Wednesday, September 21, 2011

"I want a PMO!" - Validate What They Mean

Clients will often state that they want me to come in and help them create a PMO. Unfortunately, that is all that they say. It is like me saying, “I want to be a better project manager.” It is a pretty vague statement. When the decision is made to create a PMO, there is some general reason why that is happening. It is important that you uncover those meanings.

For instance, a client had recently stated that a PMO was being created in a division and that all of the certain projects of a certain type would be brought into the PMO. At the time, there were 150 of these projects identified in the group. The group also had 6 project managers who already had a portfolio of 30 projects. There were several questions that this posed:
  • What do we mean by “brought into”? Does that mean we own the projects completely or we own the status reporting?
  • Will we get more staff to run these projects?
  • Why do we feel the need to create the PMO?
  • What is the end result of creating the PMO that you envision?
  • Will the PMO be part of the strategic planning of the division or just told to execute the projects?

Unfortunately, not many answers were provided. I compare the explosion of PMO’s to the Six Sigma craze. There was a popular article that stated a Six Sigma Master Black Belt could bring a company an average savings of $2M. Based on the article, many companies went on the hunt to find their Master Black Belt. They approached it as if the person would show up with a $2M check!

I fear that the explosion of PMO’s is due to the same reason. An executive will read an article or see a result published from a company that shows that a PMO increased revenues, decreased cost, and improved efficiencies. Therefore, they conclude that they must have one. In my experience, few executives are willing to make the changes that achieve the results in the article. Change must occur in order for results to be realized.

Faced with the situation above, my suggested course of action follows what is taught in my seminars and books. The path was:
  • Identify what it takes to manage a project in the environment and come up with a percentage of time on average it consumes of a project manager.
  • Apply the percentages to the projects to determine the number of project managers needed.
  • Identify alternate actions should head count not be increased (including not accepting the 150 additional projects)
  • Ensure that the data you are presenting is accurate.

Once all the steps have been completed, meet with the sponsor. Ask for the 30 additional project managers that would be necessary to accept the additional project load. If the answer is no, show the alternatives of what is possible with the current staff (including some of the ideas that I have blogged earlier titled “Do We Have to Own Projects Start to Finish” in May of 2011.) From there, this will take a life of its own. The important part is to ensure that you have validated what they mean when an executive states, “I want a PMO!”

Until next time,



Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Plague of Ulterior Motives

I continue to be amazed at how much time, effort, and money is wasted internally by companies.  One of the number one causes of this waste is ulterior motives.  These are people who will deliberately say and do things in public, but in private have another motive to their actions.  This is a rampant disease that can cost organizations millions of dollars.  Instead of having uncomfortable conversations or debating issues, the person or group would rather act is if they are playing along and hope that the initiative fails.  There are several of these types to watch for:

The Two Faced Approach.  This approach is been around for a long time.  As soon as any social structure is developed, this approach is evident.  My kids experience this in school and unfortunately, some never seem to grow out of the behavior.  The approach is to act one way in front of one group and then act a completely different way in front of the sponsors and executives.  For example, an individual can be openly combative and antagonistic towards you in a closed meeting.  Then in the team meeting, be open and friendly and act as if they have been working with you all along.  One of the greatest examples of this behavior is Eddie Haskell from Leave it to Beaver.  Eddie was conniving, manipulative, and mean to everyone.  However, when the parents were around, he had his best manners on display and gave the illusion to the parents that he was perfectly behaved. 

Transference of the Issue.  This approach will make sure to not answer a direct question or issue.  If you ask a direct question, they will talk around the subject without answering directly, transfer the answer back to you, or deflect the answer to a person or group that is not available at the time.  They make an art of not answering the question.  They will respond to questions with, "It will take whatever you think," or "What do you want it to do?"  These are purposefully vague answers to questions that can allow them to say they are being responsive without actually answering the question.

Secret Saboteur.  This group will secretly try to make the initiative fail.  Either they disagree with the initiative or they are scared of the change that it might bring.  Instead of working with the initiative, they purposefully delay, don't deliver, cause rework, or otherwise sabotage the work.  This is a particularly dangerous group. 

The Other Option.  I have seen this option several times.  This is where the group or individual wants the theme of the solution to be successful, but not necessarily the current selected solution to work.  For instance, a company wanted to do workforce management.   They looked at a portfolio and project management system and an enterprise resource platform.  The business and users wanted the project management system.  A key executive had former ties to the enterprise system and wanted that one.  Instead of debating the decision, the executive allowed the project management system to be purchased.  During the implementation, the executive put unrealistic demands on the team, changed the scope, and changed success criteria.  The first implementation group did not succeed.  A decision was necessary to continue with the current tool or get the one that the executive wanted.  Surprisingly, the business wanted to continue with the current system.  The executive again sabotaged the implementation to the point that the second implementation team failed.  Finally, the executive got the system that she had wanted.  However, it ended up costing the organization millions of dollars.

This can also manifest itself by stating that a group wants something when it isn't the true thing that they want.  For example, an organization that fights for a change of a tool.  The existing tool does what they want, but they convince the organization to change.  The reality is that they want control of the tool.  It isn't that one tool is better than the other.  It is that they can control the tool better if they own it.  I see this quite often with centralized IT departments.  You will get a department that wants to go rogue and get another tool.  In the end, what they wanted was to not have to utilize the centralized IT group.

We will explore how to deal with these types in later blog postings.  The first step in dealing with ulterior motives is to try to understand which one of these categories the group or individual belongs to.  From there, we can start to create a game plan on how to deal with them.

Am I missing any?  Would love to hear from you on this topic!