Saturday, October 07, 2006

Week 5 (Building a Program Management Office)

Week 5

Well, this has not been a banner week. It really started off last Friday when I went on vacation and did not attend a conference call. Obviously, I should have been in on the call. I clearly misunderstood what was expected. Of course, I did not find out about any of this until I got back in the office on Monday. My long weekend was spent trekking the Appalachian Trail – in the rain. I was really looking forward to going back to work, wearing something dry, not smelling like dirt and sweat, and sitting down on a chair. All of those hopes came true (except for the sweating thing – after I found out about Friday). This does bring up something about discipline/failure and perspective that might be worth talking about for a minute.

I hate to fail – no really hate it. Now I’m not talking about winning at all costs, I’m talking about the making a mistake kind of failing. Even more, I hate to have someone find out about it. But I was also listening last week to Manager Tools , a podcast that is now a must for me, and I highly recommend that if you are managing a PMO, or anything else for that matter. Outstanding content, and thank you Dina Scott from Controlling Chaos for recommending them. Also another MUST podcast for me.

So getting caught making a mistake is abhorrent to me and is often very debilitating. I have a hard time stopping kicking myself and getting on with things. I did talk to two of my board after missing the meeting, and both expertly and honestly coached me. I HATED it – not that they were doing a bad job, they were perfect – using almost exactly the “feedback” model that Mark and Mike talk about in Manager Tools. But that they needed to use it on ME !! That I had screwed up so much just really got to me. Then I thought – I wonder how many times the people I give feedback/coaching to feel exactly the same way? So this was my first good lesson of the week. Something we all know, but that hit home a little more. I can make mistakes and it is not the end of the world any more than if someone on my team made one. That doesn’t excuse them, and certainly not if I make them again, but if I am to grow and succeed, mistakes are inevitable and boy when someone points them out it does reinforce the lesson.

I said the “first” good lesson this week. The second one is what I am now calling “play to the box seats.” In my career I have been pretty good with my directs and generally with my peers. The problem I have universally had is with my supervisors. I won’t go through my excuses, but I tend to put a lot more demands (unspoken) on my supervisors. I do not communicate with them as well as I would like and I often carry misconceptions around. For the most part I have often behaved as if being a good manager is to do my job and make sure my boss does not have to worry about me. I’ve stressed my independence and ability to get the job done. That’s not enough. Yeah- stinks doesn’t it. The fact is that my supervisors are accountable for what I am doing, and they have much more information and far wider views than I do. They do not always want someone who is off alone doing their own thing even if it is well-aligned, intentioned and generally effective.

What supervisors want is someone who can do all those things AND communicate, relate, understand, cooperate and more - At every level of the company. Sometimes project managers think it is enough to do their project well. Not if you want to play in the big leagues. One mentor I had once told me that after attaining a certain level, everyone in management is “good”, and if you want to rise beyond that level it takes more. One of those things is opening up your horizons, becoming far more people and relationship oriented than task oriented and becoming much more effective.

So what am I going to do? Well I’m starting with inclusion and communication. I set up a monthly call with the board that is an “official” status review of where we are on the program and the program activities. This will be a more formal review and presentation. We also have a weekly ½ hour meeting to address any issues or concerns in a more timely fashion. As I get more organized and involved, we will make this change control and issues calls that I know will be very effective for everyone.

On the PMO side we (the PMO) – which is really just two of us now, myself and a manager who spends about ½ of her time on PMO work – came up with our list of documents and RACI roles and responsibilities. What we chose were:

  • Action Items / Issues Log – Log of short term work/assignments/decision
  • Risk Log – spreadsheet showing risks and actions/dispositions – long term use
  • Change Log – List of changes and their dispositions

(the three above are all in one document / spreadsheet) other official documents are:

  • Project Schedule – MS project so far
  • Change Control Request – the form the change control is written on – one thing we did add here that I like is that we require information about both the “current state” and the “expected state.” I hope this will stop a lot of questions and confusion.
  • Meeting Minutes
  • Status Report (one pager)

We are hammering out organization and some of what will be reported at each level, who is responsible, accountable and what Red, Green, Yellow will mean.

The presentation is next week, so we will see how that goes. Also next week, we have our first informal board meeting and a two and ½ day onsite about the next group of requirements. Never a dull moment.

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