Saturday, October 07, 2006

Week 6 (Building a Program Management Office)

Well now, a MUCH better week. On Monday, we presented the PMO “Processes and Procedures” presentation to many of the team members. I guess about 20 or so in the room and another 10 on the conference call and web meeting. Much as I would like to think it all went well, I think the idea of using the forms and processes was received a bit like a doctor telling you that you need to exercise more. Maybe not that bad, maybe more like telling someone they had to take medicine or eat the right foods. We all know it’s the right thing, but the level of enthusiasm is rather low. Let’s face it, Project Management is not exciting in and of itself, it is a means to an end – effective projects and successful work. Much like diet and exercise lead to greater health and longevity. And much like diet and exercise, not very flashy or exciting.

The group also got together and came up with the next set of requirements. There were a lot, far more than we could do with the time and money available. We did do something that I thought was great in that we cut the list down immediately. Without any more analysis or effort, we now have 20 requirements that we are going to do cost / benefit analysis on. The others we are putting on the table and we’ll look at them after implementation. I think that the sooner you cut scope the better. When trying to complete a project, I think it is best to focus on the smallest possible scope needed for success and if things go well, add to it. Like that will happen! More likely, your scope is too large in any case. I suspect ours is as well, but we are looking at less and we now have a precedent of cutting quickly. We also have broken through a mental barrier about taking things out of the project. I think that as we go forward, the team will be more receptive and understanding of not doing things and will be quicker to cut. That will save time and money of which we have too few. Like all projects.

Got some interesting role clarification on Wednesday. We had our first short board meeting call, and I wanted them to help me understand who the major “players” were on the team(s) and who had responsibility for what. The problem I was having, and many of the team as well, was that often two team members would be trying to accomplish the same thing, or no one was working on something important. Not anything malicious, just a normal situation when a lot of people come together to work on something this complex. So I asked if the board could clarify the roles and responsibilities of the team members reporting direct to them. Well, apparently that is me. I had initially understood my role to be much more consultative than directive, but that is not the case. Very interesting… The nice thing is that I got this charter on a conference call that had just about everyone in it. Most of the board and about 20 other people were in the call, so everyone heard it and I am not having any difficulties in the “authority” area. Now how do we organize?

We have a pretty unique situation, doesn’t everyone? My real challenge is that everyone wants to be included in just about everything. You’ve noticed the number of people we have in requirements gathering and conference calls, that is pretty common. My first reaction is that this is too many to be truly effective. Just because everyone has an opinion does not mean that their opinion is going to make a material difference in the outcome. But how do you tell people that?? For some reason, it either comes off as “you’re not important” or “we don’t care about your opinion.” In an inclusive and people oriented culture, this can be a hard message to get across. Case in point, how many programs of this size have 20 people on a weekly quick status call to the Governance Board? Well I know of one.

My challenge now is to build the next level of management (we’re calling the “program level”). My inclination is to keep this level around the 3 -5 number, but it is looking like I have to make it seven. Already people are asking me to invite them to my weekly program level meeting, which I was hoping would be a good conversation among the leaders, but looks like it may devolve into a free for all. I’m not sure what to do honestly except to crack down a little. Next meeting for the group is Wednesday my thought is to run a highly controlled meeting and disinterest the squatters so they stay out and then maybe the number of people will be reduced so we can get a good and useful conversation going. Then again I may be proven completely wrong – yet again. I guess we will find out won’t we?

On another front, I am making a very deliberate effort to improve my communications to, and relationships with, Board members. I came up with something that might work for me. Since I just though of this on Friday, I’ll wait a while to share. The general idea is to make my communications deliberate and effective. Hopefully, I will build good habits there and be even better at my job.

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