IS YOUR PMO TOP HEAVY?

A common problem in project offices is a lack of experienced senior-level staff, but PMOs can sometimes find themselves heavy on leadership but short on other workers. Rather than being a dream scenario, it can actually have the potential to disrupt existing workflows and hinder the team’s ability to achieve success.

One concern is that the art of leadership brings with it an array of tasks needing to be done. This can leave little time for other day-to-day project activities, from following up on the availability of needed materials to maintaining thorough reference documentation. If the PMO experiences a staffing shakeup or significant reduction that eliminates a number of frontline positions, those who have historically focused on orchestrating the activities of others must now transition into a different set of competencies.

PMOs with an overabundance of top-level staff must quickly change tactics if success is to be achieved. Several strategies can help them do that in the short term, and some can also be leveraged to round out the team’s capabilities in the long term, too.

top heavy PMO

Launch an internship program. Bringing a select group of interns into the mix can be hugely beneficial for everyone involved. Your PMO gains the advantage of high performers with baseline skills who are eager to learn all they can about project management, and the interns get the opportunity to hone their skills and pull knowledge from your team’s senior level leaders.

Adding interns to the project office is a particularly attractive solution for PMOs with lean funding, as the cost to set up and maintain internship programs is often very low. This may also be a good approach if the PMO anticipates only intermittent needs for additional support, or if staffing levels haven’t been guaranteed over the life of a long project. Internship durations can be established to coincide with these variances, giving the project team support when it’s needed and freeing it from expensive labor obligations when it doesn’t.

A strong internship program can also help the PMO maintain a reliable flow of new talent. As interns progress through their educational track, they may eventually choose to join the team on a full time basis.

Partner with a consultancy. It may seem counterintuitive to bring in even more senior level collaborators, but working with an objective outside expert can actually be a very effective way to balance out the team’s existing skills and available resources without stepping on toes or injuring egos. Experienced project management consultants can be useful in developing a new structure for leadership responsibilities and determining how to assign tasks within it. With the consultancy’s help, members of the team will also be better able to redefine their roles—even if it’s only for one specific project—and embrace a revised way of working.

Some consultancies offer staffing programs to provide ongoing support in the form of frontline professionals with good on-the-ground experience. These PMPs can then fill in when the PMO’s internal resources are stretched too thin.

Gain assistance from internal partners. It may be possible to more heavily leverage the organization’s other inside resources on a limited-time basis. Look for ways your team can take advantage of help in administrative and support areas first, as that’s often where leader-heavy project offices need the most assistance. Is the Purchasing team able to facilitate more of the team’s price comparison duties during this project? Can the Legal department take on additional contract oversight in the short term? The organization’s resource levels often prevent this from becoming a viable long-term strategy, but PMOs may be able to gain some needed near-term relief.

LESSONS FROM FOOTBALL: REGAIN YOUR PMO’S WINNING FORM

Many PMOs have experienced it: they’ve been doing the same thing over and over, but suddenly their efforts don’t result in success. How did that happen? And how can your team fix it?

Football teams sometimes fall into the same conundrum. After winning against an opponent early in the season, they may lose to the same team during a later game. Identifying where their tactics went wrong typically takes more than simply pointing to any one error.

As project management teams look for ways to return to winning form, they should follow the lead of football clubs. These teams spread their investigation wide to determine how their strategies failed. When the simple answers don’t cut it, PMOs should look through their entire playbook to see where things when wrong.

pm football

Check your defenses

A football team’s defensive line keeps the other team from gaining the upper hand. Chief among a PMO’s defensive strategies are the project control tools and methodologies the team uses to ensure tasks are on track, milestones will be reached as planned, scope is being managed appropriately, and the project is generally moving forward the way it should. Stringent controls are crucial for spotting problems early and avoiding the small domino effects that can tumble into a huge disaster. They give the team an opportunity to correct problems before they inflict irreparable damage on the project’s chances of success.

Look at your offensive line

As your PMO is going for the end zone, a number of strategies are in play on the offensive side to help them reach their achievables. Of primary importance are planning and communication, which give the project its strong foundation and keep it moving forward throughout the entire lifecycle.

Planning. If your efforts during the planning phase fall short, everything else in the project could be handled according to protocol but the results may still be disappointing. Because of time constraints and internal pressures, project teams may feel the early planning stage is the most likely to be compressed or strained.

Communication. Maintaining the flow of information between team members as well as to and from collaborators outside the PMO is crucial to success. Evaluate if any roadblocks exist that may be hampering the team’s efforts or if communication is simply not happening at the right time.

 Examine recent successes

Football teams are legendary for carefully reviewing past games, looking for things they need to do better next time. If your project post-mortem analyses have been thorough, chances are good the PMO may have already identified harbingers of your current problem in earlier projects. Even when nothing stands out, go back through recent projects and look for telltale clues that a process or practice isn’t being carried out correctly or that concerns weren’t getting the follow through needed to fully resolve them. The team could be repeating these same mistakes (especially if they were able to succeed in spite of them previously), or it could be that a lack of discipline is now carrying over into other areas.

Evaluate your mentality

Professional sports teams know that mental toughness and attitude are crucial components of success. They’re also keenly aware that overconfidence and complacency are dangerous mindsets to have. Has your PMO grown so self-assured that they’re no longer concerned when warning signs pop up? Or have they essentially psyched themselves out because they had trouble with earlier projects that were large, complex, or otherwise similar to the project they’re facing now? The team’s attitude may not manifest itself in any one mistake, but it can surely contribute to any number of errors if left unchecked.

MAINTAINING TRANSPARENCY DURING DIFFICULT PROJECTS

Project management teams work hard to be transparent in their actions. They’re well aware that stakeholders and the executive team are watching each project, and sometimes outside partners and even the public may also be observing. This transparency occasionally encounters challenges but there are sure fire strategies PMOs can use to stay on track and maintain clarity in every task, recommendation and decision they undertake.

Year-End Tasks Pmo Overlook

Communication. This is by far the most powerful tool the PMO has at its disposal when it comes to maintaining transparency. Communicating with stakeholders is crucial, whether it’s disseminating the schedule for work disruptions or providing an update on material availability. But communications need to be a two-way street. Stakeholders must have a way to ask questions, express concerns, and request additional information.

To streamline communications coming into the PMO, it’s often a good idea to provide a clear mechanism for submitting inquiries. In addition, the team must respond to questions as quickly as is feasible. If the information stakeholders want isn’t available or can’t be released due to confidentiality concerns, say so. It’s better to divulge what you can than to plant suspicion or mistrust in stakeholders’ minds.

Consistency. Assuring stakeholders that your team is transparent in its actions becomes nearly impossible if your team isn’t consistent in its communications and other messaging. Though this may happen innocently enough, such as when updated information hasn’t yet been relayed to all members of the team, the damage it’s likely to inflict on the group will be difficult to repair.

One good strategy to avoid inadvertent inconsistencies or miscommunications is to designate a few key team members to handle distributing information and routing any questions that come through to others in the group. It may also be prudent to have someone in this capacity review materials—graphics, charts, drawings, etc.—prior to release outside the PMO. This helps to bring the entire range of communications under the same messaging umbrella and also adds another layer of scrutiny for any dates, budget numbers, or other data that may still be tentative or in flux.

Data. In many instances, the data your team uses to make strategic decisions and guide its planning efforts will be key in allaying stakeholders’ doubts and concerns. Everyone from the leadership group to end users wants to know that actions (especially those they may not agree with) are based on sense and reason.

The solution is to make as much information available for review as possible, so others outside the project management team are able to scrutinize—and hopefully understand—why the datasets support the PMO’s conclusions and recommendations. Remember to provide sources for your information, too. If data is coming from outside the organization, denote this for context.

Determination. No, this isn’t resistance to change or a hesitancy to allow those outside the PMO to participate as true partners. Instead, it refers to the need for the PMO to push back against the external pressure that may be aimed at influencing how decisions are made, schedules developed, budgets created, or priorities set. There are often stakeholders—some who hold authorization power over resources the project team requires—who would like to see their needs at the top of the priority list.

Adherence to best practices and a proven planning and control methodology is the best way to resist this kind of potentially destructive pressure. Good project management protocols will keep the team from compromising its efforts or agreeing to compress or skip critical steps. They’re also instrumental in guiding the team on decisions related to where activities can reasonably be compressed or modified.

Project management training tips provided by PMAlliance Inc.

12 PMO ACTIONS THAT GIVE BIG RESULTS

If your PMO is looking for ways to improve efficiency or reduce overhead (or maybe the team just needs a general refresh), consider any of these 12 actions as a launch pad.

Project management with gantt chart

1 – Make end user communications a priority. So many aspects of successful project management hinge on end user interactions, including advocacy efforts, stakeholder satisfaction, and even avoiding scope creep. When end user communications are a top priority for the entire team, every one of these activities benefits.

2 – Centralize documentation and other project information. Managing data in multiple locations is, with few exceptions, less efficient and more error-prone than bringing everything together in one place. Software platforms are now available to maintain strong data security while still allowing team members the access they need.

3 – Make status updates available on demand. With the number of project management team members and stakeholders working offsite or independently, sending regular status updates isn’t always enough. By making updates available on demand, everyone has the information they need to make the best strategic decisions.

4 – Boost productivity with online solutions. Web-based platforms—from video conferencing to document sharing—can dramatically improve the productivity of project teams. These are especially useful for PMOs with mobile workers or executives, or who often partner with remote stakeholders.

5 – Renew your PMO’s commitment to training. Even if budgets are lean, every team member should have the opportunity to participate in regular training sessions. Project management training expands the PMO’s knowledge and capabilities while increasing team members’ job satisfaction.

6 – Encourage networking. Robust connections with other professionals are crucial for short- and long-term career success. Well-connected PMPs have access to a wider base of knowledge, are able to tap into better information on market pressures, and can use their networks to identify helpful industry partners.

7 – Support mentoring. Your PMO doesn’t need to create or manage its own mentoring program. Instead, it may be sufficient to make it known throughout the team that mentoring relationships are encouraged. Team members will often develop mentor/mentee partnerships on their own if they know it’s something the management group supports.

8 – Engage the entire team in strategic discussions. When PMPs at every level are involved in developing strategy and linking project achievables to the organization’s mission, their engagement throughout the project’s entire lifecycle is typically greater.

9 – Develop a true culture of advocacy. Talk is cheap when it comes to being good project advocates. PMO leaders should work to make advocacy efforts part of every team member’s role while also doing their own part to be good advocates.

10 – Partner with a data expert if you don’t have on in-house. Benchmarking is an important tool, but only if your team knows how to properly gather and interpret information. If that isn’t a skill your PMO possesses, partner with an outside expert who can ensure your data measurement efforts are on track and effective.

11 – Be consistent with project post-mortems. A thorough post-mortem analysis of every project is important to a team’s ongoing success. Unfortunately, each analysis takes time, something that’s often in short supply. PMOs should make a concerted effort to consistently carry out post-project evaluations as a way to improve stakeholder satisfaction, eliminate waste, reduce costs, and boost efficiency.

12 – Use technology to streamline operations. Tasks such as deep-level data analysis and knowledge base management may be better accomplished with one of the new breed of technology tools now available. Include the upfront purchase cost and training time in your ROI considerations and see if one of these platforms might increase your team’s productivity.

THE GOOD AND THE BAD OF PMO MATURITY

Many PMOs strive to mature. The project management professionals within these groups don’t just want to become better at what they do, they often see tangible benefits in acquiring or developing the skills, expertise, and resources necessary to take on more complex project tasks. Expanding capabilities and mastering competencies is well and good, but PMO maturity sometimes brings unexpected challenges. Below we look at the good and the bad that comes with developing a mature project office.

project-management-graph

The good

Availability of metrics. One benefit of a mature PMO is that gathering and analyzing detailed metrics is typically part of the team’s established practices. For organizations where cost containment efforts are a priority or where datasets are important tools in developing strategy, such as for setting manufacturing  levels, a mature PMO offers an increased ability to assemble large, very specific data points and conduct targeted benchmarking.

Standardized methodologies. Organizations that must follow precise practices—most commonly found in regulated industries but also occurring when a particular project falls under one or more compliance mandates—often find the capabilities of a mature PMO to be a significant benefit. Projects across the company can be handled in accordance with a single methodology for managing controls, expenditures, documentation, and contracts.

Centralized management. Many organizations tackle only a few projects at a time, making oversight relatively straightforward. But for those companies with multiple projects happening at once, and often with differing durations, having a mature PMO capable of handling everything in one centralized place can be a huge positive. This typically allows for better purchasing power and leaner resource management, both benefits for those organizations that have experienced overruns or inefficiencies on past projects.

Internal expertise. If the culture of the organization eschews the use of external resources, then a mature PMO—with its broad knowledge base and skills—is often the answer. A wider variety of projects can be successfully executed without a heavy reliance on outside expertise, and juggling workloads across multiple projects is less complicated than when coordinating external labor.

The bad

Hurry up! Moving a PMO along the maturity spectrum is, by its very nature, a slow process. Competencies must expand, expertise typically broadens through experience (rather than new talent acquisitions), and best practices must filter across the wide range of activities the team oversees. That sometimes plodding pace can create an enormous amount of frustration among team members, who are often high-achieving, results-driven individuals. But try to hurry the process and you’ll probably progress even more slowly, as changes no longer have time to permeate throughout the project lifecycle and support teams flounder in their attempts to assimilate new practices and protocols.

Beware complacency. Mature PMOs can rest easy in the knowledge they’re adhering to best practices and achieving consistent success. The problem? Resting easy is exactly what project teams can’t do when it comes to implementing improved processes and incorporating new thought leadership into existing practices. Sometimes it’s a fine line between maturity and entrenchment, so keep an eye out for complacency.

Disconnect between the PMO and parent organization. Different companies have different needs, and not every organization wants or requires a PMO with a high level of maturity. The corporate culture may lean toward departmental independence, where each group is encouraged to oversee its own projects and initiatives. If the PMO interjects itself into this process uninvited, it could put the project team at odds with stakeholders as well as the organization’s leadership. This type of situation also has the potential to negatively impact the level of resources the PMO is able to procure, making project success far more difficult.

Project management training tips provided by PMAlliance inc.

GET YOUR PMO READY FOR THE FALL SWING

Autumn often brings the image of people getting back into the swing of things and activities ramping up after the long days of summer. Every season brings its own challenges, though, and fall is no exception. PMOs need to understand where potential pitfalls may lurk while the leaves are turning, so they can be ready to avoid interruptions and keep their projects moving forward.

Changing Market

Know the vacation schedule for all team members. Summer is usually seen as vacation season, but some people prefer to enjoy their time off after the kids have gone back to school. Be sure the entire team is aware of any scheduled vacations or other absences. Look at key milestone dates to see if there are potential conflicts and work with the group now to determine how best to address them. Discuss the coverage plans for ongoing tasks so everyone is aware of how workloads are likely to be affected.

Remember to coordinate with consultants, key vendors, and stakeholders, too, as their absences also typically have the potential to impact resource management and other activities. While you’re planning for out-of-office coverage, be sure to discuss communication plans with those who will be gone. If they won’t be available by phone or e-mail, it’s best to know that ahead of time. This allows team members the leeway to proceed without waiting to hear back from vacationers, or to know they can pursue approvals through other channels if no response is received within a set amount of time.

Evaluate how the weather might impact your projects. In some areas of the country, fall means inclement weather. For projects happening in those regions, that could translate into schedule impacts. Even if your project is occurring in an area not normally affected by declining weather conditions, it may still play havoc with resources or vendors. This could mean a shortage of supplies coming from regions experiencing bad weather (manufacturing operations are often at the mercy of raw material availability) or simply higher prices for those items. Bad weather also frequently affects shipping schedules, since delivery trucks and rail cars are also at the mercy of Mother Nature. Everything from catering a large meeting to obtaining construction materials could be affected, and planning for potential impacts is prudent.

Travel, too, could be affected in terms of delayed or canceled flights and blocked roads. If members of the project management team plan to attend meetings or other events out of town, be sure there are contingency plans in place should their return schedule be affected. For vendors visiting from outside the area, have an alternate plan ready if a delay in their arrival might trigger problems downstream.

Ensure funding availability. For many organizations, fall is dangerously close to the end of the year, when funding levels are reset and the current approved budgets everyone is working with cease to exist. Before your PMO gets caught up in a money crunch, talk with the accounting team about what your needs are and how you can work together to establish a stream of funding that will continue from one calendar year to the next. It may also be wise to discuss your options with the purchasing group, who may suggest accelerating buying schedules to ensure expenditures are spent and captured within the current budget cycle.

Because it’s also common for the budget process to consume a significant amount of effort, this is the time to start working on the PMO’s needs for next year. Approvals and other activities may take a while, so get going now to be sure the team is ahead of the game.

Project management training tips provided by PMAlliance Inc.

AVOIDING IMPROVEMENT BURNOUT

Successful project management teams are always looking for ways to streamline operations, reduce waste, increase cost savings, boost stakeholder satisfaction, and generally ensure more consistent results. Unfortunately, those PMOs that focus heavily on process improvements run the very real risk of subjecting team members to a form of “improvement burnout.”

Just as project professionals involved in long projects may experience burnout from time to time, those who are constantly asked to focus on process improvement opportunities are also susceptible to the same sort of occasional weariness. There are ways PMOs can avoid improvement-related fatigue and keep everyone engaged and excited about the team’s improvement efforts. A handful of suggestions can help your PMO maintain its enthusiasm.

improve management

Turn improvement efforts into projects. Just as time is allotted to planning and other project activities, tasks associated with improvement initiatives must also be given the necessary resources in both time and funding. PMO members will quickly become overwhelmed if their workloads aren’t able to support their project responsibilities as well as any improvement action items that have been assigned to them. Performance in both areas is almost sure to suffer as a result, driving morale lower and triggering serious burnout. Set realistic expectations for any improvement initiatives the team agrees to undertake, and be mindful of other obligations each member has on their plate.

Focus on one improvement project at a time. Unless your PMO is extremely large or the team is broken into distinct groups, it’s usually better to complete one improvement initiative before moving on to another. This allows the team sufficient time to execute each project while also giving them the much-needed opportunity to feel the rewards of their success. More importantly, staggering improvement initiatives ensures that any necessary benchmarking is able to be conducted—and the data captured and examined—before additional changes are made that could impact or inadvertently skew the results.

Partner with an improvement expert. Though PMOs are often able to execute improvement initiatives on their own, it’s sometimes helpful to bring in a project management consultant with deep expertise in managing successful improvement efforts. The benefits are two-fold: it gives your team an opportunity to learn some new techniques and hone their methodologies, and it may also be useful if your PMO seems to have one improvement project starting every time another is finishing. This type of never-ending cycle can contribute significantly to burnout issues, and an outside expert may be able to consolidate or prioritize various improvement initiatives for better results and less fatigue.

Know when improvement strategies aren’t worth the effort. Though most improvement opportunities are good in the long run, there are times when the benefits just aren’t compelling enough to make them worthwhile. Your team should be ready to identify any low-return opportunities and set them aside. Improvements to processes that are rarely utilized (because they only support a limited range of projects, for example) are one possible instance where the efforts likely outweigh the advantages.

Give everyone a break now and then. It’s crucial that every team member have the opportunity to enjoy the fruits of their labors without having to focus on which improvements they need to tackle next. It also gives the PMO a chance to step back and evaluate how the improvements are performing in the real world. In tandem with benchmarking data, team members can offer their perspectives on whether improvement efforts worked out as planned and where additional opportunities may exist to further streamline operations. This time away from actual improvement activities provides team members with the ability to more objectively see how previous practices have been improved.

FIXING A BROKEN PROCESS – PART 1: IDENTIFY THE PROBLEM, CREATE THE SOLUTION

Organizations often have entrenched and possibly outdated processes that aren’t as efficient or effective as they could be. For PMOs interested in improving project performance, these flawed processes may be holding them back or limiting how tightly operations can be streamlined. But changing established processes is sometimes an uphill battle. We’ve provided some pointers on implementing changes to those processes in a way that offers solid benefits and maintains stakeholder support.

Identify where the problems exist

It’s a fundamental step but it bears repeating—you can’t truly correct a problem until you know what it is you’re trying to fix. Effectively addressing any problem requires the team to dig down to the root cause and solve the issue at its core. This is where team involvement is crucial, since the organization’s leadership may not see the problem’s origins the same way the employees who deal with the problem every day do.

Gather the details on the problem and its effect on the PMO by pulling the group together and discussing the issue, from its core all the way downstream through the impacts it has on the rest of the team’s operations. Be careful to separate root causes from additional problems that may be caused further down the line, so you aren’t implementing a solution that falls short of success. This will also be useful when setting expectations with stakeholders, since the new process may need to be implemented in phases with follow-on improvements kicking in later.

Create a better solution

Using that same team platform, it’s time to begin brainstorming ways to address the issue(s) you’ve identified. Look first to answers to the immediate problem, taking in suggestions from the group on what a better solution might look like. After one or two preferred plans have been developed and vetted, shift to examining how the new process proposals are likely to impact downstream activities.

With the baseline evaluation is done, project management professionals should next look for changes that may be needed in adjacent areas. A comprehensive solution may involve more than just the project team. Your PMO will probably need to work with other groups—usually internal support teams but sometimes external vendors or other partners—on ways potential improvements within their operations can support the updates you’ve planned. Will purchasing or contract negotiation strategies be affected? Does the current staffing plan need to be revisited? Is this change going to affect how accounting manages capital expenditures or operational budget approvals?

Gain support from all stakeholders

For the new process to be as effective as possible, it’s crucial to get all stakeholders impacted by the change on board with the proposed revisions before the plan is rolled out. If their input was solicited during the initial solution development phase, then the PMO is already moving in the right direction. If not, be sure to discuss the various proposals (emphasizing their pros and cons) with stakeholders before a final plan is chosen.

Communication is key, even if particular stakeholder groups weren’t asked to participate in developing the solution. At the very least, project teams should begin by acknowledging there is a problem. This is good PR for the PMO, and it lays the groundwork for setting stakeholder expectations on what sort of impacts and improvements the new process will bring.

If the revised process is controversial or likely to face stakeholder pushback for any reason, be prepared with solid information on why the change is a good idea. For example, benchmarking data showing existing inefficiencies can be contrasted with projections about the improved performance metrics the new process is expected to offer.

ChangeAgent

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

What to do After a High Profile Project

This year’s Super Bowl is barely in the books but each team is already preparing for next season, with talks of trades and what they’ll focus on going forward. PMOs can take a lesson from the NFL in this regard, since project management teams have many of the same opportunities—and challenges—after each strategic project.

Shore up weak areas. Look for ways to fill skill and knowledge gaps, such as providing additional project management training to existing team members or bringing new professionals onto the team who already possess experience in specific areas. Depending on the skill set you’re currently missing, an external project management consultancy may also be a good choice to fill the need on future projects.

Begin with a thorough post-mortem. Like football players watching a replay of the big game, your PMO’s members can learn much by examining completed projects. This will help your team understand where it’s performing well and which areas need improving.

Celebrate. Enjoying success—particularly after a large, complex, or high-stakes project—is a very tangible benefit PMs reap for all their hard work. Take the time to not only acknowledge your team’s achievements both publicly and privately, but also encourage them to mark the occasion with a small party or gathering. And like football’s Vince Lombardi Trophy, some organizations award a little something to project team members to remind them of all they have accomplished.

Capitalize on your strengths. Every team is great at something, so make the most of what you do well. If a team member has significant experience in a particular area, have them mentor others in the group. If the team possesses more purchasing or contract negotiation expertise than is common, for example, perhaps you can redirect the outside resources normally allocated to those disciplines to areas where they’re more needed.

off season tasks project management

BUILDING YOUR PMO’S PROJECT PORTFOLIO

 

Most project management professionals have their own project portfolios—they come in handy during job interviews, performance reviews, etc. But your PMO should also have a portfolio. It’s a great PR tool when your team hosts networking events, and it’s also helpful when introducing your team to a new executive or key stakeholder. We’ve put together a quick guide to get your PMO’s portfolio started.

 

Select a handful of projects to include. You can’t include everything, but look for a variety of projects that showcase your team’s versatility. Include at least one very large project, one high-visibility project, and one project that directly affected the company’s bottom line. Projects with particular significance (improvements to a manufacturing facility, for example) or that demonstrate your team’s expertise in niche areas (perhaps a project completed under regulatory oversight) would also be good additions.

 

Create a project summary for each project. Viewers of your PMO’s portfolio will want to quickly understand the basic objectives and parameters of the various projects your team has executed, so give them the basics at a glance: a short list of key deliverables, information on the project’s duration or timetable, cost data that includes budgeted and actual figures for expense and capital line items, a list of key project team members and their areas of responsibility, and other notable resource allocations or project details. Keep each project summary to just a single page for easy viewing.

 

Pull some photos together. Few things can help viewers understand the scope and impact of your projects like pictures. But you don’t need many—select one or two large photos that best describe the project’s challenges and final outcome, along with a few smaller pictures that highlight particularly interesting aspects of the project. Any more than that, and your viewers will likely lose interest.

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

 

3 TIPS TO ESCAPE A LEADERLESS PROJECT

Earlier we talked about the hallmarks of leaderless projects and some of the issues they bring. It’s crucial to reignite stakeholder engagement, hold one champion accountable for supporting the project, and sidestep a leadership-by-committee structure if you see one looming on the horizon. If you suddenly find yourself knee deep in a project without a champion, what can you do?

1 – Reconnect with your champion. If you suspect your primary stakeholder has (or is planning to) jump ship, don’t hesitate to re-engage them. You may be tempted to start the courtship by e-mail, but savvy Project Managers will opt for a more direct route. Schedule a brief meeting with the stakeholder to bring them up to speed on the project and the challenges their absence may have created.

2 – Know what you need from your champion. As you bring your champion back into the loop, be prepared with timelines and budgets that highlight any problem areas. Also explain issues you anticipate to encounter should the team continue without the stakeholder’s support. Provide the champion with a list of immediate needs, if any—resource authorizations, approvals for action, etc. Even if you don’t get their full attention, you may at least receive the support the project needs to succeed.

3 – Put the leadership back on one champion. If you suspect your project is leaning toward leadership-by-committee, it’s crucial that you place one stakeholder at the top of the organizational chart, and fast. Try to identify a stakeholder with the highest approval authority as well as influence. Have a candid conversation with your champion to ensure everyone is on the same page regarding existing problems, support needs going forward, and expectations on both sides. Close the loop with your team and others impacted by the project by announcing the champion’s formal leadership position.

IDEAS INTO ACTION: WHAT HAPPENS AFTER BRAINSTORMING?

Many project management teams are good at brainstorming new ways to make their processes more efficient and to devise strategies that allow them to have repeatable successes. But sometimes moving those innovations into practice is harder than coming up with the ideas in the first place. How good is your PMO at turning all those good intentions into action? Below we’ve put together 3 steps to help you make sure the seeds sown during brainstorming sessions have the opportunity to grow into real fruit.

1 – Keep track of ideas. Your team is too busy to remember all the great suggestions that come up in brainstorming meetings, so make a record of everything—notes, screenshots, whiteboard postulating, etc. Don’t sell the process short by editing the list too early or too much. And remember that an idea may be introduced before its time, so a periodic review of the list is helpful in keeping things from slipping off the radar.

2 – Assign every good idea to one person for further review. Too many promising concepts fade into obscurity because no one shepherds them along. Rather than allowing useful ideas to fall through the cracks, give them a home by assigning each one to a member of the project team. That person can then evaluate the idea’s real-world viability and identify potential issues that could affect implementation.

3 – Follow up. Project Managers are busy, and the best way to keep good ideas on the front burner is to create a schedule for routine follow ups. These will allow the group to get together for updates on pending ideas. They can then continue vetting the ideas, offer potential solutions to any problems that have been identified, or come to a consensus that an idea isn’t feasible or doesn’t return enough benefit to continue exploring it.

Project Management professional

 

ARE YOU FACING A LEADERLESS PROJECT?

A popular tactic of stakeholders who don’t really want to commit, “leaderless” projects are those that end up being turned over to entire groups of end users to babysit, and often result in nightmares for Project Managers. Below are a handful of scenarios that could tell you you’re facing a leaderless project.

Approval authority has been delegated to more than one person. On the surface this looks like empowerment, but deep down you may discover the project’s primary champion has simply eliminated their role and effectively left a host of others in charge without giving them the true authority to keep the project moving forward. Leadership-by-committee works for a while, but if difficult decisions must be made it’s likely no one will feel they are in a position to have the final word.

No one seems to have approval authority. A number of individuals may have been tasked with acting in the primary champion’s stead, even though none has been given the power to make project-impacting decisions. Trying to pry approvals or firm direction from the chief stakeholder is likely to be difficult, and the project ends up languishing in a mess of internal red tape while purchase requests and pending contracts sit in limbo.

The primary stakeholder rarely attends high-level project meetings. Often a co-symptom of leaderless projects, along with either delegating approval authority to several others or delegating approval to no one. An absent champion isn’t a concern if they continue to be accessible in other ways (via e-mail or phone, or through regular drop-in visits to their office). The bigger issue is the champion who is absent because they’re getting pushback on the project from other sectors (budget, corporate objectives, etc.), or has lost their zeal for the project and no longer gives it the support it needs.

Project Management Tips

 

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

PROJECT MANAGEMENT TIPS : 4 SIGNS IT’S TIME TO STOP

Sometimes, in their zest to achieve a project’s objectives, Project Managers go a little too far. They push too much, talk too much, or ask too much. But there are usually flags warning you’re in danger of overplaying things. From body language to other subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) cues, below are 4 signs it may be time to say “when.”

1 – Crossed arms. A classic indication folks have stopped listening, a wall of crossed arms across the conference table should tell you it’s time to adjourn the meeting and take a breather. You may be facing tough opposition, so consider if your approach is too heavy handed or if you should instead try talking to folks one on one before addressing them as a group.

2 – “I don’t understand.” This is a clear warning flag your message isn’t hitting home. Occasionally used by stubborn people as a way to avoid capitulating to an idea they don’t completely embrace, but more frequently it’s an honest response to a situation that just isn’t coming together for a particular individual. Rather than repeating the same message, step back and see if there’s a different way of explaining it.

3 – Excessive doodling. Many people find it’s helpful—when listening to detailed information, brainstorming, or simply pulling their thoughts together—to scribble pictures or notes. However, if your audience seems more involved in their artwork than your presentation, they’re probably ready for a time out. Sometimes a short break is all that’s needed to bring everyone back on task.

4 – Lack of interaction. If others who should be involved in your discussion seem to be on automatic nod or simply aren’t participating, it’s likely you’ve lost their attention. Think about ways to spice up your presentation or consider developing a more interactive format for the discussion.

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

GROUP FACILITATION – SKILLS YOUR PROJECT MANAGEMENT TRAINING PROGRAM IS MISSING

Project management doesn’t happen in a vacuum. A huge portion of the discipline revolves around people and the dynamics at work when they get together—conducting needs assessments, justifying objectives and costs to leadership teams, coordinating with end users to mitigate project impacts, communicating with stakeholders, and devising practical solutions to potential problems. Unfortunately, many project management training programs skip over group facilitation skills.

The what:  Project management is one long list of opportunities for group facilitation expertise, from the creation of project charters to performing the post-project wrap up. Strong facilitation skills enable almost anyone in the PMO to lead others through the project’s complex stages without losing focus, to maximize the effectiveness of group work sessions, and to deal with difficult personalities in a group setting.

The why:  Getting groups of people to effectively work together is at the heart of successful project execution. Without a good facilitator, the various groups involved in the project become much more vulnerable to inefficiency, ineffectiveness, in-fighting, and poor communication. Any one of these factors has the potential to put the project’s success in jeopardy. Meaningful progress—especially when facing difficult time or budget limitations—often hinges on good group facilitation. If all that sounds extreme, remember that simply running productive meetings (especially when teams are particularly diverse or include a number of competing priorities) may require better-than-average facilitation skills.

The how:  By its very nature, facilitation training should be highly interactive. If your PMO already has someone in-house with top notch facilitation skills, they may be able to offer others on the team solid and very focused instruction. Otherwise, look for an experienced outside consultant so you know your organization will receive quality training. Group facilitation skills are so important that cultivating bad habits is sometimes worse than having no habits at all.

PMAlliance has a national open enrollment training schedule
For more information on the event locations and schedules click HERE

More posts on Project Management Training:

6 SNEAKY WAYS TO GET MORE PROJECT MANAGEMENT TRAINING

SKILLS YOUR PROJECT MANAGEMENT TRAINING PROGRAM IS MISSING – RISK MANAGEMENT

SKILLS YOUR PROJECT MANAGEMENT TRAINING PROGRAM IS MISSING – COMMUNICATION

GROUP FACILITATION – SKILLS YOUR PROJECT MANAGEMENT TRAINING PROGRAM IS MISSING

WHEN TO TAKE PROJECT MANAGEMENT TRAINING TO THE NEXT LEVEL

DO YOU NEED PROJECT MANAGEMENT TRAINING? INFOGRAPHIC

4 BENEFITS OF PROJECT MANAGEMENT TRAINING

PROJECT MANAGEMENT TRAINING INFOGRAPHIC

 

GETTING OTHERS ON THE PROJECT ADVOCACY TRAIN

Engagement is an important aspect in many projects—whether it’s with other project management team members, stakeholders, end users, or external business partners—but sparking real interest in people outside the project team can sometimes be difficult. There are a number of approaches a good project advocate can take to make their efforts really count, but how can they get others thinking (and acting) along the same lines? Below are a handful of simple strategies to get you started.

 

Encourage team members to interact with end users. Open lines of communication are the best way to ensure all needs, requests, and concerns are brought to the PMP team’s attention early. Rather than creating unnecessary bottlenecks, a commitment to project advocacy should be driving PMOs to solicit end user input through as many channels as possible. Conversations don’t have to be formal, but they do need to go both ways. When project updates are released, make sure end users know that team members are available to answer any questions. As project milestones are achieved, even minor ones, empower team members to ask end users how things are going from their perspective.

 

Invite stakeholders into the trenches. Project champions, especially high-level ones, don’t need to be part of the day-to-day operations. But it can be useful if they understand a project’s impacts on end users at a granular level. Make the majority of project meetings open to stakeholders, and try to get them to attend at least occasionally. Partner them with team members during informal discussions with end users. Encourage them to learn about the project’s challenges, and ensure they know which end user groups are likely to be affected by them. By bringing stakeholders closer to the project’s inner workings, they’ll be better equipped to understand the genesis of end user requests and concerns.

project management consulting PMAlliance

Check Out These Other Blog Posts on Advocacy:

3 WAYS PROJECT MANAGEMENT ADVOCATES MISS THE MARK

ARE YOU REALLY A PROJECT MANAGEMENT ADVOCATE?

GETTING OTHERS ON THE PROJECT ADVOCACY TRAIN

2 COMMON MISTAKES THAT CAN SABOTAGE ANY PROJECT

Because every project inherently changes the status quo, much of project management revolves around change—planning for it, explaining it, mitigating its negative impacts, and convincing stakeholders that it will all be worth it. Even if change management isn’t part of your official job description, you will inevitably be dealing with change and its impact on not just stakeholders, but also on partners and collaborators, as well as the other members of your project team. Unfortunately, many project managers who say they’re great change agents really aren’t. In fact, there are 2 mistakes project management professionals make that can undermine their ability to achieve project success.

 

You compare a project’s progress against how things are today instead of against the deliverables set with stakeholders. Project Managers who use the current landscape as their benchmark are missing much of what goes into good project management. Projects are nearly always about improving upon what’s in use today, whether it’s a piece of software or a new office building. But viewing milestones against the backdrop of the existing environment isn’t the best way to move forward. Instead, work toward the end result picture you’ve painted with your stakeholders to achieve success.

 

You invest too much time focusing on where the project might go wrong. Of course it’s important to look for potential problem areas ahead of time, but simply worrying about challenges isn’t a constructive way to move ahead. This approach often breeds negativity, which can be such a morale killer that it can actually threaten your project’s ultimate success. PMs who have truly embraced change instead put their energy into finding solutions to those potential trouble spots. Creative problem-solving sessions with the rest of the team are the best cure—you’ll overcome the project’s challenges and have a more positive outlook to share with stakeholders.

 

SKILLS YOUR PROJECT MANAGEMENT TRAINING PROGRAM IS MISSING – COMMUNICATION

As PMOs develop and tweak their project management training programs, there are often a handful of core areas that are overlooked. Whether it’s because many project managers have already received foundational instruction in these areas or because most project management training is focused on other competencies, these baseline skills are crucial to project management success. One of these areas is communication, a vital skill for any team but one that is frequently discounted or ignored.

The what: Too often, communication training focuses on negotiation tactics and presentation skills. For truly effective team communication, project managers must be able to develop and employ solid listening techniques. They also need to understand how their communication skills contribute to the team’s accomplishments, as well as how to use appropriate communication strategies to successfully resolve conflicts (both within the group and with external partners).

The why: A deep understanding—of user needs, of stakeholder and coworker concerns, of potential project limitations—are all necessary for repeated project success. Project managers with sagging proficiency in the communication arena will often create the same obstacles for the group—such as the prolonged needs assessments that may result from poor listening skills—over and over again. But with all the other areas project managers must master, it’s easy to overlook communication skills as being less important than they really are. By regularly nurturing and expanding this fundamental area of expertise, project teams have more tools available to them in overcoming challenges and working together to solve problems.

The how: Continuous development of good communication skills is crucial for project success. Along with targeted communication courses, consider adding components of communication training to other educational offerings. Planning and risk management modules, with their strong attention to communicating well and accurately, may be good opportunities to provide team members with additional coaching in communication best practices.

Also check out “BE A BETTER COMMUNICATOR” and “COMMUNICATION STRATEGIES AND PUMPKIN PIE

project management training

PMAlliance has a national open enrollment training schedule
For more information on the event locations and schedules click HERE

 

More posts on Project Management Training:

6 SNEAKY WAYS TO GET MORE PROJECT MANAGEMENT TRAINING

SKILLS YOUR PROJECT MANAGEMENT TRAINING PROGRAM IS MISSING – RISK MANAGEMENT

SKILLS YOUR PROJECT MANAGEMENT TRAINING PROGRAM IS MISSING – COMMUNICATION

GROUP FACILITATION – SKILLS YOUR PROJECT MANAGEMENT TRAINING PROGRAM IS MISSING

WHEN TO TAKE PROJECT MANAGEMENT TRAINING TO THE NEXT LEVEL

DO YOU NEED PROJECT MANAGEMENT TRAINING? INFOGRAPHIC

4 BENEFITS OF PROJECT MANAGEMENT TRAINING

MAKING PROJECT MANAGEMENT BEST PRACTICES A PRIORITY AGAIN

We recently talked about some reasons your PMO’s best practices might not be what they once were, (WHY YOUR BEST PROJECT MANAGEMENT PRACTICES MIGHT SUCK) but how do you overcome the roadblocks to better performance? There are several ways to attack the problem, and the right approach will depend on the problems, your project management team, and your organization.

 

If you haven’t focused on best practices in a while. It falls to the team’s leadership to reinvigorate widespread engagement with the latest industry thinking. Senior project professionals or even an experienced project management consultants should be recruited to establish a plan to get the entire team to bring its current methodologies up to date. To avoid an initial eager pushed followed by waning enthusiasm (it’s human nature, after all), these same top-level folks will need to devote themselves to setting a good long-term example.

 

If you haven’t fine tuned current best practices to fit your organization. Overcoming what may seem like a monumental (and monumentally frustrating) endeavor will require everyone’s support. Gather the team and candidly evaluate the resources available to you. Identify where you can incorporate best practices and where you may need to be satisfied with doing your best with what you have. Consider determining where the team can set some stretch goals to improve those areas that are a bit behind the times.

 

If your team is well-versed in best practices but has chosen to ignore them. A strong push by leadership will be required to either overcome the team’s apathy or to rectify what may be a top-down lack of commitment. Examine where best practices have historically fallen by the wayside and develop a strategy to modify the behavior that allowed the lapse to happen. Be sure to build in check points to ensure the plan is working and the team hasn’t slipped back into its old ways.

3 WAYS PROJECT MANAGEMENT ADVOCATES MISS THE MARK

Project Management advocacy is a crucial role within the PMO. Unfortunately, with all the other responsibilities on project managers’ plates today, sometimes their opportunities and obligations as advocates are overlooked or minimized. To help Project Manager‘s maximize their advocacy efforts, we’ve put together the 3 things that most often go wrong.

 

1 – Waiting too long to identify all stakeholder groups. Project teams aren’t always able to tackle planning and execution the way they’d like. Budget cycles and other factors often come into play, leaving PMs trying to balance stakeholder needs with organizational limits that sometimes have little to do with the project itself. But no matter how or when the planning phase takes place, it’s important that advocates focus on identifying all stakeholder groups early in the process so their needs and concerns can be properly considered and addressed.

 

2 – Lumping stakeholders together. All too often, disparate groups of stakeholders are combined—at least in the eyes of the project management team—and viewed as a single entity. Not only does this have the real potential to undermine the PMO’s relationships with each stakeholder group, it also raises the specter of overlooking important interests held by the various subsets of affected parties. Stakeholder groups should typically be drawn along narrow lines to ensure that everyone is able to fully participate.

 

3 – Eschewing the responsibilities of a true advocate. One crucial role embodied by advocates is the ability to give a voice to those who would otherwise go largely unheard. When significant weight is given to those controlling funding and those controlling executive-level approval, it can be all too easy to ignore concerns or issues raised by anyone else. Advocates must remain committed to actively engaging all stakeholder groups and reviewing needs and feedback on a wide and reasonably equitable scale.

PMAlliance project manager training

 

Check Out These Other Blog Posts on Advocacy:

3 WAYS PROJECT MANAGEMENT ADVOCATES MISS THE MARK

ARE YOU REALLY A PROJECT MANAGEMENT ADVOCATE?

GETTING OTHERS ON THE PROJECT ADVOCACY TRAIN