Kick Your Creativity Killers to the Curb

Creativity is essential to PMO success. Good problem-solving skills are almost always underpinned by an ability to look at issues in new ways, and successfully leading a high-performing team requires someone who can appreciate the value of unconventional thinking. But what if you feel like you’ve been vaccinated against the creative bug? We’ve put together some ways to spot and overcome common creativity killers.

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De-stress: Cover for an Absent Team Member

A while back we gave you tips to help you prepare for and recover from vacation, but what do you do when someone else is out of the office and you’re the one holding down the fort? Take a deep breath and read through these strategies to help you endure the onslaught of work without getting behind on your own tasks.

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Negotiation Tips: Outside Services

PMOs often face obstacles when trying to gain approval for consultants, niche experts, vendors, and other outside services. As organizations continue to face lean budgets and leaner staffing, how can you successfully negotiate for the outside help you need? We’ve put together a strategy to help you demonstrate your external support requirements, reinforce the value of your internal strengths, and evaluate alternate solutions that will still allow your PMO to accomplish its objectives.

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Cheerleading Your Project Pipeline – Sponsors

Earlier we covered how to maintain enthusiasm for early-stage projects within your PMO, but what about finding the sponsors that every project needs? Without them, your project is unlikely to have enough support for final approval. Fortunately, in the majority of situations, your sponsors will come to you—they’ll have a project in mind and will bring along a good dose of eagerness (and hopefully some much-welcome resources and a willingness to help move the project on to final approval). But occasionally a potential project will find its way to your PMO through other channels, leaving you to recruit sponsors and convince them of the project’s merits. We’ve put together some guidelines for attracting influential sponsors and keeping them engaged throughout the process.

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Cheerleading Your Project Pipeline – Team Members

Rallying support within your PMO for early-stage projects can sometimes be difficult. Early-stage projects can either look like prime opportunities for growth or career disasters in the making—it all depends on how the organization as a whole views unapproved projects and what steps the PMO takes to ensure that every project offers a chance for success. We’ve put together some tips to keep your team jazzed about the projects coming down the pipeline.

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How Transparent is Your PMO?

Today’s PMOs are expected to be transparent—providing clear, objective data on forecasts, plans, and other project metrics—while simultaneously protecting what could be some very sensitive data, often in the form of competitive intelligence, long-range financial models, and the like. How do you successfully manage these frequently competing interests? Below are some guidelines to help you juggle the need to know with the need for confidentiality.

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Fixing an Out-of-Control PMO

Sometimes, for a wide variety of reasons, a PMO suddenly finds itself scattered and struggling to succeed. If your team is full of high performers but still sagging when it comes to performance, or if things seem to be more difficult than they should be, it’s time to step back and see what you can change to improve performance and set your team up for success.

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Project Management: Leveraging User Surveys

One important aspect of improving your PMO’s performance is the review of end user feedback data. Unfortunately, many project management consulting professionals either don’t actively solicit feedback, or they fail to take the time to closely scrutinize feedback once they receive it. User feedback is a success-building goldmine—learn to capture it and use it to your advantage.

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Why Consensus Doesn’t Always Equal Project Success (And What You Can Do About It)

Project management professionals know that consensus among stakeholders is a critical component in moving a project forward and meeting final objectives. But consensus is just one component of many that must be addressed, and sometimes even the most foundational agreements are too flawed to withstand the future challenges that typically arise.

How can you ensure that your project achieves the level of consensus it needs? Getting all involved parties to agree on something doesn’t procure the funding, timeframe, or other resources that are often needed to shepherd a project through to a successful completion. What happens when you’ve achieved consensus nirvana, and things still aren’t going the way they should? Original agreements sometimes don’t fully support the fundamental objectives your project is supposed to meet. Below is an overview of how the consensus phase sometimes goes wrong, and tips for steering it back on course.

What type of consensus have you reached? Beware the final agreements that required foundation-level compromise. If too much has been negotiated away, your project management consulting team may soon be looking at a project that is so far diminished from its original scope or intent that it no longer meets everyone’s needs (and may, in fact, meet no one’s needs). Have you lost necessary support or resources? Have you agreed to conditions or objectives that leave no wiggle room for managing the occasional glitch? If you’ve finally reached consensus only after stripping the project to its lowest common denominator, chances are good that your project is lacking some critical pieces. Agreeing that you need additional manufacturing capabilities isn’t sufficient to clearly define your project’s objectives, let alone plan and execute a project that meets that goal. Scope, cost, impact, timeframe, and other factors must still be worked out. Reminding stakeholders that “this is what we agreed on” will not resolve the fundamental errors in planning or execution that may result from a poorly-supported consensus.

What’s still left to do? Especially when negotiations have been protracted or tense, it’s important to constantly evaluate the objectives of the project against the agreements you’ve been able to reach so far. Is the price your organization will pay—in terms of financial cost, impact to operations and personnel, market standing, and any other area which may be affected—still worth it when viewed against the project’s compromised objectives? Have your project’s objectives been chipped away to such a degree that your access to funding or other resources has been hindered? Have your stakeholders lost their passion for the project? Has the timeframe been compromised as a result of an extended negotiation or planning phase? Has your PMO lost key talent or expertise since the project’s inception? Ensure that your project management team is still capable of fulfilling its role, that needed resources are available, and that the scope continues to meet the necessary metrics to be considered a success.

How do you tackle a too-soft consensus? Your approach will depend heavily on the type of organization and complexity of the project you’re supporting, but some good first steps include returning to your project’s original scope and re-opening negotiations, conducting a new cost-benefit analysis to demonstrate any diminished ROI, gathering updated market data to reaffirm your need for additional resources or other support, and working with end users to highlight any potential negative effects of moving forward with your project’s current plan. You may also want to evaluate your decision-making team—if negotiations have in any way been based on a lack of proper authority to commit funds, staff, or other resources, then you may consider elevating the discussion to include individuals with increased authorization levels.

PMAlliance uses a team of highly experienced and certified professionals to provide project management consultingproject management training and project office development services.

Too Much Sisyphus in Your PMO?

Many project management consulting veterans have experienced the frustration caused by the sometimes Sisyphean task of maintaining an experienced and motivated team within their PMO. A legendary king from Greek mythology, Sisyphus was crafty and self-serving. Continue reading Too Much Sisyphus in Your PMO?

Project Management in a Down Economy

Each year, companies execute projects for the purpose of improving their bottom-line and expanding their competitive advantage. The difference between success and failure often depends on how committed organizations are in utilizing project management to monitor and control schedule delays. Schedule delays are the villain in project management and are the biggest cause of budget overruns, missed deadlines, and poor quality. During good economic times, investing in project management is financially feasible and acceptable by most companies. However, during bad economic times, project management is considered an overhead cost and the tendency is to downsize. This paper discusses the importance of investing in project management to mitigate the impact of schedule delays in good and more importantly during bad economic times.

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A Phased Approach to Project Management Implementation

Implementing a formalized project management process in an organization that does not have a history of using a structured approach to project planning and control can present significant challenges. A phased approach to implementation is a crucial element of a successful implementation strategy because it helps overcome resistance to change, allows lessons learned in early phases to be incorporated in the systems installed in later phases, and ensures that a solid foundation of project-level data is available prior to rolling-up enterprise-level information.

Resistance to change is a well-documented phenomenon. And, we know from experience that the implementation of structured project planning and control techniques is a substantial departure from the norm for many companies. Therefore, resistance to change with respect to project management is something that should be expected (and even planned on). A phased approach to implementation can help overcome this resistance by allowing an organization to create success stories, provide the necessary communication (downward and upward), and build momentum prior to rolling-out the process to the general population. By taking a phased approach, we can dramatically increase our chances of acceptance by the organization and reduce the probability of a “program-of-the-month” fiasco. A project management system must be tailored to the organization. A “one size fits all” approach has a low probability of success because it does not recognize differences in project types, management and staff capabilities, and organizational culture. A phased approach to implementation allows time in the initial phases to gather first-hand information about project characteristics, personnel, and cultural nuances. Then, based on this information, a project management system can be designed and a roll-out plan crafted that maximizes the prospects for success.The later stages of implementation are focused on providing the enterprise-level tools that allow an organization to gain visibility to project schedule, resource, and cost information across the entire portfolio of projects. This information can be used to optimize business decision making given that there are constraints related to limited resources, limited budgets, and project priority. Unfortunately, enterprise-level decision making must be based on solid project-level information, otherwise, the decisions that are made may not be correct. A phased implementation approach allows time to ensure that sound plans for all individual projects are created prior to rolling-up enterprise-level information. Also, enterprise-level tools can represent a substantial financial commitment. A phased approach can coordinate the timing of the investment in these tools with the point of maximum usefulness.

The Four Phases of Project Management Implementation

PMAlliance utilizes four phases for the project management implementation process: Initiation, Project-Level Installation, Enterprise-Level Installation, and Maintenance. A description of each phase follows.

1. Initiation Phase

The purpose of the Initiation phase is to mobilize the organization, remediate any current at-risk projects, and set the stage for the Installation phases. Time is of the essence in the Initiation phase. Management “cracks the door open” with the organization by endorsing the process at kick-off and requesting the support and participation
of all employees. However, from the moment of kick-off, employee patience and willingness to participate is in jeopardy until success stories have been created and communicated. This is perhaps the riskiest of all of the phases of implementation because even small failures at this stage can fuel the arguments of naysayers, substantiate the fears of those employees “sitting on the fence” with respect to project management, and dissipate any momentum created by management during the kick-off process. For these reasons, the Initiation phase includes the selection of pilot projects that have the potential for near-term of successes and great emphasis is placed on creating and communicating those success stories to the organization.

2. Project-Level Installation Phase

During the Project-Level Installation phase structured project planning and control processes are implemented on all targeted projects, the project management infrastructure necessary to support the consistent, successful application of project management techniques by the Project Office on future projects is created, and Project Office staff are trained and mentored.

3. Enterprise-Level Installation Phase

The Enterprise-Level Installation phase creates the infrastructure necessary to support business decision-making based on schedule, resource, and cost information “rolled-up” from the entire portfolio of projects and transitions the day-to-day responsibility for developing and maintaining individual project plans to the Project Office staff.

4. Maintenance Phase

The purpose of the Maintenance phase is to transition the responsibility for supporting all of the project management requirements of the organization to the Project Office staff and to ensure long-term continuity by establishing project management as a core competency and an essential function within the organization.

Conclusion

In today’s economic environment it is absolutely
essential to ”get it right the first time” when it comes to making organizational changes. A phased approach to implementing project management can dramatically increase the probability of success because it helps to overcome resistance to change, creates an opportunity to incorporate lessons learned into the design of the project management infrastructure, and ensures that high-quality enterprise-level information is available to major stakeholders.

PMAlliance uses a team of highly experienced and certified professionals to provide project management consultingproject management training and project office development services.

The Project Office (PMO)

Companies today increasingly recognize that, with respect to project management, they must advance beyond the ability to create occasional success stories through the exertion of heroic effort. They know that a core element of their overall success is driven by the ability to consistently bring their entire portfolio of projects to successful completion: on-time, within budget, and per-specification. In addition, they know that if they can cost-effectively accelerate the delivery of their new products and services (without sacrificing quality in the process) they can create a strategic advantage over their competitors.
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