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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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?

Even Planners Need to do Planning

As project management types, many of us are so busy helping others with their planning and project activities that we forget to take time to do our own planning. I liken us to the plumber with the leaky faucet. Whether it’s planning the next step in your career or planning the next quarter, we need to take time to plan out our roadmap. We must be prepared to take our own medicine. It’s good for us, after all.

I’m taking my own medicine and beginning my process of planning the next year. Starting in quarterly chunks of planning. This helps to figure out what I can get accomplished. I always have more ideas than I possibly have capacity to complete. There are so many new projects I want to explore, new ways to deliver value, things I want to try.

Are you like me with a to do list that never quite gets to empty?

As I prepared for some time out of the office, I kept working furiously to get things knocked off my list. I got A LOT done, but as I worked, I found more things that I wanted to add to my list! It’s crazy, I know. The list just gets longer no matter how many things I check off! I have projects coming out of my ears and I know that I won’t be able to get them all done.

It’s healthy (at least I think so) to keep that list of ideas coming in, things you want to accomplish, goals that you are setting out for yourself. The creative energy is good for us. And it’s important to jot down the ideas we have when we have them instead of discarding the idea or possible new project.

So what do I do? I prioritize!

I am always looking at the order things need to be done in. What’s urgent? What’s important?

Urgent vs. important

It’s crucial to find the balance between urgent and important. So often, we spend so much time on the urgent that we never get to the important. For example, you have urgent client needs that must be addressed, but once you’ve taken care of all the needs of your clients, you have no time left for the important things like planning for the future.

As a business owner, I like to remember something my coach always says, “You cannot only work in the business. You must work on the business if you are going to be successful in the long term.”

The same applies to you, whether you run a division, a company or a project. We must make time to work “on the business” we are managing, as well as in it. This means taking time to step back, figure out where we are going and what big things we want to accomplish, then plan out our roadmap for getting there.

This takes planning for the future. Yeah, we gotta actually do some planning.

Take a few minutes to think about your big goals for the next year. What will bring you the most happiness? What will give you the greatest sense of accomplishment? How can you drive high-IMPACT?

Then, put a plan together and manage your big goals like you would any other project. Yes, this means actually writing it down. It’s only a dream until you make it a plan. Once you make it a plan, we know how to handle and execute a plan, right?

OK, now go Get. It. Done!


Thanks for taking the time to read this article.

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

See you online!

Warmly,

Posted on: January 08, 2018 07:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (12)

Quick Tip: Explaining the value of Project Management to “non-believers”

How do you convince someone that Project Management is the medicine they need to take? You don’t.

Our “go to” move when we want to bring someone over to our way of thinking is to talk and talk about the benefits because surely, they will “get it” if we just explain it right…right?

Well, you may want to consider starting with a few other things first, then they might actually listen to what you have to say…

  • Start by listening. Why are they unimpressed with Project Management? Maybe they have seen it fail before or “got burned.” Maybe they just haven’t been exposed to it. You won’t know unless you ask and asking allows you to figure out how to best approach engaging them on the topic.
  • Make sure that you are not over-complicating the project management process in the first place. There's a difference between project management and PROJECT MANAGEMENT. It might be that the process is getting in the way of productivity and that could contribute to their concern. Focus on what minimal best practices you can put in place in order to create value without making project management “the work” for them.
  • Think simple and small. If what you have been presenting to them is overwhelming, they won’t buy into it. You don't want to overwhelm people with charts and tools and templates they have to fill out if you want them to believe in the value project management. Always keep your discussion of the topic and what you introduce to them very minimal.

Then, you can start talking in a way that speaks to their perspective…

 

  • Provide examples of what other industry leaders are doing. In every industry, you can find people that are exhibiting good project management discipline and it shows in the outcomes that the organizations able to create. Take the opportunity to research other companies that do similar work and showcase how they have implemented project management discipline and are seeing stellar results.
  • Focus on the pain you can fix. Give them examples of what’s not working right now. The reason you want to add PM process is probably because something isn’t working as well as they could or something is just broken.
  • Make it real for them. When I do my project management training courses, I often walk people through very simple examples of applying project management techniques to day-to-day life. For example, when you are planning a trip, you apply a lot of the best practices of project management to plan the trip effectively. Just getting from point A to point B, you plan your route, plan for issues that can come up along the way, develop a timeline, plan for stops along the way, etc. Many times, applying project management to the “real world” makes it easier to see the value.
  • And the most important way to make a non-believer a believer is to get something done. Perform. Perform relentlessly and then explain to them that project management techniques are what got you there and got the outstanding results.

There is no greater way to transform a non-believer into a believer than to get something done for them that has extremely high value and creates a big impact.


Thanks for taking the time to read this article.

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

See you online!

Warmly,

Posted on: December 18, 2017 07:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (14)

Top 10 Mistakes PM/PMO Leaders are Making (and how to solve them TODAY!)

I built my first PMO in the 90s (yes, in the last century!) and the truth is that I had no idea what I was doing! BUT, I had a Get. It. Done. attitude and a desire to learn and boy did I learn! A lot. I made a lot of mistakes and I learned a thing or two over the following two decades of putting PMOs and PM best practices in place.  Now that I teach and coach others the art of successful project management and PMO implementation, I am seeing some of the same mistakes I used to make when I was first starting out. I see PMOs that had a real chance of success getting bogged down in the not so important, while opportunity passes them by (as does their next promotion). While there are many things we can do wrong, there are MANY MORE things we CAN do right.

Here are the top ten mistakes I wish I had known to avoid when I was in your shoes (and most importantly, what to do about it). I hope this saves you from learning the hard way, as I often did.

  1. Suffering from “Me Too” Syndrome

Your execs go off to a conference or read an article and next thing you know, “we have to do that because everyone else is.” Sound familiar? Yeah, well, just because everyone else is doing it doesn’t mean it is going to make the most sense for you. You better be crystal clear on exactly what business problem you are trying to solve if you are going to make the time, money, and energy investment into an undertaking like putting in new PM practices or starting a PMO.

  1. Building the wrong type of PMO

Sadly, many PMO leaders start building an organization or putting templates and processes in place before they figure out what services will actually get the biggest bang for the buck in the organization. You need to figure out what your customers need help with first. Then DO THAT. Start with asking the right questions. Determine the “P” for your PMO. Are you going to provide project management support? Will you provide governance and portfolio oversight?  Do they need coaching of PMs that aren’t reporting to the PMO?

Think about who you want to be when you grow up…do you want to be the policing organization that everyone fears or do you want to be the support organization that everyone turns to when they need to Get. It. Done?

  1. Blaming the culture

It’s very easy to say the reason your PMO isn’t working is because you don’t have the support or people don’t “get it” and it’s not your fault. It feels like you just keep pushing that boulder up the hill and it keeps rolling back down. I totally get it. I’ve lived that slow and agonizing nightmare of change resistance around every corner. What I learned, however, was to focus on what I could control and the rest would come along…eventually.

Yes, you must practice patience, but even more importantly, we must learn how to do change WITH people instead of TO them. People are not resistant to change. They are resistant to change being DONE TO them. So, next time you feel like you can’t get the support you need on your project, look at what you could do to bring people (as partners) with you through the process, including their insights and ideas along the way.

  1. Measuring the wrong things

As a PM or PMO leader, your job is to drive business results and create value and IMPACT for the organization. You are NOT there because they want more templates or tools. You are there because they want a greater return on the investment they are making in their projects. Projects are costing too much, taking too long, or failing to deliver the value intended.

Solve. That. Problem.

From this point forward, you are no longer a PMO leader or project manager. Think of yourself as an investment manager for the organization. Because you are. They have given you some of their investment dollars (a.k.a. budget) to complete a project that will achieve some value or outcome for the organization that is worth more to them than the original investment of time, money and resources. It is your fiduciary responsibility to optimize the spend and get the greatest return on that investment possible. That means you need to be focused on more than the triple constraint. Earned Value Measurement will only take you so far. EVM will tell you how your budget and schedule are performing, but won’t tell you a darn thing about actual VALUE achieved. Did the revenue we expected to gain or the expense reduction we expected to see happen?

THAT is what the business wants to know. THAT is what the business is asking you deliver.

  1. Methodology abuse 

When first tasked with building out PM capability, what’s the first thing most people do? They start building process and templates or start redesigning what’s already there to make sure it’s more “holistic.” We then spend months (or years) building out templates and process and then trying desperately to educate everyone on our methodology we are so proud of, all while they run and hide. What’s worse is that we have spent precious time using company resources to build things yet we haven’t delivered any value yet. I know, you feel like all those templates will provide value, but all your leadership and stakeholders see is that they invested in you a year ago and not one project has gotten done better, faster, or cheaper since.

Instead of spending time focusing on perfecting that methodology, go get something done! Find a team or a project you can help improve and then do that. Quickly. Then another, then another. This will help you more clearly define the need/gap you can fill and test out your services…all before you have spent a year building templates and process that may not actually serve you well once you see the services you should implement.

And if you already have best practices and process in place. Your job, today, not next week or next year, is to start simplifying it! Make lives easier. Make it easier to get things done. You do this and you become an invaluable asset to the organization.

  1. Tools gone wild

When I start with a new client and I’m helping to setup an IT PMO (or an IT leader is leading the charge), I can almost guarantee they will have purchased a tool before they’ve even engaged me. Inevitably, they start implementing a tool and meet such change resistance with their stakeholders that the entire PMO future hangs in the balance.

Tools are the last step in the process, not the first. You must figure out what business problems you are solving, what services you are going to provide, make sure your stakeholders all understand the fundamentals of project management and how to engage properly in the process, then you can start putting a tool in place that meets the needs of the stakeholders.

  1. Missing the marketing

Make sure that you are telling the story of the value you are creating with your PMO. Recognize and celebrate the wins publicly. Tie the project completion to the value and impact your PMO was responsible for creating. Just make sure you are doing it in the language that the business understands. Talk about the business problems you are solving. Talk about the transformation that is taking place. Make it real for people. And make sure to have a set of key metrics that ties PMO success to the success of the value and impacts you are creating.

  1. Burying stakeholders in reports

If your sponsor has ever gotten stuck on the bottom of page 4 on some element of your status report and you can’t get them to refocus on the action or decision you need from them before the top of the hour, then you need to right-size your reporting.

Doing too much of the wrong communication or spending countless hours on meaningless and time-consuming reporting will prevent you from spending your time on delivery. Think about every document you create, every report you produce and ever meeting you attend or schedule. Every bit of communication should be tied to value and outcomes you can create. If not, stop doing it. No one needs to hear for the third time this week how Joe is doing on this piece of the project.

  1. Sponsor abuse

We expect a lot from our sponsors (and should), but often we do so without understanding how to best support them so that they can support us. We also assume our sponsors actually know how to be good sponsors. Many of them don’t. If your sponsor isn’t engaged or you can’t get them to make decisions, then it’s time to TRAIN THEM on the role and what we expect from them.

Start by figuring out their WIIFM (what’s in it for me) and how they will benefit when this project is successful (and how much pain they will be in if it’s not). Then we need to set expectations with them, starting with how you will support them and how you will be working to ensure their success (according to that WIIFM). Then, you can start asking for what you need from them. Use their power for good (not evil) to get their peer to make that resource you need available, but be careful not to dilute your own power by saying “sponsor said” when you need cooperation from staff.

  1. Misusing talent

I always looked for help when I was tasked with starting a PMO. I needed staff to help me with ideas and to execute our plans and I needed advisors to provide me a sanity check or guide me in the best way to get the PMO up and running quickly.  What I learned is what works in one place, may not work so well in another. It’s all about finding the right team and then doing this change together. Make sure you don’t bring in all your own people.  They are likely to have the same mindset and ideas you have, which will limit your diversity in thinking and idea generation. They may also have the same blind spots and weaknesses. Diversity is king here, which means you will need to learn to adjust your management style to each individual personality. :)

Sometimes we bring in consultants and then let them “do” the project management or PMO implementation for us. Don’t do it. Please, don’t. I’m not saying you cannot have temporary staff (a.k.a. contractors) performing project management for you. That’s fine. But if you completely outsource your PMO setup, you will either have to make those people permanent or the “life” of your PMO leaves when they walk out the door. You must ingrain the changes you want into the culture and behaviors of the people that will be around for the long haul. Make sure you find yourself the kind of consulting team that will teach you and the organization to fish instead of doing the fishing for you. They will help you build that internal competency and be a partner to you along the way, strategically encouraging the weaning process as soon as you can fish for yourself.


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 small 90

Posted on: December 11, 2017 07:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (11)

What to Look for When Hiring a PMO/PM Consultant

 It’s hard to know where to start when you are tasked with building or optimizing (and yes, sometimes rescuing) your PMO or PM practice in your organization. Maybe people will turn to consultants, and for good reason, they are the experts at this, right? Well, maybe. It depends on who you hire. But how do you know you are making the right investment and that this company will be the right one to partner with you on your journey to build or evolve your PMO or PM practices?

Here are some things to look for when you look for a consulting firm to help you:

  1. Beware of the cookie cutter approach. A good consulting firm that does this type of work regularly should be able to talk to you about the system they follow to successfully support you in building or evolving your internal PMO/PM capability. That’s different than having a cookie cutter implementation approach that they just rinse and repeat in every client organization. I’ve seen this way too many times. When I was on the inside building and running PMOs, consulting firms would come in and just plop down the same thing they just did for another company without any regard for if that solution would work for us. It always ended in disaster.
  2. Insist that they have proven experience doing this. One of the common ways that consulting firms get bigger is by bringing in newer staff to learn the ropes by doing. During the sales process, they will introduce you to the experts with the knowledge and expertise to help you successfully implement the changes you are trying to make. Unfortunately, after the contract is signed, the actual boots on the ground are staff that haven’t done this before or they only know how to follow the cookie cutter approach. You will need people that can think on their feet and break outside of a process or checklist they are supposed to follow and help you actually solve YOUR business problems in YOUR organization.
  3. Ask them about similar challenges. Make sure you ask them about how they have done what you are asking them to do. If they are there to help you rescue your PMO, they should be able to give you examples of where they had to rescue a PMO that was failing. Get specific on what they did in that organization to get things back on track.Ask them to talk to you about things they wish they would have done differently. Everyone should have some learnings, some lessons from prior experience that have shaped how they provide services now. These are good points that will tell help you determine if this firm is willing to be honest with you and that they make a conscious effort to learn from mistakes and continue to improve.
  4. You still need to run the show. It’s absolute ok to leverage consultants to help you by providing industry perspective, but you must still run the show. When you turn things over to the consultants completely, you could risk them taking the team in a direction that is not in alignment with your overall strategy. You also run the risk that things fall apart the minute they leave. Great consultants can help you put systems and processes in place to ensure continued evolution and sustainment for your PM organization.
  5. Leverage them as your voice. Have you ever noticed that when you say something as an employee of the organization it didn’t carry as much weight as the highly-paid consultant they brought in that said the exact same thing? This used to drive me nuts! Until I learned how to leverage this to my advantage.

    Instead of fighting the natural human tendency to connect, place the highest value on what you pay the most for, why not work it to your advantage?

    Once I realized that the consultants I was working with were in sync with my goals, I would bring them into my office and talk about the outcomes I was looking to achieve and the messaging that the executives needed to hear. We’d walk into the meetings perfectly in sync and the consultants heard, “Wow, what a great idea!” and I got what I wanted, which was the ultimate solution to move us forward. Let go of your ego of having to be right or having to be the one with the idea and focus on the outcomes you want to achieve…then get the consultant to make it their idea. They win, you win.

     

  6. Make sure they teach you how to fish. Good consultants can show you what to do, great consultants will make sure you can stand on your own when they leave. It’s a policy in our company that we build in capability development of internal staff into every engagement. Our business is built entirely on referrals and reputation. That means that we will only be successful if our clients are not only happy with us while we are there, but long after we are gone.Make sure that you build capability development of your internal staff into the contract and then ensure that key resources are partnered with any consultant staff to watch and learn from them. The staff should be more senior folks that have learned to coach and develop people so that they can explain to your team what they are doing, how they are doing it, and why it is important.
  7. Leverage them for industry expertise. You want to know what the best in your industry are doing in terms of PMO or PM capability? Leverage a consulting firm that keeps their ear to the ground on what is going on or that works with clients in the same industry. You want them to have seen this movie before and tell you about all the pitfalls you need to avoid, as well as the tried and true techniques that have worked in similar organizations.

Consultants can be a valuable resource for you to Get. It. Done. with your PM organization if you know what to look for and how to get the most value from them. It’s about driving the biggest IMPACT for the investment. The right partner can make all the difference.


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: December 04, 2017 07:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (12)

Why You Shouldn't Outsource Your PMO

In the consulting side of my business, I'm often called upon to help build or rescue a PMO for an organization. Sometimes, the CEO that calls me says they are considering outsourcing the company's PMO. While this might be the dream situation for many consulting firms out there, I'll tell you why, as a consultant, I'm against it. While there is certainly more revenue for a consulting firm in being able to hire all of the staff for the PMO and run the organization, there are far greater risks to the organization (and eventually the consultant), ultimately making it a lose-lose situation.

Before I was a consultant, I spent 17 years as the PMO leader and executive looking to improve project and program delivery, as well as overall governance and portfolio management for the organization I was working in. I know, first hand, how hard it can be to drive change in an organization and build the kind of PM capability necessary for sustained improvement in project delivery. Even in organizations where you don't hit much change resistance, there are still challenges when you are transforming the way an organization functions. If you are going to make an investment in improvement like this, you will want to give that improvement every possible opportunity for success. For many organizations, when you don't have that capability internally, it can seem appealing to turn it over to a consulting firm that can just "handle it" for you. While that certainly is appealing to let an outside company "handle things" for you, especially when you have so many other priorities, there are some serious risks to the ultimate success of that endeavor that must be considered.

Here are some things to consider before outsourcing your PMO...

  1. You will lose some control. When you outsource your PMO, you are giving up some control in areas where you may not want to have your hands tied. Ultimately, you will not be able to control things like staffing changes and how important this effort is for the team running the PMO. When it's owned and run by internal resources, the organization will have greater control over the priority and resourcing.
  2. Strong relationships can be more difficult to foster. So much of the PMO build out and operation is dependent upon building key relationships with all stakeholders that interact with the PMO. When those resources are external, it can be a little harder to forge strong bonds among the PMO staff and the internal stakeholders.
  3. It won't be their idea. It's one thing to leverage consultants to bring in new ideas or help you in articulating the ideas you would like to execute in your organization in an industry data backed kind of a way, it's another to turn over the ownership of implementing those ideas to a third party. By outsourcing your PMO you risk alienating all of those that are responsible for interacting with the PMO. It's someone else's idea, agenda, or plan and the people internally won't necessarily have a sense that they can provide input into the process or that they can call it their own. You will need the internal staff of the organization to ensure your PMO is effective and sustainable and by bringing them into the process early and often to develop the approach and participate in the execution, you are positioning the PMO for the best possible success from the start.
  4. There will always be someone else to blame. One sure way to prevent driving accountability in an organization is to give it to a consultant. If you want your team to truly embrace the PMO and interact with the organization, build it internally, as a team. You can certainly leverage consultants to support the effort, but the main driving force and those that are truly accountable for the delivery should be well-respected internal staff with the proper authority to deliver the results expected.
  5. You could have an us and them mentality. When you outsource the creation or operation of your PMO to an outside vendor, you risk the organization treating it as an "outside" thing that they don't really have to be a part of. Some service organizations can be outsourced with some good success, but a PMO is so integral to the execution of the business strategy of the organization that outsourcing it is putting your company's future in the hands of an outsider. Once you do so, you position those in the organization to treat the organization as a separate entity that they can distance themselves from, therefore setting the PMO up for extinction from the start.
  6. You aren't building capability internally. You may have heard of the saying, "Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime." I believe very strongly in teaching the people in organizations how to fish for themselves instead of doing the fishing for them. In fact, I insist on it in every consulting engagement we do. Every good relationship will someday come to an end. Meaning, that for many different reasons, some of which may be the above, you may want to take over the management of your PMO. If you have not invested in building that capability internally, you will essentially have to start over.

From the consultant's perspective...the above is just a sampling of the scenarios that could lead to overall PMO failure, which means the consultant fails. If the PMO isn't effectively delivering the benefits as expected and the organization is not sustainable, the client is not getting what they bargained for. This can lead to payments not being made, reputations being ruined, and lost future business. When the client wins, the consultant wins. How do I know? Our consulting business has been built entirely on referrals and reputation.

Consultants CAN be a huge help.

Can you effectively leverage consultants to help you set up or rescue your PMO? You absolutely can, and in some cases, should leverage a consulting firm to help you. However, I would highly encourage you to build a partnership with the consulting firm, maintaining ultimate ownership and a hands-on interest in the PMO development and operation to ensure the long-term success of the PMO. This is ultimately better for you and for the consulting firm because the PMO is being setup for success from the start. Everyone wins.

Consultants can often help in areas such as:

  1. Providing external industry perspective
  2. Helping you establish the best PMO framework and services for your organization
  3. Interviewing internal stakeholders and assessing your current environment
  4. Defining best practices and approaches that have been proven in your type of organization
  5. Education and resources to help you build your own capability internally

These are just some of the benefits to partnering with the right consulting firm to establish or run your PMO. Just make sure they've done this before. In next week's article, I will share with you the things to look for when hiring a consulting firm to partner with you to build, rescue, or run your PMO. Stay tuned!


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 small 90

Posted on: November 27, 2017 07:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (5)
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