do they know how.

  • Understand – Do they understand their role (or lack thereof) on the project and what is expected of them?
  • Motivated – Do they know their “what is in it for me” (WIIFM)? Is that WIIFM strong enough to inspire them to act in the ways necessary to support the project?
  • Know How – Do they know how to engage/help/be a part of the project success?

Know this information so that you can figure out how to fill the gaps from where they are to where you need them to be on your project.

4. Understand their power and interest (ability to influence)

The second technique I use to categorize people is to understand their level of influence over your project. Two factors to consider here: Do they care and do they have the ability to do anything about that? Knowing this will help you figure out how actively you need to manage them and if they are where they “should” be for your project. You need to make sure those that ARE supposed to be engaged, are engaged. Use this quick checklist.

  • High interest and high power (well positioned to influence outcomes) – Manage closely. If their interest is positive, great, keep them engaged. Leverage their power for good, like getting necessary resources for your project. Your sponsor needs to be in this category, for example, to be most helpful to you. If their interest is negative, and they have a lot of power, they could use that power for evil and derail you project.
  • High interest and low power (moderately positioned to influence outcomes) – Keep them informed. They want to know what’s going on. If you don’t keep them informed, they could find someone with the power to derail you.
  • Low interest and high power (moderately positioned to influence outcomes even unintentionally) – Keep this group happy. If they aren’t really interested in your project, but have high influence, you want to keep them informed and happy with progress. They may become interested fast and impact your project if you are not keeping them happy. OR, they could have a high interest in other projects and since they don’t care much about yours, they could easily derail it by shifting resources or focus to those other projects, thereby leaving your project in the dust. That is why it’s important to give them a reason to have a WIIFM regarding your project. Give them a reason to care and then use those powers to support you.
  • Low interest and low power (lowest likelihood of influencing outcomes) – Monitor them and maintain a relationship, but don’t focus most of your energy here. UNLESS, they SHOULD be in the high/high category. Then, it’s all about finding their WIIFM and engaging them properly.

5. Engage them

Use what you learned by assessing them using the techniques above to figure out how to get them from where they are to where you need them to be. One great way to engage them is to focus on your communications with them. Read this article on effective communications strategies to help guide you down a right-sized path of communications with your stakeholders. Secondly, show that you actually care about them. When they tell you what they care about regarding your project or what they care about generally (that can impact your project), pay attention and then do something about it. This is especially effective if you find a stakeholder that is concerned about something going on with your project. Be clear and transparent with them and hold them accountable for the level of engagement they are expected to have, but you better be doing your part too.

6. Handle resistance

What happens when a stakeholder isn’t engaged and we need them to be? Or they are actively or passively resisting your project or the change expected from that project? We start talking. We try to convince them. We try to tell them why they should care. Stop. That. Immediately.

Has anyone ever grabbed your hand and started pulling you? What’s the first thing you do? You pull back. It’s our natural instinct. Before we have ever given it any thought, we are already resisting. Then, when our brains catch up to the resistance, we determine if we are interested in the direction we are being taken and then let up on the resistance or if we don’t like where things are headed, we pull back even harder.

Instead, you might want to try going to stand next to that person you want to come with you and telling them you are going to go through the change/project together. You walk beside them and hold their hand. You bring them along with you. They are far more likely to come with you now. You are doing it together. You are doing change with them, not to them.

7. And finally…Manage the difficult personalities

I’m a really, really, really big fan of the Serenity Prayer. Nothing that has proven to be a better tool for me in managing difficult stakeholders.

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

Courage to change the things I can,

And wisdom to know the difference.

Regardless of your religious preferences, I encourage you to say this to yourself on a regular basis when dealing with difficult stakeholders and see how saying these words remind you where you have power and where you don’t. To me, the difference is clear. You cannot control others. I’ve tried. Boy, have I tried! Unsuccessfully….

Attempting to control others is futile and will exhaust you. Every time I have a tough time with stakeholders, I realize I’ve forgotten this simple fact. The only behaviors you can control are your own. Every parent, despite our best efforts, eventually realizes this! It’s no different with your stakeholders on your project. (Hmm…I see another blog post on the similarities between the two coming soon.)

So what do you do? Do things differently if you want a different result (the opposite of insanity). Change the game. If the way you are communicating with your stakeholder isn’t working, do it differently.

Notice your own behaviors, how you act or react to them. Can you change how you respond when they aren’t engaging the way you want?

For example, are they acting out in meetings and making it difficult for you to keep the project moving? I know it requires much patience when a stakeholder is misbehaving to stay calm and in control of your own actions, but you must.  If you blow up, you look like the fool and others lose a little bit of respect for you. You become the center of their attention instead of the person that caused the chaos in the first place.

Pull them aside and show them how their behaviors are derailing the project. Calmly explain your position, what you expect of them and then hold them accountable. You need to know their WIIFM and where they fit in those categories above to figure out how to use that information to bring them back into the fold and help them help you move forward.

What about those that are constantly negative or telling you why everything the team is doing is flawed and headed straight for doom? Leverage that energy for good. Put them on the risk management committee responsible for coming up with everything that won’t work on the project. They will love that! Then, give them the whiteboard marker and ask them to help come up with ways to address each of those risks they identified. You can say, “OK! This is really helpful (even when you are thinking “I really hate working with you”)! Now what do you think the best way would be to manage (transfer, mitigate, accept, avoid) this risk you identified?” Help them see how being a part of the solution is of greater interest and benefit to the team than just being the naysayer.

Determine what you can control (since it isn’t the stakeholder) to benefit the situation and improve it for the better. Then, do that. You will have less headaches if you focus all of your mental energy into what you need to do differently to encourage or discourage certain behavior than trying to directly tell them, control them, or expect stakeholders to act differently all on their own.

8. Actually do the work

The biggest reason best practices don’t work is because you didn’t do the work. It takes time to do things well and get to the outcomes you want. There is no easy button for effectively managing stakeholders. Leverage resources to assess them and put a real plan in place to engage them in the right way. Then execute that plan!!

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Posted on: July 17, 2017 07:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (8)

Lesson in stakeholder management from Mr. Rogers

I was listening to two of my friends on a podcast last week and there were so many stories and lessons in there that I just had to share with you.

One of the lessons brought up was tied to an interview my friend Carl Pritchard did many years ago with Mr. Rogers, the American television personality that many of us fondly remember from our childhood. He asked Carl how he wanted the world to look different after the interview was finished and by knowing that, he promised Carl that the interview would be a success.

That got me thinking about stakeholder management and how we ought to be speaking in terms that our stakeholders understand to help them engage with the project.  We have to make it about them!

What does that mean? Have you ever heard anyone say you are a great conversationalist when you barely got a word in? Sure! Maybe you asked some questions and then the other person just talked and talked. You made it about them. People love that…and it helps them see YOU in a better light, even though they did all the talking!

So, now let’s apply that to everyday situations we face in working with stakeholders.

Have you ever been in a status meeting reporting on your project and you notice that the stakeholders’ eyes start to glaze over? I’m willing to bet you are showing them a bunch of data and facts about the project, but not in terms that are being connected directly to their WIIFM – what’s in it for me. Of course, the data is important. It’s used to inform decisions you are trying to get them to make to help you move forward. It matters A LOT to you. It actually matters a lot to them, the stakeholders, but they just don’t know it. Why? Because you haven’t connected that information to their WIIFM, why they care.

People are self-focused. It’s in our nature and it’s crucial to survival. We all look at things through our own lens. So, knowing that, if we want to be successful as project managers, change agents, PMO leaders, etc., we need to know how to communicate our messages in the terms that our stakeholders can understand and connect to. Their lack of engagement doesn’t mean the customer/stakeholder/sponsor doesn’t care, but it does mean that if you talk to them in their terms, in their language, you are likely to get better results.

So, how do you do that?

At the beginning of the project or whenever new stakeholders come on board, ask them all the same question and then listen to their answer. How do you want the world to look different when we finish this project? Keep digging until you get enough to hold onto and use for later.

Then, write it down and do some homework to start connecting what they said to what your project is going to accomplish. As you learn their personal interests and reasons for wanting this project to happen, you can then tie your conversations to that. Start thinking about the scope of the project as the enabler for their vision. Think about every piece of code as a step toward accomplishing their goals. Talk in terms of testing as a measure of getting the high impact quality outcomes they want.

Let’s take risk as an example. No one seems to like having the risk conversations, but if you can show how proactively discussing the risks and then building a plan to manage them will get them closer to achieving their outcomes – their future state world of happiness, you can usually get them to talk to you about it.

How about budget or resources? Same thing. If you frame every conversation in terms of the outcomes you expect to achieve that get the stakeholders closer to their goal future state, you will at least have their attention.

So what does that look like?

Let’s say your sponsor wants to improve efficiency in operations by implementing a new system. You are the project manager for this implementation and you ask him what he wants the world to look different when you are done. He explains that people are working long hours now and in addition to the long hours not really increasing productivity, they are making mistakes in their work. This new system will reduce errors, increase productivity, and help streamline this work to create an opportunity to grow in other operational areas.

OK, so we know what this sponsor cares about. Check.

As you go through the project, and need to provide updates to the sponsor, think about ways you can tie the work you are doing to the goals they want to achieve. If you need more budget to hire an additional resource which could speed the project up, think about how you can tell the story of the increased efficiency gains for the year by implementing early. Explain how instead of 5 months of improved efficiency, the sponsor can expect 6 months. Or if you need budget to complete the scope, talk in terms of ROI (return on investment) of money saved through fewer mistakes when the project is completed, which reduces costs to the organization.

Talking in terms that the stakeholders can understand makes you increasingly more valuable to them. They stop seeing you as administrative overhead unfortunately unnecessary for the project to get done or a box checker that just moves people through a checklist of tasks. They start seeing you as an invaluable resource that understands the value of their business needs, can speak to them intelligently about their business, and helps them solve business problems. You are no longer doing project management, you are now a business problem solver. THAT is valuable. THAT is the kind of resource that business people want to work with…someone that can help them get things done in the business.

If you are building or running a PMO, this is becoming increasingly more important. You want to run a high-IMPACT PMO, not an administrative overhead organization that can be cut the minute the organization needs to do some belt tightening. You become the voice for the business. You become the go-to resource when they need to make sure their projects get done the right way the first time, by a team that understands their needs and enables them to get the results reliably. That’s powerful.

No more complicated charts or complicated data that isn’t easy for your stakeholders to follow. Just some simple conversation where you connect the dots for them from what you are asking for to what they care about. I’m not saying throw all reporting out the window. Of course, those reports can be handy to provide backup information, but nothing replaces good old fashioned conversation – where they get to listen to and talk about what they care about.

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Posted on: July 10, 2017 07:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (5)

What your resume says about you

Resumes, I’ve seen a few…

Over the last many years, I would often stand on stage at speaking engagements in the D.C. area and say, “If you’ve been in the job market in the last 15 years, I’ve seen your resume!” I was speaking to project and program managers and PMO leaders, but this applies to ANYONE and EVERYONE that has a resume. Don’t have one? Uh, build one fast! You may need it at any time. It’s best to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it, right?

I spent a LONG time building and running PMOs in the D.C. area, and that meant a lot of staffing. I felt like I constantly had a pile of resumes on my desk and was forever trying to find project and program managers that knew how to Get. It. Done. Recently, I attended an event hosted by the D.C. PMI chapter and helped out by reviewing resumes of candidates looking to meet potential employers. What I saw ranged from outstanding to not so great.

Remember that your resume is often the first introduction you are making to someone, often coming before you get the chance to meet someone face to face and shake their hand. Many people say that the first impression is the one that sticks, so you want to put your best possible first impression forward. Here are some tips to consider when writing or updating your resume:

  1. You have 6 seconds to make an impression. What? Are you kidding me? Apparently not! According to The Ladders, recruiters are making decisions in about 6 seconds on which pile your resume will go into. That’s not long to make an impression; don’t you want it to be a good one? Remember that recruiters and headhunters have about one minute each for a resume first pass screening, especially when they are under a lot of pressure to fill spots. Hand someone your resume and time how fast they need to make a decision on what they read. Did they take away the most important points or were they stuck in your long paragraphs?
  2.  Two pages, no more. I automatically toss out resumes that are more than 2 pages. No, you do not need a five page resume. No one cares as much as you do about all of the details of your experience. I know, you worked hard to get where you are, but that doesn’t mean you have to take the reader on the entire journey of your career. Just cover the highlights and see below for what to include and exclude to help you slim it down. (And for all of you saying, “Yeah, but the government wants every painstaking detail,” fine – keep a longer version, but be very careful where you put it! The rest of the world doesn’t want to read it and I’m fairly certain the recruiters in the government aren’t really reading all of those details anyway.)
  3. Avoid paragraphs. Yuck. No one wants to read those. When I look at a resume, I am looking to see if this person has the ability to communicate effectively and clearly in writing so that I can put them in front of senior executives. If they have the bottom line up front, if they have the ability to tell me the story of their career in short and succinct sentences and bullets, if they can summarize by keeping it to two pages, if they can keep the formatting simple and point me where they want me to look, and if they can present their best self quickly and easily through words, then they are likely to be able to do that with executives.
  4. Include your email, phone number, LinkedIn profile and website (if appropriate). They are going to cyber stalk you. Make it easy for them to do so and point them to the places you want them to learn more about you.
  5. Google yourself. Speaking of cyber stalking, make sure to google yourself and make sure you get anything cleaned up you don’t want seen by a recruiter or hiring manager.
  6. Don’t put your home address. This should be obvious to you by now, but your home address is completely unnecessary on a resume. You can provide the city if you are location specific on your search, but no one needs your home address. If you are not concerned about location, having an address on there could immediately disqualify you because you aren’t local. Remember, once you send that resume out or post it online, it could get anywhere and everywhere. I still have people contacting me that have a resume that is at least a decade old and I have no idea how they got it! It’s an unnecessary safety risk to have your home address easily accessible to others.
  7. Don’t include an objective. Frankly, most recruiters and hiring managers are far more interested in their objectives than yours. You should start with a short few sentence description of yourself, which will tell them “why” they should hire you. Not in a salesy way, but in a way that shows your best you right up front.
  8. Stay away from overused buzz words. Some words have lost their meaning for many recruiters because they are overused. I know, I know, but they are accurate for you. Of course you are results-oriented team player, but so is everyone else according to their resumes. Look for words that uniquely describe you.
  9. Put keywords front and center. These should be above the fold (top half of the page or toward the middle) where people’s eyes will naturally fall. This should include a summary of your certifications and main areas of expertise like business process management, agile project management, PMOs, change management, etc. I like to call this section Areas of proven expertise.
  10. Professional profile. This can be career highlights of what your brand has become in the industry, a summary of how you have benefited organizations through revenue generation.
  11. Volunteer service. If you have board service, definitely list that on the first page. At least make sure it’s on the two pages somewhere. More and more hiring managers seem to be interested in the well-rounded hire that has a life outside of work and gives back to the community. If you need to gain some volunteer experience, I highly recommend checking out PM4Change.org
  12. Use one line only for older, but still relevant positions. I have many PMO positions going back 15 years. I don’t put the details of all of them, but the older ones have a line that lists the title, company, dates, etc. like you would with the first line of your more detailed positions.
  13. Keep the position info to one line. You don’t need one line for the title, one for the company, and one for the dates or location. Just put all that stuff on one line to keep things cleaner. Use bold for the titles and regular text for the rest so that your title stands out on the line.
  14. Unless you don’t have enough work experience, put the education last. Again, I know you worked hard for your various degrees, but they don’t need to be front and center. Nothing beats relevant work experience, so that should be first. You can also save space by putting your certifications with your degrees.
  15. Copy it to your LinkedIn profile. If you don’t have one, get one. Your resume that you’ve cleaned up should be copied over to LinkedIn in that newer format of bullets instead of long paragraphs. LinkedIn has become the most popular resource for recruiters now and it’s where you want to be seen by potential recruiters. It’s the way I’ve gotten my last several jobs and many new clients. Remember all of your activity is there for them to find, so clean up anything you may have added or posted that may not present you in the best light.
  16. Get a good head shot. Since recruiters are often going to LinkedIn first to stalk you, make sure you have a nice professional head shot to present your best and most professional face to them.
  17. Customize the resume for the job. This doesn’t mean you fake it. Your experience should be real. However, you can choose to highlight certain strengths or expertise to fit the specific position you are applying for.
  18. Have someone proofread it. Having another set of eyes on it is always a good idea. You will read it 100 times and keep missing the same word that is either the incorrect spelling or incorrect usage and not even see it. Ask someone to go over it in great detail. You should also let it sit for a day and come back to it to see how it reads once you’ve taken a break.

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Posted on: July 03, 2017 07:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (10)

Stop Playing with Toys – Where Many PMO Leaders are Getting Stuck

There are several building blocks necessary for a PMO to be successful. To keep things simple for this post, let’s focus on the general categories people, processes and tools.

Everyone knows you need people in your PMO or playing the PMO roles to make it a PMO (even if there is only one of you and you are just getting started or having the life drained out of you by being one resource doing a hundred things), right? Yes, you’ve got to have people doing something (hopefully of great value). If you want to be really great, you probably want to spend a good amount of time finding the right kind of talent and they need to be delivering on whatever services your PMO will provide. Got it. OK, we need people. Check.

We also know that we need to have a couple of kinds of processes. We need process for how we will operate internally within a PMO (i.e. how will we assign project managers to projects) and how we will deliver services to our customers (yes, even if you are internal, you do have customers – they are the people that use your services). We need project, program, and/or portfolio management processes for the work we do. For example, if we have a Project Management Office (you gotta define your P first), then I’m guessing you will create some project management best practices or a methodology for how you will manage your projects. Yes? OK, good. Let’s keep going.

The third area we would need to consider is tools, templates, and all of the other enabling systems that help us facilitate the work processes. These are the mechanisms that enable the people to use the processes to get things done. These are also important.

But when we use them and how we use them is what matters most, to me. Frankly, if you want to do your project schedule on sticky notes or a napkin, I don’t care. The tool isn’t as important early on. Not nearly as important as the other things that determine success or failure of a PMO. In fact, focusing too much here at the wrong time helps you fast track your PMO to extinction. Timing and order is everything. If you haven’t figured out what processes you need and you don’t have the right people in place, the tools don’t matter. At all. Period. Sorry, but no, not even a little bit. Stay with me here…

Have you ever seen a PMO or a big project go through a startup? Did they immediately go to discussions on what system they were going to use? Did they spend a lot of time on MS Project vs. Clarity, for example? Did they spend months and months or even years getting that system up only to realize the business moved on without them or that the system isn’t even usable the way it is designed? Or worse yet, the business totally rejects the system because they don’t see the value. Yuck. This happens all of the time and not just with PMOs, but with projects all over the world that have a technical component. We focus on the enabling system and forget to ask some basic questions or really define our requirements first. Consider yourself lucky if it hasn’t happened to you.

I watched a client go through this once and it was really heartbreaking for me. I was helping a PMO leader new to the company setup a PMO run by the IT department. The IT leader insisted that the tool get implemented first, believing that was the first and most important step in setting up the PMO. I referred them to articles, training, resources, and my own guidance on the reasons why this would fail. I predicted that the business would not buy it because they hadn’t addressed their WIIFM (what’s in it for me) to engage with the PMO. They hadn’t clearly defined their why, or as my coach says, their “who and do what statement”. The business just saw another tool being thrown at them from IT before they were bought into the value proposition. In fact, they fought it all the way, as I kept telling them would happen. And I hated it.

I did not want to be right. I hated knowing what was going to happen and watching them make the mistakes that were going to derail their efforts, despite their best intent. I tried to keep up with the pace of their tool rollout by focusing on getting clear on their mission, value proposition, services, etc., but the force by which the tool rollout was happening was hurting them faster than I could help them. Have you ever watched a child hurt themselves after you tell them 100 times not to do something? It doesn’t make you feel good when they hurt themselves and it’s not about “I told you so”. It still stinks.

Lesson: if you pay a consultant to come in and help you, you probably did so because they are experts in their field…listen to the experts, just like you would a doctor, lawyer or any other professional that has spent their career learning how to keep you from running into problems. LET THEM HELP YOU. We want you to be successful. We are in the business of service. We want you to win.

We were able to get things back on track eventually, but at a much lower scale than they had originally intended…and the tool that they invested a lot of time and money on was not leveraged. Sadly, it was a really good tool, in fact, I believe it was perfect for them, perfect for what they wanted to accomplish. Yet, by not doing things in the right order, they derailed the PMO buildout for a while and it took a lot longer to accomplish their goals.

Sometimes, we do this to ourselves and the funny thing is that as project managers, we should know better. Aren’t we the ones always telling people to define their requirements before building a system? Isn’t that in our project manager DNA? It’s like the plumber with the leaky faucet. We have a “do as I say, not as I do” attitude. We pick the cool project management software that we just know is going to make managing our projects easier, but before we really know what services we are providing or what makes the most sense in our environment or with our types of people resources…and then it (and we) crash and burn when it takes too long to get done (because you only have so long to prove your PMO worth) or doesn’t meet the processes we need to follow to be effective. I’ve seen PMOs fail because the short two year window where they should have been building and delivering services for the business was spent almost entirely on implementing a tool that didn’t end up meeting the needs. Bye bye PMO.

But why is that? Why do people go to the tools first? I call it “something shiny syndrome”. It seems like it is more fun or more tangible and easier to start, not easier to do in the long run, but feels easier to start – just pick a tool. It feels harder to figure out the people side and the processes/services you are going to deliver. Defining the services and hiring the people also (in theory) seem to take longer than just “picking a tool”, but starting with the tool doesn’t give you a PMO. What it might actually do is give you a nightmare you have to clean up later if you didn’t figure out your processes first and get the right people in place to operate those processes.

Same goes for the templates. You can spend a lot of time building templates, really complicated ones, to capture every possible data point for large projects and while you are doing that, people are still using their own stuff that they become more and more attached to as the days go by. Opportunity missed. Start simple. Use just the basics. Don’t get fancy. A handful of impactful and simple templates will do.

Tools should be enablers, not the center of the PMO universe.

So how do you avoid the mess, get your PMO setup right, in a short amount of time, all while you still have the interest (and the funding) of your leadership?


Do the “hard” stuff first. And really, it’s not that hard. And if you do it first, it’s even easier. It’s as straight forward as creating a charter, which many of us can (and probably have) do in our sleep. Start by asking a simple set of questions:

  1. First, define your “P”. Are you a project, program, or portfolio management office or some combination of the P’s? To determine that, ask yourself two questions: What is your purpose? What business problem are you solving?
  2. This helps inform the services question. Who do you serve? What do you do for them?
  3. Then, you can get into the processes, how you will deliver those services to them.
  4. Then, validate all of this with your stakeholders. Do not pass go until you have gotten agreement from those that will interact with you that these services, when you deliver them well, will meet the customer needs. The value has to be there.
  5. Then, you ask yourself who you need to deliver on those services. You can’t answer that question until you’ve done the homework above to figure out the services you will provide (that the business leaders HAVE ASKED FOR, not what you think they need). That sets the stage for the kind of talent you need.
  6. THEN, and only then, you can get into the enabling systems and tools you need to help you deliver those services.

If you do it in any other order, you risk building systems, tools and templates that don’t help enable your people to deliver on those services in the most impactful way.

If you want to learn more about my take on PMOs or how I teach others to setup Business Enabling PMOs, check out the Building Blocks of an Effective and Sustainable PMO article series or download the ebook. 

As always, I’m happy to answer any questions you have to help you on your journey.

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Posted on: June 26, 2017 07:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)

Your Role as a Sponsor: A letter on Behalf of Your Project Manager

What does it mean to be a project sponsor? What is expected of me? Why can’t they just do the project without getting me involved?

Here’s the deal. If you are the sponsor for a project, you are the most important, number one factor in determining success or failure of the project. Yep, that’s right. You can drive it to success, but you can also be completely in the way or unhelpful and the project will most likely fail.

Don’t believe me? Here’s some great supporting data from two of the standards organizations in this space:

Project Management Institute Pulse of the Profession: Executive Sponsor Engagement

Prosci Thought Leadership Library: Importance and Role of Executive Sponsor

OK, now that we got that out of the way. Let’s talk about what you can do to help your project be successful.

1) Remember that this is YOUR project. If it’s not, then maybe you don’t make the most sense to be the sponsor. Did someone delegate this role of sponsor to you? The sponsor has some very important responsibilities for this project. Keep reading.

2) Figure out your WIIFM (what’s in it for me). What benefit will this project have to you, your team, and the organization when it is successfully implemented? Be really clear on that. Take time to really understand the value. That return on investment picture should be clear and tied directly to things you care about. If you are not motivated to make sure this project is successful, then you won’t be motivated to take the time necessary to make it successful.

3) Build coalitions. Your ability to influence the stakeholders on the project will greatly determine your success as a sponsor. Do you have relationships with key leaders in your organization? You never know when those relationships will come in handy to help move that project forward. Make sure that everyone is hearing the same message across the organization about this change, the benefits, and how important their engagement is to the success of the project.

4) Address the change resistance. Enforce consequences of inaction or passive and active change resistance. For ideas on how to do this, refer to this article: People are not resistant to change.

5) Communicate. I don’t just mean talking to the project manager who keeps trying to get on your calendar. I’m talking about with ANYONE and EVERYONE on the project. Your role is to create a sense of urgency, help find the WIIFM for every stakeholder, build awareness about the project and benefits, make sure the alignment between project and strategy is clear, and LISTEN. If you watch and listen, you will see where you are needed and can be most valuable.

6) Be visibly engaged. Show the project team that you are engaged and really have an open door policy. Start every meeting with the words, “How can I help?” And then HELP THEM.

This means that you need to make time on your calendar for some of the project meetings and especially meetings with your project manager. They are your gateway to all things related to this project. Need to know what kind of information you should expect from them or getting bombarded with data and details? Send them this article: Project communications your sponsor will LOVE.

But don’t micromanage the heck out of everything. You are a leader, a guide, a barrier-removing warrior for your team, but they need you doing that stuff…not managing the tasks on the project schedule and tasking people directly. If you do, you will inevitably be overriding direction they’ve already been given and now the resources are running around doing your things instead of the most important project tasks. Look at it this way…if you start acting like the project manager, the project manager will back off and stop being the project manager. Guess who just became the new project manager? It’s very tough to come back from that when you set expectations that you are now the project manager…just sayin’.

7) Hold people accountable for project engagement and delivery. You have far more authority than you project manager. Use it. I’m not saying to beat people over the head with sticks (although, your project manager could ask you to), but it’s very simple to ask people what they can deliver and then hold them to that. So, do it.

8) Set expectations and keep your commitments. Be very clear about what you will do on the project, where you will be engaged, what level of authority your project manager and team have, and what they can expect from you. Then do it. Period. We all get busy. We all have other priorities. Just remember that project team is there to deliver on YOUR project that will make YOU look good when it succeeds. Help them help you.

Now, I know there are a dozen other things your project manager wants to say to you, but I’m going to leave it at 8 for now. I get what it’s like to be a busy sponsor and leader. Lots to do. More later, my friend. Now, go be an awesome sponsor!


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Posted on: June 19, 2017 07:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (5)